Monday, March 16, 2015

Last day and a half in Bangkok

We reluctantly said goodbye to Chiang Mai and flew back to Bangkok, with about a day and a half before our flight back to the States.  Jeremy once again had found a wonderful hotel near the river, but in a different part of the city from the place where we stayed when we first arrived.  It was more of a modern, western-style hotel, a large high rise building, right adjacent to a big shopping mall.  And the room we had was really like an apartment--it had a huge bedroom/living room with a king sized bed, sofa, chairs and a table.  It also had a small, but fully equipped kitchen and a washer/dryer in it--all for about $90!  Just amazing.  Anyway, that evening, Jeremy and Nok took us to a restaurant in a shopping mall next to our hotel called Hot Pot--sort of a Thai twist on the fondue idea.  Each table had an electric pot in the center with boiling water.  You then ordered all of the things you wanted to go into it, veggies, meat, seafood, basically anything you could think of, and when it was done you just pulled out what you wanted onto your individual plate.  Of course, Nok and Jeremy wanted all the meat things, and Nok likes super spicy foods, so she had some sauce that was way beyond our taste buds' too-hot-alarm!  But it was really good and an interesting idea.

Nok had to work the next day, so Jeremy, Trisha and I went back to Wat Pha Keaw since we didn't have as much time the first day we were in Bangkok.  I may have mentioned in my earlier post that this used to the be the royal palace, and, while it is still used for some ceremonial functions, the King no longer lives there.  There are several different temple buildings on the grounds, one of which holds the famous Emerald Buddha.  I had heard about this statue, and, frankly, was expecting it to be a bit bigger, but I suppose, on reflection, that it makes sense that it was a bit smaller, given it's made of emeralds.  Anyway, it was quite stunning.  We also got to see some of the ceremonial guards at their posts in front of the main palace building.

(CORRECTION:  Though I originally said here that we visited Wat Pho, and climbed the steep staircase here, Jeremy has demonstrated once again the difference in the memories of a 68 year old and a 31 year old!  As he points out in his comment, we did indeed visit Wat Pho, with the largest reclining Buddha, but it was on our first days in Bangkok.  The temple with the steep steps is Wat Arun.  Thank you, Jeremy!!) We also visited Wat Pho, another of the well known temples in Bangkok, and the home of the world's largest reclining Buddha statue.  So the other temple is Wat Arun; there is much restoration work going on here, with lots of workers up on scaffolding, doing such intricate detail work of cleaning and resetting little pieces of pottery along some of the walls.  There is a huge, very steep stone staircase up to the top of one of the towers.  Jeremy and I climbed this, but I must admit I really had to go slowly and carefully--the steps are not all even and many of them are quite steep from step to step, and some of the step treads are very narrow.  But, I made it!  Even though the day was overcast and we had intermittent rain, it was still quite a view from the top of this tower.

Since our flight out of Bangkok was very early the next morning, we decided to spend the night at an airport hotel.  So Jeremy and Nok rode with us on the first subway leg of the trip to the airport, since we had to change trains at one station, and they helped make sure we got on the right train!  So we made it to the airport and then on to our hotel.  After only a few hours of sleep, we were up around 4:00 AM to make sure we got to the airport in time to make it on the flight.  It was a heck of a long trip home, first to Tokyo, then to Detroit, then to Atlanta, but we made it.

Sorry to all the loyal readers of this blog that it's taken so long to get this posted, and I'm sure I've forgotten some of the details.  That said, it was an incredible trip, and one that we will never forget.  Jeremy did such an incredible job planning a wonderful trip through this spectacular country.

The first series of pictures below were taken as we were on the river taxi.  The first one was a traditionally-styled boat, which turned out to be a sort of hotel limousine for one of the fancy hotels

 Some of these pictures show the large, modern hotels and office buildings along the river in this part of Bangkok--lots of western money invested here

 Then, right next to one of these modern skyscrapers, you come upon more traditional older structures, like below

 One of the nicer docks for the river taxi, in front of one of the big hotels

 Some long tail boats

 These huge portraits of the King and Queen can be seen all over Bangkok

 And some buildings in not so nice state of repair along the river

 Got a kick out of seeing this boat up alongside what appeared to be houses or apartments
 Not sure what this was, but it was quite pretty, in all its bright colors
 Wat Arun

 As we got off the taxi at Wat Arun, here we see a couple of monks heading to the temple

 Trisha, striking one of the favorite poses of Thai people!
 Inside one of the temple buildings at Wat Arun

 Monk giving a blessing to this woman, who is making an offering of wine

 This temple cat looks like he owns the place, huh?

 This is the tower Jeremy and I eventually climbed

 Workers doing the restoration

 This first stairway was not so steep, leading to the base to the steeper one
 Hopefully these next couple of pics will give a little perspective on how steep it was

 Views from the top
 Looking down on the hectic boat traffic on the river

 Another area of the temple grounds, with some sculpted gardens

On the grounds of Wat Arun
Some of the inlaid pottery decorations on the walls of some of the buildings that were being restored

The grounds, gardens and flowers are really beautiful

Of course, it's right on the banks of the river
Here is the staircase we later climbed; here a couple of monks on their way up

The following pictures are from Wat Phra Kaew, the palace temple

The emerald Buddha--this was taken from outside the temple building itself, with as much telephoto as I could get on the camera, as no pictures were allowed to be taken inside the temple building

the detailed designs and decorative painting on all these columns is really stunning!

One of the royal guards

The Royal Palace

The King
Beautifully manicured trees