Photo of the week
Our whole trip to Thailand was started quite incidentally January of this year when we stumbled across a great deal on business class airfare. We had no idea what we wanted to see or do, and the only thing we knew was that we were flying into Bangkok, below are some images of Bangkok.
Katie and I arrived into Bangkok quite refreshed despite our 10 hour flight, mostly because we were pampered during our first business class experience. It’s true once you fly business or first class, economy is very unappealing. As we were exiting the airport we were greeted by a wonderfully modern terminal, which was head and shoulders better than anything in Australia.
Leaving the airport we had a great experience catching a metered taxi into the city and making our first use of the Thai phrase book that we had brought. For us speaking Thai was not easy, but we did eventually learn a few words. For example:
Sawatdee krap = Hello (for male speaker) Sawatdee ka = Hello (for female speaker)
similarly Korp kun krap = Thank you (male speaker) Korp kun ka = Thank you (female speaker)
Thai is interesting in that the sex of the speaker determines the ending rather than the person being spoken to. The thing that made learning Thai difficult were the five tones which could potentially have very drastic changes in meaning, and could lead to some awkward situations.
The other thing that we quickly discovered is to say no to all the people, mostly tuk-tuk drivers, that hassled us constantly in Bangkok. After a few days though we must have picked up a certain look or mannerism, because we did not get hassled anywhere near as much as initially. Our second day we were on our way to Wat Phra Kaew or The Jade Buddha Temple which is in the same walled compound as the Grand Palace. On the way there we had a walk of roughly a kilometre from our hotel, along the way we were stopped no less than three times by what seemed like random pedestrians. They all claimed to work somewhere nearby and told us that the temple was closed until later that afternoon, and that we should go see another temple several kilometres away. The catch of course, and there was always a catch, was that it was too far and we should take a tuk-tuk there, and of course lo and behold there is a tuk-tuk right here to take you. An interesting trick, especially considering that all the people had the same story and details including the alleged closing times. Of course it turned out to be lies but we learned our lesson without actually being taken in.
Wat Phra Kaew and the Grand Palace were magnificent! The photograph below was taken at the Wat which had a Chedi made of gold that was spectacular and very bright.
The central ubosoth is where the famous Emerald Buddha is located, but visitors cannot approach it let alone touch it. Apparently only the king himself is allowed to touch it. It is fairly easy to miss the Emerald Buddha as it is only 66 centimetres tall and on top of a large shrine. The entire building is very spectacular and well worth a look, and the best part is that it is a shrine that the locals visit to offer their prayers.
The Grand Palace was another magnificent building meant to instill a sense of awe and wealth on the visitor. The day we visited the armory was open and we had a chance to look through several displays of armor, swords, rifles and cannons.
During the evenings we took enjoyed the slightly cooler temperatures to take advantage of the vibrant night markets, shopping and delicious street food including especially Cha Yen which is iced Thai tea which I truly enjoyed. It was also a good time to see tourists and locals alike zipping along the streets in tuk-tuks like the one below which I photographed passing the Democracy Monument.
To me the above photo captures the essence of the tuk-tuk moving busily through the street, belching smoke with all the colourful lights and the driver relaxed at the scooter like controls.
The night markets were interesting for not only their abundance and late hours, but also for some of the interesting things that can be purchased. One stall was selling squirrels brought in from the mountains. At first we thought they were just stuffed toys, but it turned out that they were quite heavily sedated. We also tried the fish pedicure at one of the shops which consisted of putting our feet in a tank full of what looked like little algae eating fish that devoured the dry skin on our submerged feet and lower legs. It was a very ticklish endeavor but resulted in very smooth skin. Definitely worth a try, but be ready to take photos or even better video.
Finally, I have to say one of the best things we did was to wander the back streets and alleys of Bangkok. I recommend doing that to anyone who wants to see how the locals live and that ones to meet some very friendly people who are willing to engage in conversation regardless of the language barrier, like the lady below who was flattered that I wanted to take her photo.
More of Thailand to come soon.