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We Boarded a Morning flight from Tokyo to Bangkok, where according to the Murray Head song, one night and the world will be your oyster. We used a low-cost carrier, but it worked out fine. A 6 hour flight, fortunately I slept through the whole thing. Amy’s sisters picked us from the airport and we had dinner at the house with the family. Her sisters had recently finished construction on a house on in Bangkok.
Bangkok and the rest of Thailand is interesting. You have these large homes and then right next to them are these very simple shack-like houses. All people socialize together and they all buy meals at the same local street stall and shop at the same open-air market. I could not see something like that happen in USA. The well-to-do would not allow the “lower-class” to intermingle and they would not be satisfied with getting clothes and food from same basic providers. How would they show others their status and wealth? It seems the people of Thailand do not put as much value on material possessions or class separation. They still have a distinction between the 99% and 1%, but it is measured by wealth only, not the complete separation I see in Western countries.
In the morning we walked down the street to eat pork and rice at an amazing food cart. We went there everyday
We would then get our coffee from the lady next door
Then we moved on to the morning market. Here is a shot of the local Lululemon Store
And the local butcher shoppe
It is hot in Thailand. You don’t go out between 10am and 3pm unless you have to, and if you do you don’t go near the sun. It is as if you are Dracula being exposed to sunlight. You feel your skin begin to sizzle and smoke. You flash your teeth in a howl and pull the closet tablecloth across your body as you scurry into a dark alley until the cover of darkness, when you can complete your activities as a creature of the night.
I prefer to sit in the air conditioning sipping on coconuts and playing with the family dogs. And yes, the dogs wear diapers. They are not heathens or cavemen over here letting the dogs strut about naked.
We ventured out to one of the big tourist traps in Bangkok, The House of Jim Thompson. This American guy started a silk company here and built a few traditional Thai houses on his property and now people walk around the yard and buy unnecessary fabric. It was extremely hot, but I like the architecture of the buildings so did not mind.
After JT’s house we walked through the mall.
For those that are not “In the know”, Bangkok is large. Skyscrapers go on for miles. I am not sure I had been in a city as densely populated as this. It felt even bigger than Tokyo, but that may be because Bangkok’s transportation was mostly above ground while Tokyo was the opposite. So the mall was a few city blocks, covering multiple buildings. Each section had tons of food courts. Thai people like the eat….all the time. They stay small because they, unlike Americans, limit the amount they eat at each of the 12 meals they consume per day.
I am sure I have mentioned it before, maybe in my Vietnamese blog, but the below picture is of a little shrine/offering you see all over the country
This one was in the corner of the mall. You will find them adorned with candy bars and half consumed drinks. It is not someone who was just drinking a coke and did not want it anymore and decided set it here cause they could not find the trash. It is meant as an offering to Buddha in case he/she is thirsty.
It seems strange to westerners, as do a few of their other religious customs, but I am sure when they see us in our Baptist churches and synagogues, our actions look equally perplexing.
That night we went to a small Vietnamese restaurant in their neighborhood.
The following day, the sister was kind enough to take the day off from her duties as Pediatrician and drive us to a floating market a couple hours outside of Bangkok. It was probably only 40 miles, but traffic in Bangkok is crazy!!!! I mean you could be sitting in a traffic jam for hours at anytime of the day or night. I tired to take a video of the traffic and how people with scooters just work their way through it. It reminded me of a river weaving it’s way through the weakest point. If you are going somewhere in a car, you bring a book to read, or even a Monopoly boardgame.
The market was interesting, but fairly commercialized. I thought people along the river might still use it to buy fresh produce in the morning, but it is all for tourists.
This person was selling time with a Loris. I really wanted to hold it and examine but could not perpetuate that business.
After the market we found a restaurant along the river
I guess I should say now, how amazing it is to not only have a local with you to find these hidden gems, but also, in this case, to hand off the logistics. It was incredibly relaxing to turn my brain off and just become a plastic bag in the wind. I would get in a car and get out when it stopped. I would not look at menus, but just eat what was put in front of me. I ate everything the family ate. I didn’t avoid the ice in the drinks, or the meats. I scooped it all in and never got sick once. Amy’s family asked me the first night if they should order me a pizza, thinking I might not eat the local fare. They never had to ask me that again.
The next day we went to Bang Pa-In Royal Summer Palace. I guess now is as good a time as any to fill everyone in on the history of Thailand. I lifted this straight from another website because it was easier than researching and writing myself:
“The Thai people established their own states in the early 20th century, with the Ayutthaya kingdom showing itself to be the most dominant for a time. The states were all constantly threatened by the Khmers, Burma, and Vietnam, not to mention the presence of the French and British who were vying for colonies in Southeast Asia at the time. When European colonial powers threatened in the 19th and 20th centuries, Thailand managed to escape as the only country not to fall under colonial rule. This was due to a compromise between the French and British to keep it as a neutral territory between them. The Siamese Revolution was sparked by young military personnel and other civil workers in 1932. This event ended the absolute monarchy of the Ayutthaya Kingdom and established a constitutional monarchy that was largely overseen by military personnel. Civilian and military factions bickered over power in the newly established government, and fear of communism and ultra-nationalism caused instability amongst them. Thailand endured sixty years of military rule, oftentimes with no clear direction or leader aside from the top general.
The current military leaders at the time of World War II opted to ally Thailand with Japan to avoid becoming a victim in its path. During the postwar era, Thailand maintained close ties with the United States, avoiding adherence to the communist influences that many of its neighbors embraced. A democratic government was established in 1992 which has resumed to the present day.”
So, similar to Great Britain, there is a monarchy, which is more for publicity reasons. As with the Brits, it boggles the mind of Americans (me) why the general public is interested in the lives of the royal family, or why the royal family is out doing press tours and such. Thai people take their devotion to the “Royals” far beyond GB. There are pictures of the newish King everywhere. And from what I am to understand, he is an interesting fellow, not fitting the mold of the traditional king. I will say no more because I don’t want any future Visas cancelled.
So, back to Bang Pa-In Royal Summer Palace. It is exactly that and we went to visit. I wore shorts because any sane human would not wear pants in a climate like this. Well, unfortunately men cannot go to a lot of religious/respected places in Thailand when showing off their knees. I had to pay $10 from a street vendor to buy a pair of what we will generously call “pants”.
After the Summer Palace we stopped along a river for lunch. Again, another spot I would never find on my own. River prawns were why we came. In fact we even called ahead to ensure they were in-season.
I found the following video fascinating.
Over the railing from where I was sitting a saw a few fish. We asked the waitress what they were. She told us they were Archer fish. I knew from my Animal Planet binging that these fish had a very unique set of skills. They had the ability to see prey on branches above the water and shoot water with their mouth to knock them off said branch to dine. If that was not fascinating enough you must appreciate that they take into account the refraction of light as it enter the water to pinpoint the position of the insect. So, the video above shows me throwing pieces of food into the water, and the fish tracking the flight of the meal midair and rushing to where it will land.
After lunch we continued on to the city of Ayutthaya mentioned above. The seat of the kingdom from 1300s through 1700s. Now it is a tourist draw for the temple ruins and shrines.
They have elephants carrying people around the ruins. Amy let the riders know what she thought of their treatment of the animals. All from the safety of our rickshaws, being dragged by 70year-old poor Thai gentlemen.
A long day of sightseeing in the heat. Tomorrow we board a flight to Chiang Mai in the north