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Bangkok-The Venice of Asia
After arriving late, our first exposure to Bangkok is intoxicatingly fragrant jasmine flowers in our hotel room. These are used as offerings for the monks...and they made the room smell great the whole time we were in Bangkok.
Tired, we have dinner at the hotel beside the Chao Phraya River. This is a bustling big city—high rises, big businesses everywhere. And the river is alive and lighted at night with small klong boats, water taxis, long boats for touring, noisy party boats and three-ship barges with huts at the back where the workers live—some with families and small children.
Morning welcomes us with a grand sunrise over the city in a light mist.
Followed by a riverside breakfast at the hotel.
We begin our day of playing tourist with our guide leading us to the standard tourist spots, beginning with the Maeklong Train Station Market. Although people here also seem to shop daily, this seems much different than the outdoor markets we saw in Hong Kong and Myanmar. Plus there’s a fun story. Seems a scheduled train runs through this area twice a day. Not a problem, except the vendors set up ON and BETWEEN the tracks. So just before each train, the market is a flurry of activity as vendors move their goods back from the tracks.
Most of the foods are in nice plastic bags and the vendors use scales to weigh purchases, just like home—big difference.
And there are stalls with little baskets of tuna—a common lunch here.
We head down the street to the Umbrella Market where vendors are cooking up a storm...like quail eggs--sunny side up-- hot off the grill.
And baby crabs. Thais "pop the top" and dump them on to their rice.
They are also selling coconut sugar...we're gonna' learn about that on the next stop, the coconut sugar plantation.
We travel sixty-five miles from the city to a coconut sugar plantation....
At the plantation we try out the "ladder" they use to climb the coconut palms to collect the blossom nectar.
They hang a bucket under blossoms overnight--much like collecting maple syrup sap.
Then boil the nectar and stir it to cool it smoothly. Penuche anyone? Smelled really good!
For a finish, we play with their pet python--really big and well fed--very gentle.
From the plantation, we get in a klong boat to the Damnoensaduak Floating Market, the last remaining Bangkok floating market simulating how goods were sold many years ago. We travel down a large canal connecting the Mae Klong River with the Tachine River. Everything is accessed by klong (canal) boat here. For generations, this has been their regular mode transportation.
Because they live along the klongs, houses are built right on the water. Many old Thai houses have their front door down on a klong--the "road" in front of the home. The canals flood periodically, so houses sit high on posts, well above the high water line. Potted plants are placed between the two levels making even plain houses quite lovely.
Some houses are beautiful with their pots bursting with flowering bougainvilleas.
We snack on spring rolls a young woman cooks on her boat for us.
Vendors in the market cooking--and sell--all manner of things from their boats.
The market itself has many stalls beside the klongs. Boat drivers stop where ever you want so you can bargain with the vendors.
Leaving, we notice many "spirit houses" in the yards. These are blessed by the monks and placed in the NE corner of the property to bring good fortune to the home.
We spend the afternoon at the Grand Palace--the old home of the king--now a ceremonial site.
The fanciful Hermit Medicine Man sits before a lavish wat. He is said to be the father of Thai Herbal Medicine.
The buildings are amazing--like all Thai Wats (temples) they are extremely ornate and covered in gold leaf.
None more special than Wat Phra Kaew, located inside the palace walls. This is the home of the Emerald Buddha. Turns out this smallish statue of jade actually has a checkered past. (We'll get an earful on our next stop in Laos.)
Guards--really big guards--watch over buildings throughout the Grand Palace...
Guards of all stripes...
The central garden filled with ancient bonsai is magnificent.
Night time brings a full moon. From our balcony overlooking the Chao Phraya, the view is magnificent!
Our last day, we take a long boat onto Chao Phraya River--a bit more choppy than the market klongs, but a great ride.
Taking a tuktuk--a motorcycle with passenger seating in back--we get a great feel for the city.
Our final stop is the Wat Pho and the 46 M gold-leaf reclining buddha. Just HUGE.
Susan and I hop on the water taxi and take the Thai Skytrain to the Jim Thompson home. This is the Thai-style home of an American OSS officer who made his home in Thailand after WWII and founded a famous Thai silk manufacturing empire--and then disappeared in Indonesia. We watch a woman in traditional dress demonstrate boiling silk cocoons to gather the silk.
Tomorrow we head for Laos, stopping in Vientiane then Luang Prabang.
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