Again, we walked across the boarder from Cambodia into Thailand. It was busy, noisy, very hot and dirty, but we got through without a hitch. There were the usual markets set up on both sides selling everything from fruit to spiced spiders, clothing and tools,but we pretty much pushed through to the other side and found an ATM at the 7-11, everyone needed some Thai baht before we loaded into a van to continue our journey into Bangkok.
Arriving at our hotel, the Centra Central Bangkok Hotel, we found out it was a little strange as that we went up to the 12th floor to the lobby in one elevator, then went down to the 8th floor in another elevator where our room was located. Either way, it was a nice hotel, with nice patio/bar area around the pool – which really was not so much a pool as it was a reflection pond. And then when you went around the side of the ball room, a beautiful deck overlooking a temple, and the rest of the city. We loved sitting there in the evening, although hot, the sunsets were always beautiful, and the monks were always chanting below. Except for our last night, there was no chanting on our last night!
The last censes done was in 2010, there were 8.2 million people that called Bangkok home. I’m sure that number has risen considerably in the last 7 years! It is a mixture of old versus new. Bangkok is the capital of Thailand, and was the capital back in 1785 when the country was still named Siam. It has blossomed into one of the major cities in Asia and in the World in the past 20 years. There has been huge economic growth, which has led to the construction of skyscrapers, shopping centres, parks and many beautiful parks. There is contrast around every corner with the new meeting the old. Even in the chaos it is a beautiful city, the temples, shrines, churches everywhere glimmering in the sun. Such a history, and the stories are all told in the people, and their culture. There are vendors everywhere selling their goods, and making a living for their families, although they are cracking down on such street life, it is still a way of living, and they are everywhere. I think taking that away would ruin the whole atmosphere of the city, to say nothing of people loosing their livelihood. I have to admit, I have been to other countries which street merchants are relentless in their selling techniques, grabbing, yelling at you across streets, following you down the street. I didn’t witness much of that in Vietnam, Cambodia or Thailand, it wasn’t like that. They seem to leave you alone unless you showed more interest other than just passing by and looking. Yes, there were a couple times that I would say we were “harassed” to purchase something by a child coming into a restaurant, or a mother coming into a bar with a baby begging for money, but considering the amount of people that make their living this way, it was nothing! I don’t know if it has always been this way, or if its the introduction of cell phones! I say this because I don’t know that I saw anyone without a cell phone, either in hand, or propped up on something as they watched their favorite video/movie/etc. Either way, it was great to be able to go through the markets and the streets, although some VERY crowded and not get hassled in all three of these countries. All the markets are extremely crowded, and stalls are packed to the roof and all around so little room to move, but its still interesting to see. The old and new of it, you will see in many the photos taken in and around Bangkok.
The day after we arrived in Bangkok several of us boarded a traditional long boat and went for a cruise on the Chao Phraya River which weaves itself in and around the city. There is a great deal of traffic on this dirty river, industrial as well as water taxis, dinner cruises and sight seeing tourist boats. You do not go very far in Bangkok without seeing temples, and along the river was no exception. Many of the Khlongs (another name for canal) were not only used for transportation, they were used to dump sewers as well, but most have been filled in around the city. In central Bangkok one main Khlong remains. The Khlong Saen Saeb is still a vital transportation link in a very traffic congested city. That’s the one we got to tour. There are locks on this canal which keeps the water at a specific level during the rainy season. As you can see, some of the houses and shops would not tolerate much fluctuation in the water levels. There are Water Monitors live in and around the canal. Now I have two reasons to not go for a swim!
It was a great way to see part of the city, although with the rough water, especially in the river, it made getting in and out of the boat was a little tough on a few docks. We stopped at the Wat Pho temple a Buddhist temple. It is the number one temple out of 6 in Thailand classed as the highest grade of Royal Temples. King Rama the first built this temple on the site of an older temple. It is said that some of his ashes are in a shrine here. The Whole complex is more than spectacular, the size being greater than 800,000 sq. meters. There is residential buildings for monks that live within the complex, as well as a school. There are over 1000 Buddha images, with the largest at 150 feet long. Although I’ve seen photos of the reclining Buddha before, the immensity standing next to this statue is mind boggling. Between the amount of people, the tight space, and the restoration that was occurring, it was difficult to get a decent photo. So much to see at this complex, I’m sure we missed lots of it. The intricate tiling of the stupas, the hundreds of statues. These craftsmen were so skilled it what they did to create such wonderful art and history for all to appreciate.
After our boat tour we ended up back at the hotel where we would meet up with the rest of the group to go for our last dinner together as a group. Again, not sure of the name of the place that our CEO took us, but through the dark, dirty, wet back alleys, we enter, and climb the stairs to a wonderful bar/café. I hardly took the time to look at the menu, we were only up 3 stories, but the view of the river and its life was breathtaking. Many landmarks could be seen from here, but the one that got the biggest applause was the Sky Bar and Sirrocco Restaurant, State Tower which was used in the movie, The Hangover Part 2. Having not seen that movie either, we decided not to go. Lots of photos were taken that night, as the group was slowing dispersing that night, thru until the next morning for Ireland, London, further exploration in Thailand, Germany, and so on. Gary and I now on our own will have to discover our own wonderful little spots to eat. Yiks!
Well I have to admit, we have seen some wonderful sunsets since we arrived in Asia! But unfortunately its all because of the smog, it has been very thick in all three countries. I didn’t notice any problems with breathing, but someone with sensitivities would likely have problems. Lots of people wear masks, and then there are those that wear the masks, and then slip it off when they have a cigarette! Too funny! We saw some pretty strange things happening on our travels, and I have to say “safety” is not a number one priority anywhere. Welding with no helmet/face shield is very common…although we did see one guy wearing sunglasses! All their little shops spill out onto the sidewalks, so it was typical to be walking down any street and see the flashing of a welder, no screens, no anything, just get the job done. Work boots? I didn’t go look for any, but I don’t believe there is such a thing. The most common foot attire would be sandals. Doesn’t matter what they are doing, working in the rice fields, climbing a bamboo ladder on hydro poles, which is a mess in itself, tearing down a buildings, or delivery appliances- they all wear sandals! Just a couple of my observations as a former Safety Coordinator! Tomorrow? Just us two alone is this big old city, no plans to do anything but have a day of relaxation, maybe a massage will be appropriate?