Bangkok: Trapped in a Hindu Parade

The next day I lounged around Bryan’s lovely Si Lom apartment, then spent the afternoon at HealthLand- Bryan’s local spa.

Bryan had a work engagement that evening and suggested I head over to Asiatique on the free ferry. I rode the Sky Train down to the ferry. I love the Sky Train- its clean, timely and has great air conditioning!

Asiatique is basically a fancy outdoor market with a giant ferry wheel and great food. I had a ham and cheese crepe for dinner ($2) and Japanese Mochi (soft rice paste cookies) filled with ice cream! Chang beer had a golden elephant that was cool.

Since I was on my 2nd week of traveling, I didn’t want to buy souveniers yet so I headed back to Bryan’s. The ride on the BTS costs about $1 each way. When I got off at Bryan’s stop (Chong Nonsi) there was all sorts of commotion! I crossed over the road and saw the street had been closed off for a festival.

It was a parade for the Hindu celebration of Navrati.

There were drag queens leading revelers in song…

…and people were LITERALLY dancing in the stre

The parade started and the Bangkok police closed the train station pedestrian overpass… which was the only way I knew how to get back to Bryan’s apartment. So I decided to enter the fray and see what this party was all about.

The parade had a marching band and floats, like one would expect. I had been trapped on the wrong side of the street for 45 minutes & had decided that my best bet to get home was to cross thru the parade.

I had worked my way right up to the edge of the route and was preparing to dart across road when a guy with a 3 ft bamboo spear in his mouth and a bowl of fire came around the corner.

He was spinning and weaving and seemed to be in a trance. Just when I thought the mystic might burn a spectator, his bowl of fire was traded for a bowl full of red powder that he begain to fling into the crowd.

The woman in front of me threw her arms open and shouted to the guy. He turned and flung a handful of powder right in my face. I blocked most of it with my arm but I still managed to look like I had survived a bike accident.

I made my way across the street and through the crowd of red-powdered revelers to Bryan’s. I didn’t realize I looked so terrifying until the security guard looked shocked to see me walk into the lobby. I had seen that expression once before, that one time at Uni when I face-planted off my bike. My roommate took me to the medical center with an open bag of frozen peas on my face and I left a trail of tiny green orbs in the waiting room. Ahh, memories!

 

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Bangkok: What Pho, Grand Palace & Aytthaya!

Trip Date: 10/4/2014

1- Reclining Buddha @ Wat Pho

We got an early start the next day and visited Wat Pho at 8am! The reclining Buddha is the longest in Thailand @ 150 ft is quite amazing- I liked the swirly, opal inlayed on the bottom of his feet.

Along the back wall there are 50 round, brass bowls lined up. For a small fee, you chose a tin cup full of thai coins and tossed one in each bowl as you walked along. When 5-6 people were doing this at the same time the sound was musical!

2- The Grand Palace!

There were hordes of tourists already gathered when we arrived at the Royal Palace. At the gate, they checked to make sure you were wearing proper garb. If not, you had to rent long skirts.

One of the tourist ‘hordes’… snapping a selfie in his Thailand hat.

I think that is the temple of the Emerald Buddha behind us.

As we waited in line to purchase our tickets ($15 US!) the military marched by.

The palace complex was amazing full of shimmering buildings. Sam told us each golden tile on this pagoda cost $1US. They hammer the gold leaf by hand.

Scary demons raise the roof.

And of course, the Pagodas are gold as well.

The stories painted on the walls of the temple were gold too.

3- One more temple… Wat Arun!

We rode a ferry across the river to the Temple of Dawn. Two giant guard the entrance.

The pagoda is tall and covered with Chinese pottery.

Up we go!

I’m sure there was a lovely view of the river from the top but I can’t seem to find that photo. That’s ok- it was time to have lunch on the river! Check out the size of those prawns! Yes, it was still hot.

Yum, fish!

4- Ayutthaya Ruins

*Note:  We took a private taxi but there is a perfectly fine train that is cheap.  When we arrived at Ayutthaya, across from the regular parking lot, there was a elephant parking lot.

The ruins are lovely! I was mesmerized! (Althought, this is before my visit to Siem Reap.) The three stupas were built in 1448 to house the ashes of the kings of Ayutthaya.

What lovely clouds!

Next, we move on to see the Buddha head encased in the Banyon tree.

There were lots of Buddhas on this site but most of them had their heads removed when the kings would switch religions from Buddhism to Hinduism. This was a theme that would repeat itself throughout my trip.

One Buddha kept his head.

More ruins.

5- Wait, one more temple? Which one is it?

Whoa! Can you believe the size of this sleepy Buddha?

There was another temple to explore. Light an oil lamp and say a prayer.

Buddha, being protected by Naga the snake whose seven heads protect Buddha from the elements.

Behind, there was the temple, ringed by Buddha statues in golden robes.

I loved the view of the Buddhas from the top of the temple.

Lovely Buddha statue.

Enough temples for today- time to head back to Bangkok!  We were tuckered out and Bryan slept in the taxi most of the way back.  Well deserved rest.

 

The first, best thing about Bangkok.

The first, the best thing about Bangkok is my friend Bryan lives there! Everyone should have a friend in Bangkok! (Never mind that he doesn't remember meeting me… At his wedding and hasn't seen me since!). Bryan had just accepted a job with the US Embassy and moved to Bangkok a month before I arrived. How lucky for me! My flight from Tokyo arrived at 11pm and because of his Embassy job, Bryan was able to meet me at my gate as I exited the plane! Do you remember the good ol days when you could be accompanied right up to your gate? What a luxury.

I had a rest day to do laundry and eat street food, then Bryan graciously hired Sam to take me around Bangkok in his taxi. Here's what we did the first day.

1- The train track market.

This was 45 minutes outside of Bangkok. The booths must be pulled in 8 times a day as the train wizzes by. Here is a photo of me, on the tracks.

There were lots of interesting food booths at the market. Many types of seafood.

This machine processes coconut into a flour-like substance.

What you will not see is a photo of the train. It wouldn't arrive for 30-45 minutes and Sam was not interested in waiting that long when there was so much else to see. Ok. Moving on

2- Longboat to the floating market

We hired a longboat for the outrageous sum of $55 US to take us to the 'authentic' floating markets, as opposed to the ones set up for the tourists, closer to Bangkok. The ride throught the channels was fun. The longtails are powered by automobile engines and are very loud.

Behind me you can see the canoes full of goods for the shoppers. It was fun to order mango with sticky rice and have it delivered in a net from the river.
This tiny primate was so cute! He belongs to friends of Sam so I paid 100 Baht to have my photo taken with him. They said he is very spoiled at home and so he is naughty and likes to bite fingers. This is not my finger in the photo… I did not want a rabies shot.
The monkey thought my necklace looked tasty and he tried to eat it. Naughty monkey.
After the floating markets we took the longboat back to the dock and headed to the resort for lunch. I experienced my first Thai toilet. You flush with the bucket & hope you can pee without getting any on your shoes.
3- Rose Garden Resort.
I had requested Pad Thai for lunch. This was absolutely the tastiest Pad Thai! Later, I learn that Pad Thai is a tourist dish and local people are much more likely to order fish and rice. The riverside restaurant at the Rose Garden Resort was classy but not too expensive.

The resort is famous for their Cultural show- so I (re:Bryan) shelled out 600 Baht ($18 us) for an hour long show of history, dancing, music and mui Thai fighting. It was a very interesting show. Here they show dancing through bamboo poles that are whacked and slid together. (Troy and I did the same with a group of Vietnamese people in Sapa!)

Mui Thai fights are popular entertainment here and I was glad to see one that was just pretend. The fight was so exactly correographed that Sam would tell me to make sure to watch for this next move or the next silly thing the trainer did to rally the 'losing' fighter. Sam saw this show often with his tourists.

The last dance, they ask the audience to join in. Luckily, the dance is easy and mostly involves some hand waving.

There was a 15 minute elephant show after the dance. The elephants showed us how they dragged logs.

4- Giant pagoda

I had been requesting to stop at one of the giant, shiny temples that we were passing along the highway but Sam refused. He would only take me to the BEST temples, the OLDEST temples! Not these showy, new temples that I was seeing. “Is the best OK for you?” he would ask.

Yeah, this was OK. My very first temple! Soon, I drew the attention of the 'Tourist Police' and we had to have our photo taken together.

The temple was the oldest in Bangkok and very interesting. It had many statues of Buddha, in many different positions or 'mudras'. I upset Sam by suggesting that the mudra of Buddha with his hands outstretched and fingers turned down should be called, 'Keyboard Buddha”. (Sorry, no photo- Sam seemed a bit upset by my joke…)

Sam told me that Chinese merchant ships would come into port with these heavy statues as balast.

 

All in all, it was a nice day and I arrived back to Bangkok just before the crush of rush hour traffic. The next day, Bryan and I would both go out to sightsee with Sam!