Bangkok

last day in bangkok: chatuchak weekend market & the bamboo bar at the mandarin oriental

Sunday, January 20:  This morning, my last morning in Thailand, I take the sky train to Mo Chit station, take exit #1, and head to the Chatuchak Weekend Market to do some shopping.

The 35-acre area of Chatuchak is home to more than 8,000 market stalls. On a typical weekend, more than 200,000 visitors come here to sift through the goods on offer. (Bangkok.com: Chatuchak Market)

Today, I’m one of the hordes of tourists and I am overwhelmed.  This is a HUGE market with labyrinthine pathways leading in every imaginable direction.  There are so many things I want to buy here, and of course it’s not humanly possible to buy, and carry back, all the things I want.  Everything imaginable is for sale here, from clothing to handicrafts to ceramics to furniture to art, books and antiques.  I find lanterns and Buddha statues and gold jewelry.  Textiles abound.  I spend quite a bit of money here today, and I come away with big bags filled with all manner of goodies.  Sadly, I’m too busy shopping to take many pictures. 😦

Street musicians at the Chatuchak Weekend Market

Street musicians at the Chatuchak Weekend Market

Chatuchak Weekend Market

Chatuchak Weekend Market

I head back to the hotel to drop off all my goods.  While there, I shower and relax a bit before heading out for dinner.

my goods from the Chatuchak market, in my hotel room

my goods from the Chatuchak market, in my hotel room

me in relaxation mode, and happy with all my purchases

me in relaxation mode, and happy with all my purchases

I head out for a drink and a light meal at the famous Bamboo Bar at the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok.  One critic calls it “a speakeasy in the jungle” and the owners describe it as an African safari lodge.   The furniture is decked out in animal prints or leather on dark wood floors, with bamboo and palm fronds abounding.  I sit at an outdoor table and enjoy a martini and a light dinner (Mandarin Oriental Bangkok: Bamboo Bar).

me at the Bamboo Bar at the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok

me at the Bamboo Bar at the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok

I head back to the hotel early because I fly out early tomorrow morning, back to the USA.  There, I will continue the last semester of studies for my Master’s degree in International Commerce & Policy at George Mason University.

Monday, January 21:  I fly out of Bangkok, heading by way of Tokyo, back to Washington.  It’s a long, long flight.

Leaving Bangkok

Leaving Bangkok

Goodbye Thailand!

Goodbye Thailand!

Fare thee well. :-)

Fare thee well. 🙂

Going, going, gone....

Going, going, gone….

ลาก่อน  (lā k̀xn) = “goodbye” in Thai
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Categories: Asia, Bamboo Bar, Bangkok, Chatuchak Weekend Market, Mandarin Oriental Bangkok, Thailand | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

bangkok: jim thompson house, a buddhist temple and the banyan tree bangkok

Saturday, January 19:  This morning most of our Study Abroad group takes flights back to the USA.  My ticket is booked for Monday morning, so I have two more days to explore Bangkok on my own.   I’ve never traveled alone before, so this is a bit scary for me; however, I manage to make my way around to see some of the sights.  This gives me a bit of confidence which serves me well later.

The first place I visit is the Jim Thompson House, the home of James H.W. Thompson, a self-made American entrepreneur who was the founder of the world-renowned Jim Thompson Thai Silk Company. Thompson’s achievements during his 25 year stay in the Kingdom of Thailand have won him much fame as the “Legendary American of Thailand.” (Jim Thompson House: Museum)

I love the complex of Thai-style teak houses and the lush gardens.  It’s such a peaceful setting.

Entering the Jim Thompson House

Entering the Jim Thompson House

Jim Thompson House

Jim Thompson House

Jim Thompson House

Jim Thompson House

Our guide at Jim Thompson House

Our guide at Jim Thompson House

on the porch at Jim Thompson House, looking out at the gardens

on the porch at Jim Thompson House, looking out at the gardens

For his contribution to developing the Thai Silk industry, Jim Thompson was awarded the Order of the White Elephant, a decoration bestowed upon foreigners for having rendered exceptional service to Thailand. Thompson’s success story in Thailand has become one of the most popular postwar legends of Asia, according to the Jim Thompson House website.

pottery and art at Jim Thompson House

pottery and art at Jim Thompson House

a table in one of the rooms

a table in one of the rooms

Jim Thompson House

Jim Thompson House

Jim Thompson House

Jim Thompson House

Me at Jim Thompson House

Me at Jim Thompson House

In 1967, Jim Thompson went on holiday with friends to the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia. There he set out for a walk in the surrounding jungle but never returned. Thus began the Jim Thompson legend.

Jim Thompson House

Jim Thompson House

gardens at Jim Thompson House

gardens at Jim Thompson House

Gardens at Jim Thompson House

Gardens at Jim Thompson House

Jim Thompson House

Jim Thompson House

The house consists of a complex of six traditional Thai-style houses, teak structures that were purchased from several owners and brought to the present location from various parts of Thailand. Construction of the Thai house was completed in 1959 (Jim Thompson House: Museum).

After walking around through all the houses and gardens, I decide to have a little lunch on the grounds.

I have some lunch at Jim Thompson House

I have some lunch at Jim Thompson House

more of Jim Thompson House

a pond near the restaurant at Jim Thompson House

After my visit to the famous house, I get back on the Bangkok sky train.

Bangkok sky train

Bangkok sky train

I head to a Buddhist temple I’ve heard about and check out the active worship going on there as well as the elephant statues playing sentinel out front.

Elephants in front of the temple

Elephants in front of the temple

Elephants

Elephants

Elephants

Elephants

Flowers for offerings

Flowers for offerings

After wandering around this temple, I take a tuk-tuk to the Banyan Tree Bangkok, where I have a drink at their bar and enjoy the amazing views of Bangkok.

tuk-tuk driver

tuk-tuk driver

the tuk-tuk I take to Banyan Tree

the tuk-tuk I take to Banyan Tree

On top of the Banyan Tree Bangkok is the Vertigo and Moon Bar, a rooftop open-air grill and bar – the first of its kind in Asia.  Here, I have a drink and sit outside with hordes of people and enjoy a great view of the city (Banyan Tree: Vertigo and Moon Bar).

Me heading to Banyan Tree Bangkok

Me heading to Banyan Tree Bangkok

Banyan Tree Bangkok

Banyan Tree Bangkok

On this night, I call R, the man I have been seeing since May of 2007, and I have a terrible conversation with him.  I have a dark foreboding about this relationship, which proves to be true upon my return to the USA.

Categories: Asia, Bangkok, Banyan Tree Bangkok, Jim Thompson House, Thailand | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

lectures at chulalongkorn university & a farewell night cruise

Friday, January 18:  Today, we attend lectures by the Faculty of Political Science at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok.

Ryan with students at Chulalongkorn University

Ryan with students at Chulalongkorn University

Me with Johanna and students at Chulalongkorn University

Me with Johanna and students at Chulalongkorn University

According to the university’s website, Chulalongkorn University, Thailand’s first institution of higher learning, officially came into being in March, 1917. The groundwork and preparation for it, however, took place more than a century ago. The worldwide economic, social and political changes in the late nineteenth century contributed to Siam’s decision to adapt herself in order to avoid being colonized by the Western powers (“Siam” became “Thailand” in the year 1939). Thus King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) had a royal policy to strengthen and improve government so that the country could successfully resist the tide of colonialism. One of the major parts of the policy, which would later prove to be deep-rooted and highly effective, was to improve the Siamese educational system so as to produce capable personnel to work in both the public and private sectors. As a result, a school was founded in 1871 at the Royal Pages Barrack within the Grand Palace compound.

Johanna and me

Johanna and me

Some of us at our lectures

Some of us at our lectures

When it was first founded, the university had 380 students taking classes in four faculties which were in 2 campuses. From 1934 to 1958, the university emphasized improvement of undergraduate education; thus more faculties were established. In 1961 the university set up the Graduate School to be responsible for graduate level education. From 1962 on, the university started to focus on graduate education and began to set up research centers and institutes. (Chulalongkorn University: Chula History)

me with a student from Chulalongkorn University

me with a student from Chulalongkorn University

Ryan at Chulalongkorn University

Ryan at Chulalongkorn University

In the evening, after our day of lectures, we go on the Grand Chaophraya Cruise, where we have our final group dinner.  We enjoy a great buffet, traditional music and dancing as we conclude our study abroad trip in Singapore and Thailand.

Grand Chaophraya Cruise

Grand Chaophraya Cruise

Grand Chaophraya Cruise

Grand Chaophraya Cruise

Ryan and me on the cruise

Ryan and me on the cruise

??, Johanna and Jennifer

??, Johanna and Jennifer

Dinner on the cruise

Dinner on the cruise

Johanna having a good time :-)

Johanna having a good time 🙂

Professor Rajan

Professor Rajan

We pass by Wat Arun, also known as the Temple of Dawn, all lit up along the Chao Phraya River.

Wat Arun, also known as the Temple of Dawn

Wat Arun, also known as the Temple of Dawn

Wat Arun, also known as the Temple of Dawn

Wat Arun, also known as the Temple of Dawn

Wat Arun, also known as the Temple of Dawn

Wat Arun, also known as the Temple of Dawn

Sarah and Jitesh

Sarah and Jitesh

Michal and Jennifer

Michal and Jennifer

a group shot

a group shot

Johanna and Joshua dancing

Johanna and Joshua dancing

me, Joshua, Luz and ??

me, Joshua, Luz and ??

Luz and Ryan

Luz and Ryan

Thai singers

Thai singers

Thai musicians

Thai musicians

Tomorrow everyone else will depart for home, but I booked my ticket to give me two more days to explore Bangkok on my own.  I look forward to venturing out alone and escaping the group dynamics.

Categories: Asia, Bangkok, Chulalongkorn University, Grand Chaophraya Cruise, Thailand | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

bangkok: the grand palace & wat pho {the temple of the reclining buddha}

Thursday, January 17:  After our boat ride, we wander through a market and head to the Grand Palace.

Market outside of the Grand Palace

Market outside of the Grand Palace

First view of the Grand Palace

First view of the Grand Palace

Elephants greet us at the entrance to the Grand Palace

Elephants greet us at the entrance to the Grand Palace

The Grand Palace is a complex of buildings in the heart of Bangkok. The palace has been the official residence of the Kings of Siam (and later Thailand) since 1782.  The king, his court and his royal government were based on the grounds of the palace until 1925. The present monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX), currently lives at Chitralada Palace, but the Grand Palace is still used for official events. Several royal ceremonies and state functions are held within the walls of the palace every year. (Wikipedia: Grand Palace)

Wats at the Grand Palace

Wats at the Grand Palace

At the Grand Palace in Bangkok

At the Grand Palace in Bangkok

At the Grand Palace in Bangkok

At the Grand Palace in Bangkok

at the Grand Palace

at the Grand Palace

At the Grand Palace in Bangkok

At the Grand Palace in Bangkok

Construction of the palace began on 6 May 1782. Throughout successive reigns, many new buildings and structures were added, especially during the reign of King Chulalongkorn (Rama V). By 1925 the king, the Royal Family and the government were no longer permanently settled at the palace, and had moved to other residences. After the absolute monarchy was abolished in 1932, all government agencies completely moved out of the palace.(Wikipedia: Grand Palace)

view from above

view from above

At the Grand Palace in Bangkok

At the Grand Palace in Bangkok

Ryan

Ryan

At the Grand Palace in Bangkok

At the Grand Palace in Bangkok

me

me

At the Grand Palace in Bangkok

At the Grand Palace in Bangkok

In shape, the palace complex is roughly rectangular and has a combined area of 218,400 square metres (2,351,000 sq ft), surrounded by four walls. It is situated on the banks of the Chao Phraya River at the heart of the Rattanakosin Island.

Rather than being a single structure, the Grand Palace is made up of numerous buildings, halls, pavilions set around open lawns, gardens and courtyards. Its asymmetry and eclectic styles are due to its organic development, with additions and rebuilding being made by successive reigning kings over 200 years of history. It is divided into several quarters: the Temple of the Emerald Buddha; the Outer Court, with many public buildings; the Middle Court, including the Phra Maha Monthian Buildings, the Phra Maha Prasat Buildings and the Chakri Maha Prasat Buildings; the Inner Court and the Siwalai Gardens quarter. The Grand Palace is currently partially open to the public as a museum, however it remains a working palace as several royal offices are still situated inside. The palace is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Thailand. (Wikipedia: Grand Palace)

At the Grand Palace in Bangkok

At the Grand Palace in Bangkok

At the Grand Palace in Bangkok

At the Grand Palace in Bangkok

at the Grand Palace

at the Grand Palace

Ryan the warrior

Ryan the warrior

me

me

At the Grand Palace in Bangkok

At the Grand Palace in Bangkok

We have lunch at a Thai restaurant, then we head to Wat Pho, commonly known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha.

Lunchtime

Lunchtime

Wat Pho, also known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, is a Buddhist temple in Bangkok, directly adjacent to the Grand Palace in the Rattanakosin district.  The temple is known as the birthplace of traditional Thai massage.  Wat Pho is named after a monastery in India where Buddha is believed to have lived. (Wikipedia: Wat Pho)

Reclining Buddha

Reclining Buddha

At Wat Pho

At Wat Pho

Ryan beats the gong

Ryan beats the gong

The Reclining Buddha

The Reclining Buddha

the Reclining Buddha

the Reclining Buddha

The Reclining Buddha

The Reclining Buddha

at Wat Pho

at Wat Pho

a Buddhist monk at Wat Pho

a Buddhist monk at Wat Pho

??, Johanna and Jennifer at Wat Pho

??, Johanna and Jennifer at Wat Pho

at Wat Pho

at Wat Pho

at Wat Pho

at Wat Pho

at Wat Pho

at Wat Pho

at Wat Pho

at Wat Pho

at Wat Pho

at Wat Pho

at Wat Pho

at Wat Pho

at Wat Pho

at Wat Pho

at Wat Pho

at Wat Pho

at Wat Pho

at Wat Pho

at Wat Pho

at Wat Pho

at Wat Pho

at Wat Pho

at Wat Pho

at Wat Pho

at Wat Pho

at Wat Pho

at Wat Pho

at Wat Pho

We leave the complex and head back into the streets of Bangkok, where we encounter fruit vendors and the chaotic tangle of Bangkok traffic.

Fruit vendor

Fruit vendor

another Buddha

another Buddha

After dinner, Johanna, who has not been feeling well since we arrived in Bangkok, and I go for a relaxing foot massage.

At the foot massage parlor

At the foot massage parlor

Johanna waiting for a foot massage

Johanna waiting for a foot massage

Categories: Asia, Bangkok, Grand Palace, Temple of the Reclining Buddha, Thailand, Wat Pho | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

bangkok: a long-tailed speedboat cruise down the chao phraya river & canals

Thursday, January 17:  This morning, we take a long-tailed speedboat down the Chao Phraya River and canals (khlongs) of Bangkok.

a shrine we pass on our way to the dock

a shrine we pass on our way to the dock

King Bhumibhol

King Bhumibol

Chao Phraya River

Chao Phraya River

me waiting on the dock

me waiting on the dock

Ryan and Denny

Ryan and Denny

the long-tailed speedboat

the long-tailed speedboat

along the Chao Phraya River

along the Chao Phraya River

along the Chao Phraya River

along the Chao Phraya River

We pass Wat Kanlayanamit, a relatively newer temple built in the reign of King Rama III (1824 – 1851).

Wat Kanlayanamit

Wat Kanlayanamit

Wat Kanlayanamit

Wat Kanlayanamit

The river cruise would have been more picturesque if it wasn’t such a dreary day. Our boat heads off the Chao Phraya River and down the Khlong Phasi Charoen, a 30 km long canal in the western part of central Thailand.  Construction of the canal began in 1866 and was completed in 1872 (Wikipedia: Khlong Phasi Charoen).

We drift past stilted wooden homes, mobile shops, ‘floating kitchens,’ colonial mansions and colorful culture along the riverfront.

houses along Khlong Phasi Charoen

houses along Khlong Phasi Charoen

along Khlong Phasi Charoen

along Khlong Phasi Charoen

houses along Khlong Phasi Charoen

houses along Khlong Phasi Charoen

Long Live Our Beloved King

Long Live Our Beloved King

another small temple complex

another small temple complex

part of the temple complex along Khlong Phasi Charoen

part of the temple complex along Khlong Phasi Charoen

catfish in the canal

catfish in the canal

Ryan tosses breadcrumbs to the fish

Ryan tosses breadcrumbs to the fish

more of the colorful temple complex along the canal

more of the colorful temple complex along the canal

a modern looking house along the canal

a modern looking house along the canal

another colorful spot at the Khlong Phasi Charoen pier

the Khlong Phasi Charoen pier

along Khlong Phasi Charoen

along Khlong Phasi Charoen

along the canal

along the canal

lush greenery

lush greenery

houses along the canal

houses along the canal

relaxing on the front porch

relaxing on the front porch

another modern house

another modern house

temple complex of Wat Arun

temple complex on the way to Wat Arun

Eventually, we stop at Wat Arun, also known as the Temple of Dawn.  There are over 31,200 Buddhist temples spread around Thailand. In Thai these are called wat.  One of these, Wat Arun, is named after Aruna, the Indian God of Dawn. Standing tall on the Thonburi side of the Chao Phraya River, Wat Arun has an 82-meter high prang (Khmer-style tower), beautifully decorated with tiny pieces of colored glass and Chinese porcelain placed delicately into intricate patterns (Bangkok.com: Wat Arun).  Chinese ships calling at the port of Bangkok discarded tons of old porcelain as ballast. The tower’s construction was started during the first half of the 19th century by Rama II and later completed by Rama III (Lonely Planet: Wat Arun).

Wat Arun, or the Temple of Dawn

Wat Arun, or the Temple of Dawn

This Wat or Buddhist temple is an architectural representation of Mount Meru, the center of the world in Buddhist cosmology. In the mythology of Tibetan Buddhism, Mount Meru is a place that simultaneously represents the center of the universe and the single-pointedness of mind sought Buddhist practitioners. Thousands of miles in height, Meru is located somewhere beyond the physical plane of reality, in a realm of perfection and transcendence. The four-corner prang of Wat Arun, which house images of the guardian gods of the four directions, reinforces this mystical symbolism (Wat Arun: The Temple of Dawn).

Wat Arun

Wat Arun

Our next stop is the Grand Palace and other temples of Bangkok.

Categories: Asia, Bangkok, Chao Phraya River, Khlong Phasi Charoen, Temple of Dawn, Thailand, Wat Arun, Wat Kanlayanamit | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

bangkok: a day of lectures and a foot massage

Wednesday, January 16:  Today isn’t very eventful as far as sightseeing because we are booked with lectures all day.  They’re all a blur now and all I can remember from this day is one amazing foot massage.

Bangkok offers some of the best massages in the world for the cheapest imaginable prices.  Tonight after our lectures, I go to this little place for a foot massage.  Oh, heaven!

Heavenly foot massages :-)

Heavenly foot massages 🙂

another view of foot massage heaven

another view of foot massage heaven

Categories: Asia, Bangkok, Thailand | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

bangkok: taking the sky train in search of a hindu temple & an encounter with a smelly fortune-teller

Tuesday, January 15: In the morning, we have lectures at the United Nations in Bangkok.  Thailand is a strong supporter of the United Nations and has contributed to UN peacekeeping operations.  It has also ratified a range of UN human rights, labor and environment conventions and treaties. Much of the UN’s regional organizations are based in Bangkok, including the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the recently established Asia-Pacific regional center of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP-APRC) (UN Thailand).

our lecture at UN Thailand

our lecture at UN Thailand

While I’m at the UN, I use a computer for a few minutes and write R, the man I have been seeing since May, 2007, an email.  I have a bad feeling about us, and this email reflects this:

Dearest R,
I was so happy to talk with you yesterday!  It does seem awkward talking to you on the phone and somehow I never can tell if you still feel the same about me or not.  I know it’s hard for both of us to talk on the phone.  Somehow I never seem to say what I’m thinking.  But truly, I am thinking that I miss you so much.  You are constantly on my mind.
 
I will probably have to write back later today from an internet cafe because I only have a few minutes here at the UN computers.  I don’t want my time to run out before I send this.
 
We had our lectures here at the UN this morning, and now we have the afternoon free.  I think I will go off on my own to explore Bangkok.  So far I am very surprised (and somewhat disappointed!) how modern it is.  Not nearly as chaotic as Cairo!  There actually seems to be strong commerce and regulated traffic.  I expected something Cairo-like or worse…
 
Time is almost out, so for now, goodbye.  I miss you and love you and can’t wait to see you again. 
Take care, my love, C
 

This afternoon, after our lectures, I take the sky train from Phrom Phong, near our hotel, to Surasak; I am in search of a Hindu temple.  The sky train is 40 baht each way ($1.34) and quite high-tech.  From the outside, it looks like a solid train covered in advertisements, with no windows, but on closer view there are dots painted in patterns on the windows, so that insiders can see out, but outsiders can’t see in.  Inside, seats line the walls, facing each other, and in the middle are red rubber loops where people in the center can hang on.  I can’t figure out how to tell at which station we are until I notice TV screens mounted on the ceilings.  In between high-tech advertisements and music videos, the upcoming station is announced and written in Thai and in English.  It’s very modern.

me waiting for the sky train in Bangkok

me waiting for the sky train in Bangkok

the sky train

the sky train

I become a little disoriented when I get off the sky train, so I head down some side streets trying to orient myself.  Suddenly I am surrounded by throngs of schoolchildren in uniforms of black pants and white shirts.  I have walked into the middle of the Bangkok Christian College as the kids are released from school.  They are roaming all over the streets eating snacks from street vendors.  It’s quite a commotion.

I find the Hindu temple, Sri Maha Mariamman Temple, on the corner of thanon Silom and thanon Pan.  Outside the temple are street vendors selling colorful flowers and fruits for offering to the Hindu gods. Apparently the temple is devoted to the goddess Uma Devi and is bursting with colorful plaster statues of deities.

Sri Maha Mariamman Temple

Sri Maha Mariamman Temple

food and flower offerings for the gods

food and flower offerings for the gods

Sri Maha Mariamman Temple and shops of offerings

Sri Maha Mariamman Temple and shops of offerings

I walk in, take off my shoes, and begin walking slowly around the perimeter of the temple counterclockwise.  An American woman in a sarong advises me quietly that I might want to consider walking in the other direction, clockwise.  That is the normal way it is done, she tells me knowingly.  After turning and walking around in the proper direction, I go inside to see the Hindu statues, surrounded by wilting offerings.  A man in a diaper-like cloth comes up and puts a red and a white dot on my forehead.  I enjoy walking down thanon Silom with the two dots on my head, feeling very exotic.

me in the midst of the offerings with a red dot on my forehead

me in the midst of the offerings with red & white dots on my forehead

Riding on the bus through the city, I observe a lot of interesting things.  In a construction parking lot, a group of 5- or 6-year-old children are playing, without any apparent supervision.  Most street signs are in English and Thai.  Photographs of a youthful gold-clad King are everywhere.  Many people in the streets are wearing black and white as they are currently in mourning for the King’s sister, who recently died.  Thai graffiti covers corrugated aluminum fences.   I see many familiar businesses: 7-Eleven, Orange Julius, The Love Boat Club, Goodyear, Green Ninth, Gloria Jean’s Coffee, Laser Center Clinic, McDonald’s McCafé, Syntec Construction, Coyote, Pasta ‘n Noodles, Starbucks, Pizza Hut, KFC, Hard Rock Café.

me with the dots on my forehead after visiting the HIndu temple

me with the dots on my forehead after visiting the HIndu temple

One thing I observe about the Thais is that those who work as street vendors are quite industrious.  In front of the 7-Eleven down the street from our hotel is a thriving restaurant business crowded onto the corner.  A number of vendors are cooking up meals and seating people on plastic chairs.  One can eat a full meal, accompanied by a soda from the 7-Eleven, and then grab an ice cream from the store to eat with fruit from a vendor.

Further down Sukhumvit Road, I encounter vendors selling shoes, making flower arrangements and garlands, making fruit shakes, and cooking all kinds of food.  Compared to Mexican street vendors I observed in that country, the Thais are highly industrious.  Most of the Mexicans just passively sat on blankets spread on the street; most were selling worthless trinkets.  The Thai vendors seem much more active and thriving.

The city is not very pedestrian-friendly.  The traffic is horrible and there are not many pedestrian crossings.  I put my life on the line many times to get across the street.

In the evening, some of us go to the Dubliner where we drink a few beers and sing along with an Irish singer.

Ryan and me at the Dubliner

Ryan and me at the Dubliner

Irish songs in Bangkok

Irish songs in Bangkok

a small group of us at the Dubliner

a small group of us at the Dubliner

On the way back from the bar, I stop to have my fortune told by a smelly woman on the street.  She tells me I will live to 95-100; that I will never again have love in my life, only friendship; that she sees me having a good job, but money in, money out; that I have a lot of stomach problems; and that I will meet a married man in 2009 who is bad karma.  Not such good news from the Thai fortune-teller!

Categories: Asia, Bangkok, Dubliner, Sri Maha Mariamman Temple, Thailand | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

from phuket to bangkok: traffic & pollution, a traditional show & elephant rides

Monday, January 14:  This morning we fly from Phuket to Bangkok.  We part ways with the lovely Club Andaman Beach Resort.

Goodbye to the Club Andaman Beach Resort in Phuket

Goodbye to the Club Andaman Beach Resort in Phuket

Taking off from Phuket

Taking off from Phuket

Arrival in Bangkok

Arrival in Bangkok

Once we arrive in Bangkok, we spend most of our time sitting in traffic trying to get to our hotel.

Bangkok is a modern city with horrible pollution – the air is actually a gray color.  Many of us get flu-like symptoms upon our arrival, and it becomes clear why people are walking around wearing surgical masks.  Traffic congestion is a huge problem.  Every time we travel by bus in the city, it takes us at least an hour to get to our destination.  Taxi cabs, mostly Toyotas and Mitsubishis in bright colors of royal blue, red, yellow, hot pink, and purple, abound, but it’s faster and more convenient to travel by the sky train.

Bangkok's congested traffic

Bangkok’s congested traffic

Finally we make it to our hotel, where we’re given some free time to settle in and relax.

in the hotel lobby

in the hotel lobby

Later in the evening we go to a touristy venue to eat a traditional Thai meal and watch traditional dancers.

Jennifer, ??, ??, Ryan, me and Luz

Jennifer, ??, ??, Ryan, me and Luz

Thai dancers

Thai dancers

more Thai dancers

more Thai dancers

Thai musicians

Thai musicians

Then we all take turns riding elephants around the square.  It’s not really my idea of an authentic elephant ride, as I imagine riding elephants through lush jungles.

a statue near the elephant ride station

a statue near the elephant ride station

me with an elephant friend

me with an elephant friend

atop the elephant

atop the elephant

riding an elephant in NOT-ideal surroundings

riding an elephant in NOT-ideal surroundings

I really dislike this kind of venue that is set up expressly for tourists.  I find out on this trip that I really dislike group tours of any kind.  I think if I’m going to travel, I need to do it alone, or with only one or two close friends.

Categories: Asia, Bangkok, Club Andaman Beach Resort, Phuket, Thailand | Tags: , | 2 Comments

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