Farewell Bangkok

Trip Start May 28, 2008
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Trip End Aug 26, 2008


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Monday, June 23, 2008

Back in Thailand again, we took the night train from Nong Khai back to Bangkok. The A/C failed in our car before it left the station, so I had time to buy a couple 1st class compartments in another car to make the ride back to Bangkok easier. Our plan to simplify overland routes by using Bangkok as a rail transit hub has worked out very well. We just go to sleep in Bangkok and wake up in our new city, or vice versa.

Children, or at least our children, do seem to find the idea of 6:00 AM arrivals a somewhat less than spectacular idea. This is our 5th time through the main Bangkok station, and by now we are pros. Chase two sleepy kids off the train, check the bags for the day with the left luggage desk, fuel the munchkins with yogurt and pastries, take our anti-malaria pills, withdraw some Baht for the day, and hit the streets of Bangkok on an early Sunday morning without missing a beat.

The only major local Buddha we had yet to find was the Golden Buddha - made of 5 tons of real gold. Do the math. It is quite possibly the most valuable single object we will ever see, even without considering the religious significance.

The Golden Buddha is located in Wat Traimit near the main station, so we left this one for our last stop in Bangkok. It was easy enough to find after wandering three blocks west, but we almost fell for the bronze and gold-painted Buddha inside the temple - the Golden Buddha is actually across the alleyway in a modest room on display for visitors.

This Buddha is about 700 years old, and was covered in plaster to conceal it sometime long ago. The plaster cracked and the golden statue was revealed again in 1950's. Very impressive indeed.

We were really fortunate today, as we were able to witness the Buddhist ceremony for ordination of a new monk. A young Thai boy was becoming a monk, which is traditional for Thai men at some point in their lives, and we were able to sit in with his friends and family for part of the ceremony and celebration. We are told that he will stay at least 3 months, although some do chose to live as a monk for many years longer. I overhead it said in discussion that he will have to live by 227 rules, while the layman only has to follow 10. His robe was white, and his family brought many offerings for the monks assembled to receive him. After he joined the monks, they dressed him outside the temple in his orange robe and later he was received again in the temple wearing his traditional robe.

The ceremony was very lengthy and solemn for the monks, and very festive for the family (flash bulbs in temple, throwing money from the temple to the guests, and more). Laura and I were especially glad to observe this event firsthand.

On a completely different front, discussions about our last day in Bangkok have centered around trying to get the kids to a local IMAX theatre to see Kung Fu Panda. We've all been laughing at the previews for months, the kids have been inundated here with the Asian marketing blitz, and Dad prefers movies big and loud in IMAX. We didn't think there was a showtime we could make without missing our afternoon train to the Thai border town of Aranyapathet en route to Cambodia, but we're practically Bangkok expats now so it was easy to hop the metro and skytrain downtown for a quick look.

In the end we decided to skip our planned train and chase down a Thai bus to the border later so we could stay a bit longer in Bangkok and treat the kids to IMAX Panda. Everyone is glad we did... eight thumbs up from this family for a very creative and funny
movie.

Had our second Thai etiquette faux pax (that we know of - there are undoubtedly many more) when we failed to notice the audience behind us standing during a tribute to the King of Thailand that ran before the movie. Made the a similar mistake at the Chiang Mai train station as we realized rather late that we were the only people moving and that everyone else was frozen in place for an anthem we hadn't noticed playing over the station sound system. Look at the white falongs strolling through the station! Ooops.

The king is revered here, and is regarded as the heart and soul Thai people. His picture adorns every public space, most homes we observed, and even a dozen floors on the side of a major office building. We knew this beforehand but lacked guidance on how the relationship between King and people is observed in public, so we always seemed to figure it out a minute too late.

A couple more subway and skytrain rides, and we find ourselves on a bus to somewhere east, headed to a town about an hour short of our destination for the night at Aranyapathet, Thailand. The kids are asleep for now, and we'll have a go at making a connection to the border town later tonight.

So pleased to be alive and out here in the real world instead of in a cubicle today, watching the sun set over the Thai countryside.
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Comments

aza
aza on

superb
How awesome! you totally transported me back to the Bangkok railway station - i remember everyone freezing in place as that anthem played ! They do love their Royals there :) I am so glad that you are all having such a brilliant time!
Where are you off to in Cambodia?
I can advise one thing - i wouldn't be in a huge rush to go to Phnom Penn... if you do, be careful there at night. Siem Reap is a far better place to see and it is close to all of the Angkor complexes
Also, be VERY careful with the water - even bottled water. make sure it is properly sealed , UV treated AND ozone filtered - look on the bottle for these assurances. I am not kidding about this either !
cannot wait to read your next blog :)

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