Thursday, December 2, 2010

Three Nights in Bangkok

For our latest trip, we traded sandy beaches of the South China Sea for the golden temples of Bangkok. The capital of Thailand is a short, 2 hour plane ride away from Penang. My first impression of Bangkok was that it is huge - home to over 9 million people and covering more than 15 thousand square miles of land. Once you get past the size, you start to notice the unmistakable bits of Thai culture sprinkled in nearly every nook and cranny. And the Chao Phraya river runs through it all.

Like many other cities in Southeast Asia, Bangkok is subject to heavy monsoon rains. As parts of Bangkok are below sea level, the government has created a series of canals that help divert overflow water from the Chao Phraya river to safer drainage areas. These canals also make for great roads, especially since the surface streets in Bangkok are teeming with taxis, tuk-tuks, buses, and trucks. We took advantage of a water taxi with our freinds, the Kelly's. The boats are very long and very narrow. They are powered by a giant car engine that has a long shaft leading to the propeller. The boat is steered by swinging the entire engine about by the shaft it rests on. Yes, the kids always had their life jackets on.

We passed through several locks on the canal, saw some of the local neighborhoods, did some shopping, and fed some fish.

This is a typical house on the canal. Wouldn't it be great to walk out onto your own private jetty on the mighty Chao Phraya river?

Unfortunately for us, Bangkok was experiencing some flooding, so the famous floating markets were closed. However, we still found one ambitious floating shop open on the river. Her tiny boat carried everything from souveniers to snacks.

Craig bartered very hard, and was able to pick up a nice set of pencils and erasers from the floating convenience store for just a few baht.

Like most large, warm water rivers, the Chao Phraya is loaded with catfish. Craig and the other kids tossed hunks of bread into the river, causing a the surface to come alive with a catfish feeding frenzy. Jennifer thought it was cool, but there was no way she was going to touch one of them.

Along the river you can see all sorts of wonderful buildings. We saw Christian churches, Muslim mosques, Chinese temples, and ancient Thai buddhist temples as well.

This is Wat Arun, which means Temple of the Sunrise. It was built right along the Chao Phraya river. At the top of the central prang, or tower, is the seven-pronged trident of the Hindu god, Shiva.

Almost every inch of Wat Arun has some sort of sculpture or decoration. There are people, various representations of deity, lions, guardians, and other statues adorning every inch of every corner.

The walls are covered with statues of various guardians and colored with pices of ceramic or china.

The main prang is surrounded by six sattelite prangs which are dedicated to the god Phra Prai. The river is never far away.

Across the river from Wat Arun is Wat Pho, which is known as the birthplace of traditional Thai massage. These towers behind Jennifer and Craig are the tombs of former Thai kings. The blue one is the tomb for the Thai king featured in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, "The King and I".

These golden buddha statues are placed here in honor of the families who help sponsor the temple.

Wat Pho is also home to an enormous, gold-clad reclining buddha. Here we are near the head. The statue is so huge, that the builders sculpted the statue first, and then built the temple around it.

This is the reclining buddha's face. It is said that this is how Buddha looked, just before he died.

Here we are at the foot of the reclining buddha. The feet are inlaid with mother of pearl, with the left foot a mirror image of the right.

Down the street from Wat Pho is the Royal Palace. The Palace has various buildings, including living quarters and various temples. Here we are at the steps to the living quarters.

The entryways are all guarded by these enormous guardian statues. They offer protection from invaders.

The palace is home to the famous Emerald Buddha. The Emerald Buddha is actually made of jade, and is the largest such buddha in the world. The buddha is enshrined in a separate building, which is surrounded by these eagle guardians.

The signature towers and rooflines of Thai architecture are seen in this group of Palace buildings.

One thing you have to understand, is that Jennifer likes big cities. She will go all day long, and only stop to sleep when there is no other option. So, in keeping with Jennifer's tradition in a big city, we stayed up one night to watch some Thai dancing.

Craig got a chance to go up on stage and try out dancing between two bamboo poles. You have to be quick, or the bamboo poles will shut on your ankles!

Craig also got to show off his amazing sword fighting skills after the sword fighting demonstration.

It was a fun night of experiencing some traditional Thai culture.

This part is for you, Boo. Food in Thailand is awesome. Craig loves Chicken Satay with peanut sauce. Jennifer and I enjoy the Thai green curry, the jasmine rice, and drinking coconut milk directly from a coconut.

Thailand was really awesome, and it's definitely on our list of places to visit again. The people are so friendly, the food is so good, and the culture is so vibrant that we didn't get enough of it during our quick visit.

1 comment:

  1. What a fun trip! I especially love your dedicatory food picture ... you make me sound like an obese person obsessed with food :) That is only partly true. Love and miss you guys! Can't believe how big Craigy is getting.