2006- Entry 1: Return to Thailand

What a difference a year makes…… This trip seems so much more relaxed. It doesn’t take that much to get “into the mode” so to speak. It has been an enjoyable last few days in Bangkok getting used to using the language on a regular basis and getting settled into dealing with the climate. I have been getting in touch with alot of people here and it looks like there is a big reunion with my former students and a lot of the teachers from my old Peace Cops days planned for the middle of August.
 I find myself walking almost everywhere despite the 90 degree plus temperatures and the stiffling humidity.  It is nice to know how to use the subway system and the”sky train” (monorail) right from the get-go! (And already have learned the tricks the taxi drivers have invented to get around the new taxi meter system!)
The first real day here I decided to take a trip to “Damneurn Seduak.”  It is really a cluttered and chaotic tourist-driven attraction which is largely developed around a canal or two with Thais hawking beautifully-arranged fruit, vegetables and trinkets from their small boats.  This may be the way things were sold in the old days, but believe me the prices have changed! (At least on THIS canal!) Also along the canal, for those who elect not to take the touristy canalboat ride, is an array of shops crammed with more stuff to buy, or NOT as the case may be! I did get some great photos walking along the canal. It may be pretty staged, but it at least has a certain interest factor working for it!
We then were “treated” to the crocodile farm and the elephant show. I’ve never seen so many people clapping so loudly for animal abuse in my life! The poor crocodiles in particular were being beaten into submission so that the guy could stun the crowd by placing various body parts in the crocodiles mouth. We then went to the Rose Garden, where we were indeed treated to a program of traditional Thai dancing. It really was a wonderful show. BUT at least I have been once again cured of ever wanting  to take a tour like that again!
WAT PRA KEO, Bangkok
Yesterday I spent walking all over the western part of the city. I returned to Wat PraKeao, where the revered statue of the Emerald Bhudda is enshrined. I had completely forgotten to wear long pants, so I had to rent a pair of Chinese trousers (not exactly fashionable) from the shop set up for that purpose.It was Waan Khao Pansaa so the Thais were there in droves to make merit by walking around the temple with lotuses and incense sticks. Waan Khao Pansaa is the day that marks the beginning of the rainy season, when the monks are not encouraged to leave the temple area. Men traditionally become monks for a short time, especially before marriage, in order to make merit for their parents.) I reallywent there to take more pictures of the beautiful murals of the Ramakien that surround the inner walls of the complex. I was happy to see that these are now being restored. So many of them have been faded due to the incredible pollution of this city and its many vehicles. I decided to skip the Grand Palace, mostly due to the fact that in the heat and humidity I was sweating profusely in those Chinese pants with my shorts on underneathe!.
Ended up leaving there and negotiating my way through the numerous taxi and tuk-tuk drivers who are trying to take advantage of the tourists by taking them on ridiculous tours of nearby not-so-interesting temples. (And, of course, to stop at shops that your “tour guide” gets a cut of everything you buy.) I walked about 30 minutes and found myself at the Golden Mount, which is a 100-year-old chedi that gives a commanding view of the city. The view in years gone by was even more commanding until the skyscrapers were built. It is still a beautiful view. I rang the bells that line the walk way to give thanks for a safe journey here.
Leaving there I entered the area of Old Siam. There is a terrific three-story Thai version of a shopping mall. You can find many shops here that sell Thai silk at fairly reasonable prices. Best of all is the area where they sell all kinds of Thai treats (ganomes). I loaded up in “Khao Neo Bing” (sticky rice with banana) and some tasty “Ganome Krok.”
In the evening, I journeyed to the northern part of the city to meet a friend for dinner. Of course, I left my umbrella at the hotel and we were caught in a tremendous downpour! I loved the accompanying intense lightning and thunder. It amazed us how quickly the streets, especially the side streets, were transformed into swimming pools. The water was a foot deep or more in many places.
Well, today I leave here and head by overnight train to Nong Khai and Laos. Not sure what the internet situation is there, but I hope to be in touch over the next two weeks I’ll be there. Have been also looking into a trip to Ankor Wat….. you can do it overland now, but it is a rough trip over rougher roads…… I’ll see how I make out with the roadways of Laos and the three days on a slow boat up the Mekong River!
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