Well, the cast is off and I finally have something resembling full mobility in my right hand, so, as promised, I’m ready to talk some Thailand. A quick update on events since my last blog update: nothing much. The weather is starting to transition into Fall, which always makes me a much happier person, and the routine of school has long since kicked into gear. I’m already looking forward to Christmas and paying a visit back home, but I’ll make sure to take full advantage of as much fall weather as we get this year in the meantime.
So, on to Thailand. I’m going to write a series of five posts to cover it over the course of the next five weeks. The logical place to start is the girlfriend and I’s first destination- Bangkok. The grit and chaos of the capital of Thailand is notorious, so I was pleasantly surprised to see how easy it was to navigate the city. The elevated train from the airport connects up with a clean, efficient MRT system that takes you just about everywhere, and where it doesn’t the many brightly-colored cabs are happy to oblige. Good luck getting them to turn on the meter, though, so you’d better brush up on your bargaining skills.
We only had a day to spend in Bangkok, so we headed straight for the Grand Palace- the one destination most sources agreed was a must-see. To get there, we took a ferry up the Chao Phraya river, which was plenty interesting on its own. Plenty of cities self-affix the title of “Venice of Asia” (including my adoptive town- Tongyeong) and all fall I’ve seen so far fall short, but this stretch of river, with everything from restaurants to embassies furnished with their own docks, might come closest. This ride’s also a good option if you’re a bit limited on time as we were, as it gives you a good look at a few temples that you otherwise might miss.
When we get to the Grand Palace, we found out there was a strict no bare legs policy that clashed just a bit with the shorts we were wearing to beat the heat. Never fear, it’s Thailand, so some enterprising soul has you covered. Sure enough, across from the entrance were several stores renting out pants and skirts.
Choice was limited
The Grand Palace itself is well worth the (slightly high) price of admission. It’s a massive complex comprised of not just the palace but several temples and a shrine housing an emerald Buddha that was unfortunately closed for renovation, limiting us to a distance glimpse of the surprisingly small figure.
I absolutely loved the architecture, all inventive peaks and ostentatious flourishes with liberal dashes of bright colors and gold splashed around everywhere. A much more talented photographer than I would have a field day with the place, but hopefully these pictures give you an idea:
The palace itself you only really get to check out from the outside, but had a special bonus that the twelve year old inside me especially appreciated- two armory rooms full of centuries worth of edged weapons and firearms that had been purchased by or given to Thai royalty. Everything from masterfully made Japanese kitanas to Civil War-era Sharps rifles were on display, and the only thing that kept me from spending hours there was the likelihood that Jeong Hie would slip the nearest knife between my ribs after Hour Two.
After the Palace, we had a few hours to kill until we had to catch our next flight, so we headed over to Khao San Road, famous for it’s cheap, tourist-friendly shopping. I nabbed some knockoff soccer jerseys, which I can never resist, and Jeong Hie got some bags that were absolutely beautiful… and that we later learned stain your clothes if you get caught with them in the rain. Such are the perils of third world bargain shopping. After nice dinner and a few Thai beers, it was off to Phuket, and the next stage of our trip.