Sunday, November 23, 2008

Nibbling on the Big Mango

I finally made it to Bangkok yesterday, and arranged the entire trip myself! Last time someone went with me to buy the ticket and someone else arranged a motorbike taxi to take me to the station. Now that I know how to do that, I'll have to see where else I can take day trips to, it's exciting that my world is opening up bit by bit. However, Bangkok itself still hasn't impressed me much.

First stop was the mall(s) - there's a whole slew of them at Siam Center. I wanted to get a little spa treatment. I spent hours wandering around (well, and window shopping) and even asked a couple of people - I kept getting vague directions to go to MBK which I thought was a salon in one of the malls on the street. It wasn't until I'd given up and left the mall complex that I saw that MBK was yet *another* mall across the street. By that time I was sick of being in malls and on my way to do some sight seeing.

I visited Wat Trimitr, (which will get it's own post) and from there walked down towards the river. Along the way I stopped at a 7-11 to get some water. I was sitting out front getting my bearings when a tuk tuk driver came up and asked me where I was going. I told him "the Grand Palace" and he started trying to talk me out of it "It's Sunday - there's nothing to see there." Nearly getting scammed last time was still weighing heavily on my mind so I got up and walked away.

Eventually I made it to the docks and got on the ferry boat with about 400 other people, about half of whom were German tourists. One of the ferry boat workers kept screaming (in a most annoying tone) "Walk inside! Walk inside! Madam - walk inside please! Sir walk inside!" to get us to crowd towards the front of the boat so they could let more people on. I'm not exactly sure what I'd been expecting from the river-boat experience... but it wasn't that. The river is brown and dirty, the buildings along the side of the river not especially attractive. Until of course we got to the Grand Palace. You can see the tops of all the buildings over the white fortressy wall, and what I could see was really beautiful.

We disembarked directly into a little market where I spent entirely too much money on entirely too delicious deep fried foods. There were a few stalls with postcards and jewelry, and then as you get to the street vendors were lined up on either side of the sidewalk, usually with just a blanket on the ground and their wares. I wanted to buy some change purses, but the gal for that blanket was elsewhere.

By the time I got to the gate for the Grand Palace it was 3:40pm and unfortunately they stopped selling entry tickets at 3:30pm. I deeply regretted spending so long wandering fruitlessly through the malls. Oh well. Next time I know to make the Grand Palace my first stop. Sight seeing was not a total loss though. At Sanuam Luang park next to the Palace there was a huge memorial for Princess Galyani Vadhana. She passed away earlier this year, and they had a huge funeral procession for her last week. There were about 6 days of ceremonies, and the crematorium & memorials will be at the park for a month.

There were hundreds if not thousands of people paying their respects.

I don't know much about the Princess, but have heard that she was a real patron of the arts having studied classical music and photography. She was also a linguist and spoke five different languages. In the pavilions around the crematorium there were a lot of paintings inspired by her and her life. It's clear that she was well loved by the Thai people.

Pretty flags in the wind

I don't know much about the cultural or religious significance to the different parts of the crematorium... but I know it was all really beautiful, very regal. Something we don't really have in the US!

No idea what it is, but looked very cool with the clouds behind it.

I think this is a god... or maybe just a guard.

Again, the crematorium against a beautiful sky.

I still haven't experienced any of Bangkok's night life, having only gone during the day... but I'm not sure that would improve my opinion of the city. Nevertheless, I can see myself going again - especially if I have someone to go with. Before heading home I stopped at a book store and stocked up on English language magazines which may have made the whole trip worthwhile.

Code Banana - I spent way too much money in Bangkok, I'm still sick, and one of the part time teachers quit so I need to take over his class - a private lesson with a 14 year old boy. I HATE kids! =(


Cate said...

Sorry Bangkok did not live up to your expectations...those malls are pretty insane. The food court in Siam Center might be the most amazing thing I've ever seen though! Definitely a splurge but they have some awesome stuff!
I hope you feel better soon!

d said...

dude. you live in a foreign country. that's so weird.

just kick the 14-year-old in the shins.

Melissa said...

Wow, the sky in your photos is incredible!

Rebel said...

Cate, I was so hungry I just ran into the food court in Siam Center (the first building I entered) so I ended up with crispy pork and rice... pretty typical fare. It was good though.

D - yeah, it's weird the way some things seem really normal to me now. Like I wasn't at all surprised or impressed that there was a market as soon as I got off the boat. I just got food and sat down and ate. But when I was looking at the pomp and frills I had a very strong 'you're not in Kansas anymore' feeling.

Melissa - it really really was amazing.

IamSusie said...

I think you should put your foot down with the school and say that you absolutely will not teach any children's classes as your skill set works better with adults. Maybe the new California girls will be better with that age group. Life is too short!

Rebel said...

Susie... would be nice if I could, but there was another teacher who quit without giving any kind of notice, just walked in last Friday and said he couldn't hack it. I started comparing notes with the other teachers trying to figure out why I got his kid class, instead of one of the CA girls, and I was the only one who had that time free. It's not personal. And the whole mindset of "they should" "they shouldn't" is what I hate about some of the older teachers.

marissa said...

GORGEOUS photos!! again, i think you have a future as a travel writer/photographer... :)