Today, the sun is shining and the temperature is about 90 degrees, very different from when we left the restaurant last night where it was positively pouring (this is the beginning of monsoon season here) and the street was like a river. Our hotel room looks out over the Chao Phraya River, the waterway which winds through downtown Bangkok. We are leaving shortly for our guided tour of the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew (the Temple of the Emerald Buddha) and perhaps even Wat Pho (the Temple of the Reclining Buddha).
The Grand Palace of Bangkok is truly grand! It is one of the most exquisite complexes I have ever seen. The architecture is unusual and very distinctive. And everything is covered with gold. Each building is more ornate and elaborate than the last and yet they all blend in perfectly with one another. There are demons and guardians and lots of colorful tiles.
The Emerald Buddha, however, is a bit of a disappointment. It is small after all the hoopla, although fittingly surrounded by incredible opulence. We also saw the Changing of the Guard at the Grand Palace. The Thai people do not seem to have the flair of the English for their ceremonies.
Next we visited the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, Wat Pho. This is the oldest and largest temple in the city, its size necessary to house this huge golden Buddha who is 150 feet long and 50 feet high. His feet are encrusted with mother-of-pearl.
From here, I again left the group and headed off on my own. Instead of walking, I hired a Tuk-tuk to take me around (for 40 Baht, about $1.30). I was with him for about 2 hours!! My driver brought me to a number of Wats, waited for me to come out and then, after my sightseeing tour was over, he dropped me off near the water-taxi pier so I could take a boat ride back to the hotel (something I had been hoping to do).
I visited Wat Suthat, the Giant Swing, Wat Pari Nayok, Wat Benchamabophit (the Marble Temple), and the large Standing Buddha at Wat Intharawihan. He also took me by Chtralada Palace, the residence of the King, and Dusit Park, where I saw the Vimanmek Palace and several imposing Halls.
My boat ride was also great. I passed by several Wats, especially Wat Arun, the Temple of Dawn, an imposing 286 feet high and covered with pieces of ceramic tile.
My Tuk-tuk driver also brought me to several shops. In one, I actually had a shirt made — it was delivered to our hotel the same day.
Check out my photo album, but I will not be able to post any more pictures of the trip since I have reached my monthly upload limit. Look for more photos in June!
Finally after 14 days I get the opportunity to put some comments on the blog. Here goes, this will appeal mostly to the women folk. First thing I noticed in the hotels was all the ameni,ties they give to guests. There is a flashlight (in case of fire or loss of power), an umbrella in case of rain, etc. Secondly, I noticed they actually have oxygen mask in their rooms in the event of fire and smoke — we found these in Beijing and Shanghai. The other amenities included toothbrush and paste, comb, talc, razors, shoe polish and mouthwash to name a few. Also, I need to mention that all our tour buses were very clean and air-conditioned. Some other customs: if you have a fixed dinner you are allowed one portion per person. It was funny when a few people asked for seconds. The wait staff all looked at each other and did not know what to do until our tour guide asked them to get extras. In mainland China and Hong Kong the staff is very attentive. In restaurants they hover over you and want to assist you. These people are very polite and courteous. The food has been so varied with new flavors and items I have never seen. Dumplings are a small shaped dough to match whatever food was inside. For example if there were shrimp inside of the dumpling the dumpling would be shaped like a shrimp. They had one dumpling shaped like a pigeon; I could not eat it, but Gary did.