The Highlights of Bangkok
Trip Start Aug 19, 1992
73Trip End Aug 19, 2010
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At 11.00h, we met our driver. We went first to the ATM, then drove along the freeway to central Bangkok. Lots of traffic, but we were assured this is better than usual, since it is a Saturday. First, we went to see the Golden Buddha, which is by itself in a small temple. It is hard to imagine that it is solid gold … and was lost for centuries.
Had lunch at a small noodle shop – very tasty
Next, we went to the Royal Palace, which is extremely elaborate and impressive. Colored glass covers all exterior surfaces (at least, where it’s not gilded). My favourite part, however, was an extensive mural that covered the walls of the out building that surrounds the temple area. It was very elaborate, clearly telling the story of the Ramayana, with wars, white monkeys, and other mythic elements. Beautiful.
We also saw the Emerald Buddha, whose cloths of gold change with the seasons (he was wearing his winter shawl). In the museum, the unrestored pieces of the temple were on display. Comparing these to what are currently on the temple is a great argument for thorough restoration work (especially if done under scientific scrutiny). The appreciation for the palace complex is far greater in its original glory than it would be in a more ruined state.
From the Royal Palace, we next went to see the Reclining Buddha. Scaffolding surrounded the entire thing (which is about 30 metres long), so it was difficult to see it clearly. But it was interesting watching the restoration work. The soles of the sandals were mother of pearl inlay. On the grounds, there were temples within temples, usually with colorful ceramic interiors. We had a little time to wander, but not enough. I’d like to return.
Next stop, a river boat trip – a motorized version of a traditional boat – in a boat we had to ourselves. We spent about 45 minutes riding through the canals, staring and trying not to stare into people’s homes (yet wanting to look)
After our river tour trip, the tour went downhill, unfortunately. First, we were dragged to the official gem shop. Watched the video, observed the cutting, polishing and setting, then were shadowed around the showroom. The sales woman asked where we were from. "The United States," I said. “Oh,” she replied. “Big money.” Do people still believe that? From gem to market area where we found a photo shop to get photos for upcoming visas. Final stop was restaurant for a Thai meal and show. While we ate, we were entertained with a film about the Lady-Boys of Bangkok – the long tradition of female impersonators … odd choice. Food was mediocre at best and the show was low budget (except, possibly, for the costumes … but it was hard to tell at a distance.) Home and bed!