Road Scholar, here we come!

I’m so glad we arrived in Bangkok a few days before the Road Scholar tour started. Doing so gave us an opportunity to adjust to the time difference (although if truth be told, I STILL haven’t completely switched over to Asia time) and to slowly savor this magnificent city. Bangkok is amazingly affordable, so the extra days didn’t increase the cost of the trip by much. Four nights at the Bangkok Loft Hotel, for example, cost $175 TOTAL, and that included airport pick up, plus great breakfasts. The Loft was an excellent choice–within walking distance of the SkyTrain, just two stops from the river. It was quiet, clean, very comfortable, with all the amenities that are important to us: firm mattress, good water pressure, plenty of hot water, free wi-fi, perfect temperature control, excellent free breakfast, and helpful, friendly English speaking staff. Thank you, Trip Advisor!

Before leaving home, I had gotten $250 worth of Bhat from our bank. Had we steered clear of the resort hotels (lunch at the Mandarin Oriental, drinks at the SkyBar, dinner at the Shangra-La), that amount would have been more than enough for our transportation, entrance fees to attractions and food during our stay.

Rama lX is featured on Thai money.
Rama IX’s portrait is on Thai money. He looks pretty good for an 86 year old man. But why does one denomination have a different portrait?

The hotel chosen by Road Scholar, the Majestic Grande was also quite lovely, in the business section of town.

Thursday night, we met our fellow travelers. The group is composed of 5 Canadians, 8 from Washington state, 2 from California, 2 from NY, 3 from PA, and the two of us from NJ. As with other Road Scholar Trips we’ve taken, the women outnumber the men, 14 to 8. I love making new female friends! In fact, one of the reasons we keep choosing Road Scholar is it seems to attract interesting, friendly, curious travelers who are fun to be with. Mike and I are looking forward to getting to know everyone better over the next few days.

Friday was an action packed day, with visits to Wat Po and the Grand Palace, followed by lunch at the Supatra River House. After a lecture on Buddhism by Jim Lehman, we returned to the hotel. By then, all we wanted was some cold water and some cold air on our sweaty bodies!

Here are some visual highlights from Wat Po.
The Reclining Buddha is enormous–150 feet long by 50 feet high.

It's hard to get all of him into one shot.
It’s hard to get all of him into one shot.

This gives you an idea of the size of both the Buddha and the crowd at Wat Po.  The place was mobbed!
This gives you an idea of the size of both the Buddha and the crowd at Wat Po. The place was mobbed!

Do you think these qualify as “Happy Feet”?
The bottom of the Buddha's feet are covered with mother of pearl.  Talk about having big shoes to fill!
The bottom of the Buddha’s feet are covered with mother of pearl. Talk about having big shoes to fill!

The Wat Po grounds are filled with gold Buddhas, temple guards, and interesting statues. This temple guard is clearly Chinese.

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But what about him? To me, he looks like a cross between Charlie Chaplin and John Wayne.

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Our return to the Grand Palace was a different experience. We traveled by bus, which gave us a chance to get a different glimpse of the city. Road Scholar provides ear pieces, so that we can easily hear the guide. What a godsend in these crowded sites! Mike and I were glad that we had been able to spend time on our own, and leisurely wander the grounds; having a second go-round with a guide allowed us to see things a little more deeply, and catch some of what was missed the first time. For example, the gallery surrounding the religious section of the Grand Palace is painted with scenes from the Ramayama, and the yellow “paint” in the scenes is liquid gold.

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My blog is lagging behind our activities, but I need to end this so I can get myself together for the start of our day. More to come!

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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