Day 14: Big trouble in Bangkok!

OK, I just totally made that up.  I didn’t get in trouble at all, but I was curious to see if these types of headlines would drive hoards of traffic to my nascent blog.  

While I avoided jail or bad choices, I did, however, attempt to do something truly ridiculous and ill-advised in the city of Bangkok last night:  I tried to do everything in one day.  It was an idiotic thought on my part is this is a big, sprawling city of 12 million people that is historic, varied, and constantly changing.  I at least wanted to get a taste for it, so I set out with yet another guide, PJ.  Over the course of the next 14 hours, I…

1.  Visited a local flower and street-side produce market.  

Fascinating right?  Flower markets seem to be a thing in Asia where you will find long stretches of road where people sell nothing but flowers from roadside stands.  The Thai take their flower arrangements incredibly seriously, and they had some beautiful stuff on display.  Equally interesting is that these stands do a bustling business seven days a week, and it was fascinating to watch both sellers and buyers go about their flower business.  We went from the flower market to a few streets over where exactly the same thing was happening with vegetables and street food.  There were not a lot of Western faces in the crowd, and people watching was great.    

   Well, the Thais love their hot food.  Not surprising that they also sell a lot of chiles...

Well, the Thais love their hot food.  Not surprising that they also sell a lot of chiles...

2.  Visit  the Grand Palace

This is a must when visiting Bangkok for the first time.  Although it’s definitely tourist-y, it’s also pretty amazing.  And hey, I’m a tourist!  The Grand Palace (built 1782 by a king with a big checkbook — King Rama I) is a complex consisting of the royal residence, various throne halls, some temples and a number of government offices.  While Bhutan was pretty rural and low-key in its temples, the Thai people have gone the exact opposite direction.  I’ve never seen quite so much gold and glittery stuff in my life, and the Grand Palace is a veritable light show.  It also houses the famed Temple of the Emerald Buddha.  This status was estimated to be created in India in 42 BC.  He stands about 42 cm high and is carved out of jade.  Kind of hard to see as it is perched high upon a larger, elaborate structure of sculptures, but impressive in its own right.  

   Chakri Maha Prasat Hall @ the Grand Palace (used for official functions) and awfully impressive

Chakri Maha Prasat Hall @ the Grand Palace (used for official functions) and awfully impressive

   The famed Emerald Buddha.  Dressed for the winter season

The famed Emerald Buddha.  Dressed for the winter season

3.  See a great big lying down buddha

In what would be my last temple visit of this five week journey, we visited Wat Po, which houses the enormous gold-plated reclining Buddha.  Unlike the relatively small Emerald Buddha, this guy is 15 meters high and 43 meters long and covered in gold leaf.   That’s a whole lot of bright shiny Buddha.  

   Reclining Buddha:  so big that he's hard to photograph...

Reclining Buddha:  so big that he's hard to photograph...

4.  Visit Chinatown

OK, I thought this was a weird thing to do as I was in Bangkok.  Why see a Chinese enclave?  My guide insisted, and it turned out to be fascinating.  We visited a sprawling market where they sold every kind of obscure food imaginable, but the most interesting part was the people watching.  I can’t find a way to put it into words, but there is something about watching the goings on at a large Asian market which stirs my imagination.  I started coming to the conclusion on this trip that the people I saw were at least, if not more, interesting than all of the big sites.

   Man working his stall in the Chinese market

Man working his stall in the Chinese market

5.  Visit Jim Thompson House

Jim Thompson was an American (born 1906), who studied architecture after graduating from Princeton.  During WW II, he was stationed in Bangkok and fell in love with the city.  He moved there and became captivated by what was then a cottage industry:  silk weaving.  He invested in the Thai Silk Company, and basically made Thai silk a very big deal in fashion houses around the world, propelled by among other publicity, the showcasing of his products in the Rogers & Hammerstein production of the King and I.  The Jim Thompson House is a beautiful compound of Thai houses that he cobbled together, and it now holds his impressive collection of Asian, mostly Thai and Chinese art.  Very cool little museum!  Thompson was a pretty fascinating guy, and not just because he disappeared mysteriously in Malaysia in 1968.  

   Jim Thompson House:  unfortunately they don't allow photography inside.  Just beautiful!  

Jim Thompson House:  unfortunately they don't allow photography inside.  Just beautiful!  

6.  Walk down Sukhumvit Road

This is one of the main thoroughfares that crosses over a big chunk of Bangkok.  Basically, it is lined with hotels, office buildings and condos.  On the sides on small streets, or Soi’s, that hold curious little microcosms.  For example, one Soi might be a mini-Middle East, another might have a bunch of night clubs, and another might hold stuff your mom thinks you should really stay away from.  BTW, she’s right.  It’s pretty wild and bizarre and very much uniquely Bangkok.  You can throw a rock from a fancy hotel like the Plaza Athenee and hit the broad side of a red light district.  Again, only in Bangkok.  

   For the amusement of my family.  I got a kick out of the name of this very benign massage spa...

For the amusement of my family.  I got a kick out of the name of this very benign massage spa...


7.  Live out the Hangover II

BTW, to say that this was not a strong film (and I loved the first one) would be a pretty kind compliment to this movie.  Nonetheless, I still remember a bunch of the scenes from the movie, which took place in Bangkok.  I chose to skip the part of them going to horrible seedy places, and instead went to the famous Sky Bar (featured in the movie).  It’s perched up on the 64th floor in a open-air rooftop near the river.  Obscenely expensive, but truly breathtaking.  

   The Sky Bar at night.  Open-aired frivolities on the 64h floor...

The Sky Bar at night.  Open-aired frivolities on the 64h floor...

I have to say I'm kind of proud of how much Bangkok I was able to squeeze into a single day!  

Off to New Zealand!  

Cheers,

Dave