. Even our Baptists would be jealous of their numbers. Most of the homes were simple wooden structures with porches and wooden roofs but occasionally you would see one with a planted "yard" or yet another with a much more basic tin roof and sagging outline as the posts below were breaking down and robbing the house of its support. Once back on land we began our tour of the grand wats and the royal palace grounds. We first visited the enormous sitting Buddha said to be 750 years old....a fairly young fellow and then went to see the much smaller "Emerald Buddha" atop a massive pyramid of gold and jeweled decorations. No photos were allowed from the interior of the Emerald Buddha's building but there seemed to be no problem with snapping one through the window into the courtyard so we did and then moved on to the palace grounds. You could say that it was opulent and amazing and a dozen other praises but it wouldn't begin to paint a true picture of the scene. I was both thrilled to enjoy the spectacle of it and saddened a bit to witness yet another concentration of largesse in the hands of the few at the expense of the many. Think Vatican, cathedrals, Versailles. I guess they occur all over the world and in every culture and perhaps you have to admire the abilities of those rulers who were able to motivate the channeling of so much into their visions of grandeur. We certainly honor their achievements today in our visits and patronage so their legacies really have lived on. You could stay on the grounds for days taking in and photographing just the architectural sculptures and figures; but you would have only scratched the surface of all there was to see
. Entire "cathedrals" were adorned by thousands of hand painted figures that looked for all the world like wallpaper until you realize that there are no telltale seams. The support columns for every facade were covered by a mosaic of glistening glass? that reached to the towering roofs and they in turn led to the inevitable serpentine corner pieces that adorned every building. Overshadowed by this height and tendency to follow all of these lines up were the wall murals that seemed to flow one into the next depicting historical scenes of life that I am sure represented a thousand lectures if you wanted to study what they told. Each of the male characters had the typical Thai face and musculature which I might describe as grotesque but the few women depicted had natural beautiful faces that you see all around you in real life. "Good guys" were drawn with gold leaf and " bad guys" got regular paint but whatever their appearance, they went on forever. In what seemed like a brief time, we soon realized we had actually spent hours there missing both lunch and water to fend off the humid temperature. Fortunately, the guards began to herd us out a bit after five o' clock and we slaked at least our thirst with iced coffee and a mulberry drink of some sort. Still we needed to make our way back across town to our hotel and get food so we joined the que for the Skytran monorail just as the afternoon rain began and navigated to our section of the city. Being seasoned travelers meant that we recognized the peril and possibility of starving to death amid a sea of food and so we first picked up a couple of skewers of chicken from a street vendor and then settled into a table at Chu chocolatery and took a piece of chocolate lava cake from gorgeous to finger swipes across the surface of the plate....hey...we missed lunch! Back in our room and showered, we ordered typical Thai food through room service but our exciting day didn't end there. Shar's dish of chicken and peppers was the best of our choices until she said "I wonder what this is" and bit into a flaming piece of something that lit up the room as she gasped and searched for anything to quench the fire now in her mouth. I offered to write the blog for the night and found myself nodding away while editing the very first photo and so I turned it over to her. I am writing this now because she lasted only nanoseconds longer than I did. Tomorrow is Sat. and we will be off to see the Chachatauk weekend market. Only 35 acres of goods to navigate before we look for one of the famous sky bars to watch the sunset.
Joe : The water of the Chao Praya river was brown and turbulent; tossing our long tail boat up and down against the pier and making it difficult for us to duck beneath its colorful awning and hit the pitching deck below; but soon we were on our way. Only 2 passengers per 40 foot boat and our "gondolier" made steering with his "motor on a stick" look easy as we made our way past the larger tour boats and began our trip through the canal loop. The full size of the river that snakes through the center of Bangkok is flanked by gleaming skyscraper hotels and office buildings but they fade away as you make the turn into the canal that loops through the mix of houses and small temples that line it's banks. People go about their lives cooking, cleaning, and socializing with their friends and families and only occasionally acknowledge the endless procession of longtails passing within yards of them. Children often smiled and waved to us and if an adult happened to look up as we passed, they greeted us as well. There were so many temples scattered amongst the houses that we didn't at first realize what they were but soon the characteristic swoop of the roofline and the well maintained facades made them recognizable as church after church after church