Night in Bangkok

Many years ago, Mike and I saw the musical “Chess”, which was memorable for two reasons:
1. it is the only musical that Mike and I disliked enough to leave at intermission, BUT
2. it had a really catchy theme song by Tim Rice, whose lyrics I remember to this day.

One night in Bangkok makes a hard man humble,
Not much between despair and ecstasy,
One night in Bangkok and the tough guys tumble,
Can’t be too careful with your company,
I can feel the devil walking next to me.

Well, now…MY man has been here for THREE nights and he hasn’t tumbled yet. Let’s see what night number four has in store for him.

First decision–what to wear? While at Wat Arun, I saw some possibilities.

20130207-094944.jpgHad one of my female traveling buddies (you know who you are…) been by my side, this next photo might have been us in our evening attire. (These sweet young girls were also touring Wat Arun, decided to purchase the full outfit, fingernails and all, and allowed me to photograph them).

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But I digress. Back to last night. Our first stop was Distil Bar on the 64th floor at the Lebua Hotel, where for the equivalent of about $40, I had a rose apple martini and Mike had a beer.

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That might sound a bit pricy, but the olives and pistachio nuts were free, and we were able to relocate to the SkyBar when it opened. I’ve been told that this place was prominently featured in the movie Hangover Two. Since we saw neither that nor Hangover One, that wasn’t our reason for going there–it was, what else, the amazing view.

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It would have been wonderful to have dinner at the restaurant, but it is booked months in advance, so we needed to go elsewhere.
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That gold blur in the center of the next photo is indeed McDonald’s Golden Arches; Kentucky Fried Chicken is a few yards further down.

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As tempting as those options were, we decided to walk on by, and headed for “Flow”, a restaurant on the river.

20130207-102150.jpgLast stop, the 360 bar atop the Millennium Hilton, from which you can see the Dome at the Lebua Hotel. A great way to end our time “on our own”. We join the Road Scholar tour on Thursday evening, moving from the Loft Hotel to the Majestic Grande.

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And now, as promised, the answer to yesterday’s question. There may actually be SEVERAL correct answers, but here’s the one I had in mind when I posed the question.

Thais, like the Brits, Aussies, Kiwis, Japanese, Indians and South Africans, drive on the left side of the road. If you think that wouldn’t make a difference to non-drivers, you would be wrong. We kept heading for the escalators, doors, and turnstiles on the right, not the left.  So, wouldn’t you think walkers should bear left? Sometimes…but most of the time it didn’t matter what side of the sidewalk you chose, it was guaranteed to be wrong. And if you think motor scooters should only be ridden on the road, you’d be wrong again! We have been wrong a lot.

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Recycling in the old days

Question: What do you do with your defective porcelain?

Answer: If you are Chinese, and it is the 1800’s, you use it as ballast in your cargo ships; however if you are Siamese, you realize it makes ideal building materials for your next temple.

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Although Wat Arun is called the Temple of the Dawn, supposedly it is best viewed at sunset, when the light makes all of the porcelain glow, and the temple slowly turns into a silhouette against the crimson sky. Mike and I had another location in mind for our sunset hours, so we visited in the morning. The view from across the river was spectacular enough for us, even without a dramatic sky.

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If you are game enough to climb the steep steps (check out the relationship between that guy’s leg and the step behind him to get a feel for it), you are rewarded with a spectacular view.

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Oh wait–those weren’t the steep steps, these are the steep steps, and someone thoughtfully left a bottle on one of them to provide scale. They are SHALLOW, steep steps, not designed for big western feet!

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Going up was like climbing a ladder; coming down was a bit harder, but the view was so worth it.

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On the top left, you can see the rooftops of the Grand Palace.

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The view looking up was pretty great too. Erawan, the elephant that the Hindu god Indra rides, is standing on the ledge above us. (Don’t see Indra, though).

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The grounds surrounding the temple, normally lovely, are even more so, because they are being decorated for Chinese New Year with red lanterns everywhere. Can you see the two Yakshas guarding the entrance? These spirit “monsters” were at the grand palace and also had green and white faces.

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I’ll end this post with a question:
What do Thais have in common with the Brits, Aussies, Kiwis (New Zealanders), Indians, Japanese and South Africans? This is a hard one. The answer will be in the next post.

The Grand Palace

Pick your favorite adjective: outstanding…awesome…fantastic…way cool. Regardless of the word chosen, I’m confident that it will in no way capture the beauty, the wonder, the glory of the Grand Palace.

Mike and I will be returning to the palace with our Road Scholar group, so we opted to wander around aimlessly, gawking and gasping at the explosion of color and art that surrounded us.

Here’s a look at royal housing in the Kingdom of Siam in the late 1700’s

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There was a bit of a dispute over what the palace should look like. The king wanted a western style palace, but his advisors thought a traditional building was more appropriate. The end result was a western bottom and an eastern top.

The complex includes the Royal Monastery, which was built to house the Emerald Buddha. Although photos are not allowed within the monastery, you ARE allowed to take photos outside. this young lady is standing at a window and my zoom is all the way out.

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The “emerald” Buddha is actually made of jade. Thailand and Laos both claim ownership of it, with Laos accusing Thailand of stealing it from them in 1778, when Rama I conquered the capital of Laos and brought the Buddha to Bangkok. The Thais claim it was rightfully theirs, and was moved to Laos in 1552 by the son of a Chiang Mai princess and Laotian King, when he succeeded his father as King of Laos. Are you confused yet? I sure was.

The Royal Compound felt like Disney world on steroids, except this fantasy land is REAL.

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Every figure is unique. Check it out.

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These guys made me think of the Wizard of Oz.

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I leave Mike alone for 2 minutes, and look what happens.

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She was one of several women clamoring to have their picture taken with him. They also insisted on having their pictures taken with me. Since they didn’t speak English, I have no idea why, but my guess is they couldn’t get over how HUGE we are. “Look, I’m standing next to a giant!”
We were just another curiosity, sorta like this guard, who stood perfectly still, despite the steady stream of young women posing at his side.

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I had read about the Naga, snakes with multiple heads whose bodies are used as bannisters.

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This particular example has five, but there are also seven headed versions.

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The complex includes a scale model of Angkor Wat, so large that I couldn’t get it all into one photo.

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The attention to detail is amazing.

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Our last stop was Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles, an air conditioned oasis. It contains clothing the Queen wore during official visits, beautifully displayed with photos of the queen wearing the displayed garments. Now 71 years old, she was movie star gorgeous. She married the king before her 18th birthday.

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I can’t resist a few more photos of this amazing complex.

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