Two days in Bangkok

on

Hello from the Suvarnabhumi Airport (the big international one) in Bangkok… a very long post.

On Monday, I woke up early (thanks jet lag!), had some coffee in my room and ventured out.  It was a Thai holiday, so there were a fair number of people in the streets, but very few street vendors.  (They are apparently not allowed on holidays.)  I headed down the street from my hotel to the Nana BTS (sky train) and went to the river station.

Cruising the Chao Phraya River
Cruising the Chao Phraya River

From there, I paid too much for a day-pass, hopped onto the Chao Phraya (name of the river along which all Thai capitols have been situated) Tourist Boat, and cruised to Wat Phra Kao, the temple housing the Emerald Buddha and where the former palace is.  I spent a good amount of time wandering around the temple taking photos, admiring the architecture and colors, and sweating.  A lot.  I forgot it was possible to sweat so much, but I should probably get used to it.  There were a ton of tourists there, many of whom (like me) were by themselves, so we took turns taking pictures of one another.

 

The Emerald Buddha was dressed for Summer, as is appropriate given how hot it is in Bangkok this month.  (He gets to change his clothes 3 times a year.)  Once again, I was struck by how small (and beautiful) it is.

Included in the farang (white foreigner) price was a ticket to the Queen Sirikit Textile museum, so I decided to check it out.  Not only did the museum have excellent air-conditioning, which felt incredible after walking around in the heat, but the exhibits were interesting.  Thai silk is now world-famous, but it almost died out mid-century.  While traveling around the country with the King, Queen Sirikit saw the silk sarongs (there is a more traditional name for it, but I forget what it is) worn by women in the villages and asked them to make her some fabric.  She founded the SUPPORT (don’t remember what it stands for) to support women in rural villages making traditional silk and handicrafts in bringing their work to market.  (it’s a little bit like BRAC in that way).  They saved many traditional weaving patterns that way and helped rural women gain a livelihood for times when the harvest was bad or wasn’t in season.  Win-win.  The Queen also uses that silk in many of the traditionally inspired clothes she wears for ceremonies and court functions.

I then ate some delicious chili chicken, and went back to the river.

Next, I took the river taxi to Wat Pho (said “Po” like the river in Germany, not “Phuh” like Vietnamese noodles), home of the largest reclining Buddha in the world.  The last time I was in Bangkok, this was my favorite Buddha, and it didn’t disappoint.  I really like its feet, which have mother-of-pearl inlay.  It is also the home of many stupas honoring the former kings of Thailand.  Wat Pho is also the home of the Royal Thai School of Traditional massage, which means that you can get a one-hour Thai massage for 420 Baht (~ $13 US).  Incredibly painful, but oh-so-good.  (you could also get a foot massage)  I also got a fortune in one of the temples.  Interesting reading…

On the way home, I asked for “Nung Sapporot” (one pineapple) from a vendor on the street, and paid “sib ha” (fifteen) Baht instead of the farang price of 30 Baht.  Victory!  (my 10 word of Thai paying off…)

I headed back to the hotel for a swim, where I met a delightful three-year-old, Noi.  She kept wanting to swim to me in her floaty-vest, but would get tired, so I would pick her up and put her on the side of the pool.  She apparently thought that this was fun.  This continued the whole hour I was in the pool.  It was a relaxing pool visit, and I could look out on Bangkok from the pool.

For dinner, I had spicy Koret noodle from a stand outside the Soi 11 cooking school.  It’s like Pad Thai, but a little bit different (I can’t put my finger on how).  Arroy ma (very delicious)!

On Tuesday, I had plans to see Ajarn Tien (Professor Tien) whose lab I worked in when I was in Thailand 11 years ago, so I had a breakfast at a street vendor.  I ordered Kao Pad Gai, but my farang-ness meant that it wasn’t very spicy.  Still good (though soy sauce containing… not ideal for my wheat-tarded stomach).

I went back to the hotel and obsessed about how I was going to get to Chittagong given the cyclone (more on this later, insha’Allah) for a while… and then it was time to meet Tien.

I greeted him in the traditional fashion (“Sawasdee-ka” with hands in prayer position) and gave him an album of photos from my stay in 2002 that I’ve had ready to go for a few years.  He liked it a lot 🙂  We went to a restaurant down the street and opened the restaurant (it was 11 am, so we were the first customers).  We caught up (he is married now, to the woman the grad student I worked with hoped would become his “special friend”), and he told me I should come back to Bangkok 🙂  We talked about traveling and his research, and about what I’m up to (software).  It was so great to see him, and oh my, did we eat.

We had:

Whole fish (with chili sauce)

Gaeng Kheo Wan Moo (pork green curry with 2 types of eggplant)

Crab meat with curry

Somtam (green papaya salad)

and ate until we were *stuffed*.  Arroy ma!

I then headed out to Wat Arun (right across from Wat Pho)– it’s my favorite temple.  I enjoyed climbing up it (though had to be careful not to touch any of the monks in the narrow spaces) and wandering around it.  Apparently the first time the King who moved the capitol down to Bangkok saw the area, it was dawn, so the temple was named after that.  It also is decorated with plates and bowls from a porcelain-carrying ship that got stuck in the river.  Can’t say they don’t recycle 🙂

I also briefly checked out the Bangkok flower market (Pak Khlong Talong).  It was one of the slow times (it’s busiest early in the morning and after 7 pm), but was neat to see people creating orchid sprays and flower chains by hand.  Very colorful!

Because I happened to be going by Wat Pho again, I stopped in and got another massage (even more painful).

I also briefly checked out the Bangkok flower market (Pak Khlong Talong).  It was one of the slow times (it’s busiest early in the morning and after 7 pm), but was neat to see people creating orchid sprays and flower chains by hand.  Very colorful!

Then it was on to the MBK center, where the ThaiREU people spent a lot of time eating the last time I was here.  Aside:  If you go, do NOT go to the international food court.  Go upstairs from it (I couldn’t find this area until after I ate bad Pad Thai at the international court) and buy coupons.  The food is more delicious and is cheaper.  And then back to the hotel, but not before stopping at one of the mobile bars on Soi 11 for a pina colada.

That’s my report on Bangkok.  It was nice to be back, and I was surprised that it still feels like a home away from home after all these years.  Do you have cities like that?

Ending note: I had a female taxi driver this morning!  My very first one.

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