One night in Bangkok...November 16 in Thailand
We chose to stay near the airport because we all have early morning flights tomorrow. Unfortunately, that means we are quite a ways from the sights we want to visit in Bangkok. After much deliberation about getting into the city, we decided to try out Grab, Asia’s version of Uber. We were picked up by Jim Bowie (not his real name). He was possibly the best driver I’ve ever had. Jim shared with us that his father worked at the US Embassy, and his American nickname is based on the actor Jim Bowie. That’s what we understood, but Carolyn googled it and discovered that Jim Bowie was the character, and Russ remembered a bit about him. Jim was very talkative and made sure we had some easy listening, playing all the pop hits of the 60’s - 80’s. By the end of our trip we were all singing along to the radio. He kept joking that he would have to charge us an additional 5 baht for karaoke on each song. As we went through one of the toll booths, Jim rolled down the window and smiled at the security camera. He explained that he was actually quite well known, then showed us a YouTube video of himself being interviewed on the local news show. Apparently he was commentating on the Thai government, about which he has very strong opinions. He got us close to the Grand Palace but told us that Grab is not allowed to operate in this area. Like thieves in the night, he asked us to jump from the car quickly, so the police didn’t have time to fine him. Needless to say, Mr Bowie was an unexpected treat that we all enjoyed immensely.
The Grand Palace is the crown jewel of Bangkok. It houses the previously mentioned Emerald Buddha, as well as a collection of beautiful buildings, temples, statues, stupas, etc. Built in the late 1700’s, it was used by the kings of Siam for over 100 years and is still used for some official royal events. When I was in Thailand, about 18 years ago, I came here, so I was very excited to return. I couldn’t remember details, but I do remember being awed by the place. As we got our tickets and walked in, I realized that I was very fortunate to have visited so long ago. When I came the first time, there weren’t more than a couple hundred people there with me. I will also have to check my photos, but I’m sure that I was able to take a picture of the Emerald Buddha, as well as to walk up close to it. Today, there were thousands of people on the grounds, the vast majority being Chinese tourists. It was tremendously crowded and most of our pictures have unknown visitors in the frame, with the occasional cut off head or apologetic face. It was kind of ridiculous how many people were in there. The temple, housing the Emerald Buddha, was packed, and only Thais could approach the altar. The rest of us had to stay a ways back. However, despite the density of humanity, the place is still breathtaking. Everything seems to shimmer. The largest buildings are covered in mirrored or glass mosaic tile. It was cloudy, but when the sun peeked through, the place just sparkled. Although the sun would have been nice, the clouds kept the temperature down a degree or two. It was in the lower- to mid-90’s and very humid. We spent a couple hours wandering the grounds; most of the time was spent taking pictures and feeling amazed by the small details, which are easily lost in the grandeur of the premises.
From the palace, we grabbed lunch and made our way to Wat Pho. The property is, again, a complex of buildings that includes the largest reclining Buddha in Thailand, which is also the ninth largest Buddha statue in the world. When we first walked by the building, I pointed at the open window to draw Kim’s attention to it. She looked dismissingly and I said, “See the reclining Buddha?” She seemed puzzled; the only thing visible was what appeared to be a gigantic gold wall. “That’s his flank,” I informed her, realizing that she didn’t quite understand how large he was. She looked again and realized that what she saw was just a fraction of of the statue’s length. We came around to the entrance of the building, and all of us were a little overwhelmed at the enormity of the statue. The statue stretches over 150 feet long and is just short of 50 feet high. It took us a while to walk the length of the statue, as we stopped frequently to take pictures, hoping that one of them might capture what we were witnessing in person. At the end of the Buddha, the bottom of his footprints are inlaid with mother of pearl, against a black background. As we moved along the back of the Buddha, there was a place to purchase 108 coins, which we then dropped in 108 buckets; each time making a wish along the way. The buckets end short of the building, where we gathered to walk out together and view the grounds. Wat Pho has over 1,000 Buddha images on the property, in and around its many structures. Within the walls also exists the first Thai massage school. When I was here in 2001, I had a Thai massage; however, the thought of having one now, given how sweaty we all were, was unfathomable. We decided to postpone the massage for later tonight.
As we were leaving Wat Pho, raindrops splashed on the ground and developed into a heavy downpour by the time we reached the exterior of Wat Pho. By the time we got a cab, we were drenched. We immediately hung our clothes to dry, when we reached the hotel, hopeful that they won’t be wet when we need to pack in the morning. My swimsuit was dry, so I replaced my clothes and headed to the pool to enjoy the weather one last time. It’s forecast to be 30 and snowing, when we arrive in Denver tomorrow tomorrow.
Before leaving Thailand, we felt it necessary to have one last massage, having already had one in every country we have visited. We all walked down to the local “spa” and had an hour long Thai massage for 300 baht; that’s $9.13. It was a great massage, and we were all very happy with the service. We stopped in at the food court for dinner and then proceeded to the hotel. It seems like I’ve been gone for summer break, so part of me is excited to be returning home. I miss my bed.Read more