Bangkok eye (and mouth) candy

December, 2008
We've only been on the official tour for two days and we're still fairly sleep deprived (could've titled this "Sleepless in Bangkok"), but if the past 2 days are any indication, we are on a journey of sensory overload.

Saturday we took a boat ride on the Chao Phraya River (River of Kings) to see Wat Pho ("Wat" means temple--there are over 400 temples in Bangkok alone!) This is a huge complex of buildings. One contains a 150' long gilt-covered reclining Buddha. There are also tons of statues of Chinese and Dutch (you can tell by their wooden shoes) guards, and animals - some real, some mythical. Then we went on to the old (previous) Royal Palace (there are at least 3 in Bangkok). Again a vast collection of buildings and temples (the whole society is built around Buddhism)  -- many buildings covered in colored glass mosaics that magnificently reflect the sunlight. Then back on the boat and a short ride and we docked at a restaurant for lunch. As is often the case when the whole group eats together, we were served family style. First: shrimp and veggies in crispy noodle baskets (kind of like what we made in cooking class!), then curried chicken, then beef and veggies, then prawns with onions and garlic. All served with a generous scoop of sticky rice of course. Then it was back to the hotel. It was free time so we went on the Sky Train (the "EL") to the Jim Thompson  House Museum (no, not our former know...the one who actually finished his term with being under indictment!). At each stop, as the train got closer to our destination, many people wearing red shirts got on board. Vas ist das?  The station we were going to is called "National Stadium Station" because (duh) that's where the National Stadium is. So we figured there was a big soccer game or something. It wasn't until we saw the front page of today's paper that we learned there was a huge political rally there for the recently ousted Prime Minister!!!  (BTW: the train is easy to use and very clean. In each car are TVs that continuosly show ads, but at the bottom it tells you (in Thai and English) what the next stop is. Also, you know where we have signs in ours that say "Please give up your seat to a handicapped person" (or somesuch), here they have signs that say "Please give up your seat for a monk"!!!!!). Anyway...we got off and found our way to the museum. Thompson was a US serviceman in WWII who stayed in Thailand after the war. He reestablished the Thai silk manufacturing industry. He bought 6 houses from various parts of the country and reassembled them into 1 big house in Bangkok and filled it with beautiful antiques. Now it is a museum. Then it was back on the train to the hotel.

Everywhere we go the smell of delicious food is present.  It's amazing! 

So after a short rest, it was time to eat again. We went (on the Sky Train) with 3 other couples to the Blue Elephant restaurant. They have branches all over the world, but not in the US. It is in an old house and each dining room is amazingly decorated. We all ordered so much food that they could barely fit the plates on the table! They started everyone with an amuse-bouche of sweet corn soup, a small piece of chicken and noodles, and a shrimp-veggie salad. Then we shared an appetizer of grilled scallops. Then Wendy had steamed sea bass served in a half-pipe bamboo stalk. Wayne had prawns in a black peppercorn sauce. Yummo! For dessert, Wendy had assorted ice cream scoops; Wayne had a chocolate lava cake (!!! finally...some chocolate!!!) that came with a scoop of mulberry leaf ice cream. To paraphrase Clemenza: "Take the chocolate, leave the ice cream." We were all so stuffed we were afraid we might not have room for breakfast! On the way out, they gave each of the women a stalk of orchids! Yes!!  They are ubiquitous here.

Odds and ends:  This is our 4th Tauck tour, but it is the first time we are NOT the youngest couple!  We must be getting older.....

They have 4 seasons here: hot, hotter, hottest, and rainy. We are now in the hot season, but the newspaper said that some Thais have been seen wearing sweaters and complaining about the cold!!!
OK...back to the tour: Today we had to be at the dock at 8:00 for a trip along some of the canals that branch off the river. People live right on the banks in raised houses (sounds like NOLA), and often go out in little boats to sell things to people on the river. Then we went to the Royal Barge Museum. These are long decorated boats that the kings used to use in river "parades". This was a "must miss" stop. Then up the river to another former "palace" (really the king's home in the cooler suburbs outside the city). It is entirely made of teak, so of course it is the biggest teak house in the world!  It has 80+ rooms and we saw about 30 on the tour. Many antiques (the house was in use from 1901 - 1938), and rugs and lots of photos of the king and family. It was somewhat like going through Versailles, but not nearly as opulent. Still, very impressive. Then back to the hotel for a free afternoon. Tonight we have a group dinner and see an authentic Thai dance ceremony. Sounds like fun.

Tomorrow early we go to the airport and on to Chiang Mai.  We'll be back with more in a few days. Lah gorn na. (bye for now)

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