China Chronicle – Day 13 (Bangkok)

      We left Hong Kong early this morning for our 11:20 AM flight to Bangkok. We loved Hong Kong but were glad to leave since it was pouring this morning. Thai Airways is a wonderful airline — everyone is so friendly, the food is good, the plane was relatively new and the airport in Bangkok brand new and very efficient. We checked into the Shangri-La Hotel (supposedly one of the best in Bangkok) at about 3 PM. Our guide Toi was very nice and offered us some additional options, since we are mostly on our own here in Bangkok.
      The majority of the group decided to go to a tailor shop to have some clothing made. I preferred to strike out on my own, to see what I could see in the vicinity of the hotel. Armed with my map and cameras, and a paper to give to a taxi-cab driver so that I could meet the group at a restaurant, I headed north on Charoen Krung (New Road) toward the city center. Walking was very difficult since the sidewalks were crowded with people, students coming home from school, and locals returning from work or just strolling. Most of the sidewalks also contained vendors selling all sorts of items, from food to coins to fabrics, on both the street side and store side so that the narrow alley between was difficult to negotiate. The city is also very dirty, and the air pollution actually hurts your lungs when you breathe — it seems that every vehicle (and there are thousands of them) is spewing out dark, black smoke. Walking for an hour and a half seemed like smoking a pack of cigarettes.
      My first stop was Wat Muang Khae, just a temple that I noticed as I was walking, so I decided to stop and take my first photos. Then it was onward to my goal for the afternoon, Wat Traimit, the Temple of the Golden Buddha. This large Buddha of solid gold was discovered accidentally when the plaster covering broke as the Buddha was dropped. Now it is a major sight in the city. I took my shoes off, removed my hat and walked in to take some pictures.
      Next I headed for Wat Saket and the Golden Mount. The Golden Mount is a golden stupa which sits on a high hill overlooking the city. The grounds were spectacular, with many types of flowers and beautiful shrubs and trees (Lee would have loved it). The climb was strenuous only because I was in a hurry, but the view at the top was great.
      At the bottom of the Mount is Wat Saket, another splendid temple with beautiful grounds. I felt a little strange here because I think it was supposed to be closed, but the gate was open and I entered and took pictures. Then I flagged down a cab and got to the designated Thai restaurant just after the rest of the group arrived. The Reun Khum 1 Restaurant was an authentic, off the beaten track place with absolutely wonderful food. I’m not sure I know exactly what I ate, but it was all delicious — many courses for just $12 per person!! Can’t beat that!!


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