Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Take 6: Back to Bangkok: Let's be tourists!

Post Christmas bliss in Kanchanaburi, we found ourselves back in Bangkok for one last day. Since we were conned out of our touristy experience at the Grand Palace our first day for what may be an even more touristy experience of being conned and going to jewelry stores, we thought we should actually make it to the number one tourist destinations: Wat Phra Kaew and The Grand Palace.

This is the view from the outside, with the big 'ol white walls around it. There are guards at the entrances, but the real ones don't try to pawn you off to two shady tuk tuk drivers. They can't say anything, actually. Just stand and look bad-ass with their big guns.
We passed the big statue of the elephants this time, so I had to get an 'up close and personal' picture.
This is after Gopika had gotten her cool, free, rent-a-sarong and before we payed the ridiculous 15 bucks to enter the temple and grounds. Oh, and yes, those neon orange pants are another sweet purchase I made at the Lumphini market. Fisherman's pants turned out to be quite the commodity - so much so that I couldn't even talk the salesperson down. BUT, they turned out to be far less functional than I had hoped, what with the slits up to the waist and long bottoms that I was constantly stepping on.
The three famous stupas, done in a typical Ratanakosin architecture style, when the grounds were consecrated in 1782 for the first year of Bangkok rule. The grounds are 94.5 hectares large, have over 100 builidings, and reflect ofer 200 years of royal history and architectural experimentation. BUT, we really didn't get to see all a that, because most of the rooms are used exlusively by the king for certain ceremonial occasions. WE LOVE THE KING!
Scary or sweet?
Stupa Sarah!
I couldn't get over how "Grand" everything was (quite appropriate, indeed). All the intricate details, small "gems", gold painting... it was just incredible.

Aesthetic landscaping committee did a nice job on the flower pots.
One of the buildings had these extensive murals of the Ramakian (which is the Thai version of the Indian epic Ramayana). It was originally painted during Rama I's reign (1782-1809), but as you can see it's continually restored.
The Grand Palace
Wat Phra Kaew, aka Temple of the Emerald Buddha. This is the shrine to the Emerald Buddha, which we couldn't take pictures of inside. We had to wait in a big line to get inside, and it was packed with hot, sweaty, foreigners like ourselves, but it was pretty cool to see the elevated green Buddha all done up in royal robes (for the appropriate season, of course).
Moving on...

Respect! for the Grand Palace guards!
The Grand Palace Ticket was also good for two other "attractions" in the Bangkok area. We hadn't heard of either, but the travel agent had said the mansion was beautiful. So, we hitched a tuk tuk to the far away location. It was pretty, but ehhhhh... it was really far away... pretty sure that ticket is just a way to get more back into the economy through transportation costs.
Anyway, after we had pretty mindlessly listened to a tour on a mansion I can't even remember the significance of, we came back into our area of Bangkok for a late lunch. I was all proud I had a place in mind, compliments Lonely Planet - cheap, ma and pa shop, short on decorations big on taste, right on the river! So we walked, and walked and walked some more...
Turns out the place shut down a year ago. But, we did get to see the river, and a big bridge, and ate at a decent place down the street.
To finish off the night, before we got on our first big foreigner commuting bus of the trip, Gopika brought in a little Japanese tradition in Thailand. While traditions of Christmas in America carry many customs for many individuals and families, there are but two Japanese Christmas customs. The first is Daiku, or Beehtoven's Ninth Symphony. Apparently, this is performed all over the place. The second, more relevant, tradition is the Christmas Cake. All families enjoy Christmas with a cake that has been purchased (probably due to the lack of OVENS in Japanese homes). Anyway, this worked out great, since the nearby 7/11 had a fresh stock of cakes in store - Gopika selected a delightful Pooh bear cake that we could all share with mini spoons. Awwww, eating Pooh for Christmas, how sweet!
I also planned ahead, and brought my Santa PEZ dispenser to celebrate and share with!

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