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THAILAND | Sunday, 1 June 2014 | Views [436]

Thursday - First Impressions

So strange. They drive on the wrong side of the road here. We were just in Cambodia and they didn't do that. I wonder how they change sides between countries. We didn't cross the border on land so I don't know.
But I'm thankful we didn't cross the border on land. I made the decision yesterday to spend the $100 for the flight from Siem Reap. It was so worth not having to spend the eight hours on a bus it would have taken us to get here, which would have completely wiped us out. We are well rested and have a whole extra day in Bangkok to enjoy. 

The hostel is quiet, but near a busy night food market. We ate some incredible Thai food for dinner and decided that Thai food was so great that we should do a food tour in Bangkok. Lucky for us, I was able to book one for the following day. Sometimes, having the Internet on your smart phone is so great!

After dinner, we wandered around the area. I thought I saw a line of people waiting for a bus, but when we got to the front of the line, it turned out to be a moto-taxi stop. Apparently, moto taxis don't hang around on the corners here, they have designated stops. Really cool! Each person in line hops on the next moto that pulls up. Once again, I will not be trying that. It's cool, but it still seems so unsafe.


Today we are on the food tour. First tasting was duck, roasted and sliced in this delicious sauce. Wow! I don't even like duck, but that was amazing.

Then we saw Song Ra Temple - a small temple, tucked into the parking lots, behind the big buildings of the city. Kind of an odd place for it.

Next tasting was pancake with egg and chicken topped with sweet cucumbers and hot pepper, followed by Massamun curry and five other yummy dishes. I can't remember them all, but they were incredible.

The tour was so informative from a culinary point of view, helping us to explore the wide variety of food that is Thai, as well as covering the history of the city of Bangkok. We really enjoyed it. I was quite surprised about the diversity of the food. Thai food encompasses a lot more than I imagined.

After the tour, we stopped by the Emporium, a large mall  near our hostel. It was an amazing five floors, but especially the food court was fantastic. Desserts especially. There must have been three different types of gourmet ice cream shops alone, among other things, like donuts, and other pastries. In fact, it was so overwhelming trying to choose that we just had coffee. In a way, it was more fun to look at it all than to eat any of it. Oddly, it was also surprisingly western desserts.

So far, we haven't seen anything in the way of protests or military presence on the streets here. The population seems to think all is normal. There was a curfew, 10 pm to 6 am, but they protested that because it wasn't good for business, so they even changed the curfew to 12 am to 4 am. 


Today we took a tour of the Grand Palace and a Buddhist Temple. 

The temple was indeed quite grand, with golden dragons and snakes, golden ceilings and even a golden Buddha or two. It was built on the vertical to encompass a fairly small square footage so to get to the top you had to walk up about seven flights of stairs. It's 40 degrees Celsius again today so that's like 104 Fahrenheit. And Dad isn't feeling well - I think some of the crazy food combinations may have gotten to him. Or perhaps it's just the heat. 

I hiked up to the top to see inside the temple, but it was a bit anti-climactic. I guess I find the extreme ornateness and gold and jewelled everything to be over the top. Somehow it kind of cheapened it for me. And we didn't really get any history from the guide. He just directed us to go up and see it.

With the temple out of the way, we could see the Grand Palace. The Grand Palace is the king's home, but the grounds and a few buildings are open to the public, for a price of course. It was well worth it. 

Based on the outside of the buildings, I can't imagine they had much gold or jewels left to do anything on the inside. It was impressive! A blur of unusual architecture, combined with wonderfully detailed ornamentation. The guards, like the one in the picture, came in all shapes and sizes. Such unusual fantastical creatures I've never seen. It was hard to believe this wasn't a children's fantasy park like Disney, built to astound and amaze and to enrich fantasy. But in fact, this was a real palace, still in use today and the fantastical creatures were meant to be spiritual guardians to the Thai royalty as well as the Thai people. 

Perhaps the strangest part, was just how much gold and jewels were on display out in the open. Nothing was set behind glass boxes or secured with human guards. It didn't appear that they were worried at all about anyone stealing anything. Granted, I'm sure it wouldn't be easy. But it sure was weird to have such close access to all this incredibly valuable art and architecture. And if I remember correctly, I believe that it was originally built for the people, so it was always meant to be a public space. 

Despite the heat, we really enjoyed the Grand Palace. But we agreed we wouldn't recommend that anyone else visit during this time of year. As you can see in the pictures, the Thai people are all carrying umbrellas. They don't like to get any sun, but I'm sure those sunbrellas were helping block some of the heat as well. We were not that smart. Oh well. We'll know for next time. 

We didn't notice a thing anywhere in Bangkok that might indicate the country is under military rule, that citizens are protesting, or that anything is out of the ordinary. But some other travelers commented that they hadn't seen any Americans here in awhile. And in Bangkok that was certainly true. Any Americans I saw here looked as if they lived here/worked here, but they did not look like travelers.

It's too bad really. I can only imagine the amount of fear-inducing nonsense the media is pumping into the news back home about the "coup" in Thailand. For the Thai people, it's all business as usual. Gotta love their attitude.

I decided to change my flight and leave Thailand early because of the heat, but I do wish I had a few more days here in Bangkok to get a feeling for what the Thai culture is like in general.

The food was definitely amazing!  I thought I knew Thai food fairly well, but the typical Thai menu in the states is actually pretty limited compared to the real thing. Looking forward to trying more Thai food at home.

So I will definitely want to come back here one day. But for now, my time in Thailand has run out. I'm off to Europe tomorrow. Amsterdam here I come.

See you on the flip side.


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