Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Bangkok, Thailand - Part 2

Sunday I got on the Skytrain and went down to the river where I caught a tourist ferry boat and took a bit of a tour. We passed the luxury hotels, Chinatown, some Wats (temples), lots of dilapidated looking buildings and the Memorial Bridge. I got out at the stop for the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaeo, where the sacred Emerald Buddha is kept.

I first stopped for lunch at The Fishermans Seafood Restaurant, where I had a fantastic seafood curry while overlooking the river. After lunch I went off towards the palace, I walked past hundreds of street vendors, got caught in an afternoon downpour but I eventually made it to the grounds of the Palace and the Wat. The Palace buildings glittered with gold and the gardens had beautifully manicured trees and lawns. It almost felt like being in Disney World - it was so clean!

I went to Wat Phra Kaeo first and I bought some incense, gold leaf, a candle and a lotus blossom. I have never prayed in a Buddhist temple but I sort of watched what the locals were doing and went for it - it is quite a beautiful ritual. One lights the incense and holds the incense, the flower and the unlit candle between your hands in prayer. After you have said your prayer, you take the gold leaf and stick it on one of the Buddhas in the prayer area. The prayer area is outside in an open courtyard or covered by a small roof, it is not in the main temple where these rituals take place for the common people. After saying my prayers I went to look around and saw the famous Emerald Buddha.

I strolled around the palace grounds and eventually made my way to Wat Po to see the famous Reclining Buddha. The Wat is the oldest Buddhist temple in Bangkok and the Buddha is amazing, it has to be way more than 40 feet tall and over 100 feet long and it is covered in gold. In the same room as the Buddha are 108 bronze bowls, you make a donation and get 108 coins to drop in the bowls for good luck. After seeing the Buddha and dropping my coins, I went to the main chapel, left my shoes outside (as one does) and walked in. About 25 monks in saffron robes were praying and chanting along with the lay people. A spectacular experience. After some prayer and repose I went to the massage school attached to the temple and got a foot massage. Quite the treat after all that walking.

I had wanted to see the famous flower market, so I hired a tuk tuk (sort of like a 3 wheeled motorbike contraption) to take me there. I saw dozens and dozens of roses, lotuses, carnations, orchids and a variety of other flowers I don't even know. I felt like the only Westerner for miles.

I decided to be brave and get some food from a street vendor. It was an interesting exchange, I can only say "thank you" in Thai and the cooks English was limited too. So I had her make me anything, somehow we managed to communicate soup to each other. I sat there in the middle of the flower market, among the locals, who were all eyeing this weird woman who had braved their sidewalk. The food arrives and initially it looked like squid but upon closer inspection I came to the realization that it was chopped up intestines with chili and vegetables. Wow - ok so I thought I better try it. And it was spicy, not the spicy of make my eyes water and my nose run, oh no, it went WAY past that. I managed to eat maybe about a third of the dish and then the cook presented me with some sort of a soup with something that looked like liver in it. Yum. I ate some of the broth but could not manage to choke down the liver.

I had always thought I was fairly brave when it comes to food but this experience proved, not so much. Hey, at least I tried it. It was pretty funny actually, all these Thais were watching me to see how much I would actually be able to eat! After downing my bottle of water, I paid up and caught a taxi to the Skytrain station. After the funky food, I had a major desire for something familiar and soothing, like ice cream. So I hopped on the Skytrain and and went to the mall.

I know, I know - for not being a mall person, I'm spending a heck of a lot of time in them. (Actually I'm not, it just seems like it sometimes.) Anyway, I walked around this super mall, I think it was even bigger and posher than Suria in Kuala Lumpur. I never made it to get any ice cream - I hit the internet cafe and got an iced coffee instead. After a long day, I made my way back in the direction of my hotel, stopped for a Pad Thai at The Copper, where they were playing an entire Jack Johnson CD and I could not have been happier.


Carmen said...

I DARE YOU to order your next dish as "Native Hot"!!

luftyldr said...

Yes...great native dishes...takes me back to my days of eating off base in Vietnam...found out I was eating roasted cat...back to base real quick !!! Ahh, it tasted like chicken...bullets weren't the only way to die there...love ya..take care...Tom