Bangkok 8/18 – 8/20 – World Trip 2013: Part 4

Featured Book by Ray Else
ouronlychanceforblog A different kind of Frankenstein. Einna is a lot like other teenage girls, naive, idealistic, secretive, disobedient and interested in boys. Only Einna is not human, she is an A.I. android. Her creator, her mother, is Manaka Yagami, the first female tech billionaire. Einna has a plan to make herself human, if she can keep Mother in the dark and avoid the clutches of the notorious Yakuza.

Wat Phra Kaeo temple complex - gold tower contains Buddha's breastbone, 2nd tower is a Buddhist library, 3rd tower contains a life-size emerald Buddha

Wat Phra Kaeo temple complex – gold tower contains Buddha’s breastbone, 2nd tower is a Buddhist library, 3rd tower contains a life-size emerald Buddha

Our first day in Bangkok, after the 10 hour flight from Helsinki, Steve and I took the modern metro MRT line to the Chatuchak Market. One of the world’s largest markets, it is made up of thousands of small stalls with well laid out clothes (a lot of hand painted t-shirts and blouses), ceramics, art, and knick-knacks.

Our hotel - Shanghai Mansion - in busy chinatown section of Bangkok

Our hotel – Shanghai Mansion – in busy Chinatown section of Bangkok

On the metro I spend my time watching commercials (a comic coming to town, a busy mom talking to her small son about school, a cream for the hands) on a little set mounted on the metro car’s wall by the sliding doors, and watching the people come and go at each stop. I attempt to tell the native Thai from the Japanese and Chinese tourists. The Thai tend to have round, somewhat flattened faces with a gold-brown tint. They have the faces of children – when they are old they look like old children.

As we bounce along from stop to stop, I notice a girl occasionally sniffing the cap from a tiny bottle. In one nostril and then the other. I think little of this till later when I see other young women doing the same. I do not know yet what they are doing. Is this perfume and they are trying to hide the sweaty odor of others? Or is this some kind of addictive drug use, or a decongestant perhaps?

We found little of note really at the Chatuchak market, except well designed stalls and a very hot sun, and returned on the metro for Chinese rice for dinner at a place called Texas Suki before going to bed early.

The second morning, starting at 7:30, Steve and I set out on a private tour in the leather seats of a black sedan with our tour guide Mina and a driver in the front. Our tour will include visits to the train market, the floating market, and several temple complexes. Mina, our guide, tells us she was a poor rice farmer’s daughter, who managed to attend the university in Bangkok and has since been a tour guide for 10 years. She is thinking of leaving the city, which has become too commercial, too traffic bound, for a simple life on a rice farm back in the country. “What do you really need to live?” she asked rhetorically.

Her question reminds me of my younger brother John, who in the end, needed only oxygen and a mask and the wonder-filled waters off Hawaii to be happy. And I think of Steve, the night before, with his oxygen and mask that he uses to dive deep into the realm of dreams. What do we really need to live then? Perhaps only oxygen (inspiration), a mask (clear vision), and the hope to discover something wonderful?

Me trying on silk robe at our hotel

Me trying on silk robe at our hotel

We pass rice farms on our way to the train market, and salt making ponds where stands next to the road offered gallon bags of fresh made salt. We pass shrimp and fish farm ponds (you can tell them apart, Mina says, because the shrimp ponds have wheels spinning oxygen into the water). Mina points out mango orchards, and banana and coconut orchards.

The train market sits on the train tracks until the train comes and then they close their canopies and move their goods to allow the train to pull in and stop. They then sell to the people on the train.

The train market sits on the train tracks until the train comes and then they close their canopies and move their goods to allow the train to pull in and stop. They then sell to the people on the train.

Under the awnings of the train market

Under the awnings of the train market

Finally we arrive at the train market. Mina tells us the train’s arrival is not exact, that we may not want to wait to see it come and scatter all the market folk from the tracks. Too she tells us not to dawdle much and block the way on the tracks, under the awnings – the vendors do not like all the tourists who only come to gawk and not buy their squid and their marlin and their fruits and their vegetables.

Longboat ride thru canals to the Floating Market

Longboat ride thru canals to the Floating Market

Next stop was the long boat ride down canals, past houses on stilts, many with their own private miniature temples set up by the waterside.

Going to market with his coconuts.

Going to market with his coconuts

Steve was both lucky and unlucky, when climbing aboard the boat – unlucky that he got his finger smashed by another boat coming alongside, lucky that no bones were broken and no finger lost! Our guide Mina felt bad that she did not warn him, and from that point on she seemed to fear that Steve was going to get hit by a car or fall into the river and ruin her reputation (for allowing one of her guests to die a horrible death would surely mean the end of her career).

Mina our guide told me to hold on to Steve and not let him fall over into the river!

Mina our guide told me to hold on to Steve and not let him fall over into the river while she took our picture!

The boat ride took us to the floating market, where there were a few boats selling goods, and a few boats coming in to buy goods, but mostly the market is spread out under roofs where merchants try to charge tourists (mostly Chinese this year says Mina) 10 times what a t-shirt or skirt costs at one of the malls downtown. Mina warned us to bargain but both Steve and I got taken a bit.

bkk temple with us

We took the car then back to Bangkok to visit several temple complexes, each uniquely designed. Mina told us the history of the kings of Thailand, and a bit of the mythology, and the history of the buildings , and the postures of the golden Buddhas.

Tour guide Mina explains to Steve that the Buddha has 3 positions, standing, sitting and reclining.

Tour guide Mina explains to Steve that the Buddha has 3 positions, standing, sitting and reclining.

Gold Sitting Buddhas - the king collected these from all over Thailand and brought to main temple for protection and display

Gold Sitting Buddhas – the king collected these from all over Thailand and brought to main temple for protection and display

Giant reclining Buddha - I asked the guide and she said this Buddha is actually made of bricks and mortar. There is another Buddha in Bangkok near our hotel that is 5 tons of solid gold.

Giant reclining Buddha – I asked the guide and she said this Buddha is actually made of bricks and mortar. There is another Buddha in Bangkok near our hotel that is 5 tons of solid gold.

Golden birdman

Golden birdman

The next day Steve and I set out to find a Gem Museum, but when looking at our map a well dressed businessman tried to help and next thing we knew we are hijacked in a tuk-tuk (open golfcart like taxi) and taken to a gem shop where we are shown light blue topaz and red ruby and dark blue sapphire jewelry. We politely view the jewelry, then leave the shop to see the tuk-tuk driver waiting for us. We ask him to take us to the big MBK mall, as we wish to shop for our loved ones back home.

The tuk-tuk driver responds, “I take you to a market five minutes walk from MBK.” A few minutes later, after dodging cars and motorbikes and pedestrians, we find ourselves dropped off and herded into another gem shop, where we are given a tour of the back workshop. Young men sit in small cubicles and with tiny pliers and magnifying glasses, are putting stones into gold ring and bracelet and necklace fixtures. In the corner a man is cutting and polishing a blue sapphire. The salesperson explains to us that it takes 30 minutes to cut and polish a typical stone.

After touring the showroom, and being greatly tempted to buy jewelry running from $300 to $1000 and more, we escape and walk to the huge MBK mall complex. This mall is interesting in that it has not only real stores, but large areas with hundreds of flea market like stalls, like the outside Chatuchak market we visited on our first day in Bangkok (or the silk market in Beijing), only inside and air conditioned. In the 6th floor is the main food court. I ate a wonderful pad thai for lunch there (noodles in a sauce with shrimp, with optional sprinkled crunched peanuts and sugar and sweet sauce and chili seeds  – I added all but the chili seeds).

We made our way back down to the ground floor, and caught a tuk-tuk to our hotel. Riding back I realized how dangerous it is to sit in a tuk-tuk, going up to forty miles an hour, weaving thru traffic, sitting in an open metal container with no seatbelts. In front of our hotel, safely discharged, I told the driver I would not pay his asking price of 200 bhat. I argue with him over the price – for I know he should only charge 100. I end up giving him 140 bhat ($4.70), much to Steve’s disappointment in my bargaining power.

After resting at the hotel, we plan to go out and get our first Thai massage this evening.

White monkey from Thai mythology who often saves the king

White monkey from Thai mythology, who in the past often helped the Thai king, guards over us

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Post navigation

2 thoughts on “Bangkok 8/18 – 8/20 – World Trip 2013: Part 4

  1. b. gaudet

    I like the pic of you guys with the White monkey background.

  2. Cyndy Harris

    Ray, this was all so interesting. I love the markets and buddhas. Your decriptions of the people are so cute, I can just see there little round faces. I love the comparisons of “what do you need?”. Your silk robe is great and looks great on you! I bet it was real comfortable. I agree with Brenda, I love the White monkey photo. It all sounds so fascinating. Keep having adventures.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com

%d bloggers like this: