Woke up at 7:30AM. Slept pretty well, I think. I know I woke up a lot thoughout the night, but I don’t feel tired so I must have at least gotten enough rest for now.
My initial impression from the VERY limited amount of scenery I’ve seen so far and the little bit of TV I’ve watched, Thailand reminds me of Japan. The roads, buildings, number of 7-11’s, and even the commercials could easily be in Japan if I didn’t know any better.
After breakfast we took the SkyTrain to get to the river, and then a boat to the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaeo. Along the way I was struck by the extremely close proximity of the rich and poor classes. In America there is at least some division of class, usually by distance. Here in Bangkok, however, at least in this area, the haves and the have-nots, are often next-door neighbors. Dr. Humphrey’s stories came to me vividly as the boat sailed past the tin-roofed shacks; I have no doubt that despite where they live and how much money they make, they want happiness and to provide for their families just as much as we do, and so to look at them as anything less than equals would be a gross abust of our ethical values.
Once off the boat we made our way through a small goods market on the way to the Grand Palace. Everything from sunglasses to sarongs can be purchased here, and bartering is the de facto way. I still have trouble with this concept as I always feel as if I’m taking advantage of the seller. I mean, if you’re already buying a fan for the equivalent of $1.00 USD do you really need to try and talk the seller down to fifty cents? I’m not sure which side of the Ugly American coin this falls on – my arrogance for thinking that I’m well off enough that I can just throw my money around (it’s only one dollar, after all), or my arrogance for trying to cheat the seller our of their income (it’s only fifty cents, after all). Perhaps someday I will have a better understanding of this. For now I guess I will have to make sure to be honest and fair, and pay an amount that I will be able to be honest with.
When we got to the temple I had to rent a pair of long pants. In this temple only, apparently, visitors are required to be adequately covered as a sign of respect. This basically means no shorts and/or sleeveless shirts or dresses. I was a little nervous about getting too overheated but frequent rests, lots of water, and the blessing of a nice breeze kept my comfort level manageable. Don’t get me wrong, I was sweating like crazy, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as I had thought.
There are not enough words and I am not nearly gifted enough as a writer to describe the temple’s beauty. I don’t even think the large number of pictures we took can do enough. This is something that needs to be seen first-hand, in person. You can only appreciate its beauty at your own pace with your own individual sense of awe and wonder. The colors, the architecture, the layout, and the artistry are all breathtaking in their own rights. Put them together and you have a life-changing place.
Mom was getting overheated, so several breaks were needed. I can say that I am glad for the rest, as I probably would have pushed myself too hard and gotten heat exhaustion or worse. Water didn’t seem to help much, so it was a very good thing that Mom thought of Gatorade; it was exactly what we needed to freshen us up and keep us healthy and out of trouble. All in all it was a wonderful trip I won’t soon forget.
After leaving the temple we had to go to a wedding dress shop to pick up my traditional Thai wedding suit. For some reason we couldn’t get a taxi quickly so we opted for a tuk-tuk. The ride did not take long and Mom seemed to enjoy it. I prefer the air-conditioned taxis myself, but when in Rome…
We enjoyed the joke that so far we have used a plane, train, boat, taxi, tuk-tuk, and walking as our transportation methods.
The wedding suit fitting went very well, and afterwards we went to a bookstore (I’m looking for the Harry Potter books in Thai). No such luck, so it was back to the boat for the return trip to the hotel. We only lasted two ports, however, as the boat was completely packed; think Japanese train car during rush hour. It was a bit too much for us, so we found another taxi and made our way back to the hotel. We had a few hours to kill until dinner, so we all took a much-needed nap.
We went to dinner at a wonderful Thai restaurant. We were supposed to meet some friends but they didn’t make it, so Mom, Yim, and I enjoyed the meal as a trio. The food was excellent, the restaurant was beautiful, and the bill was amazingly cheap. A great end to a great day!