ARAGORN ... Not all those who wander are lost (JRR Tolkien)

Thailand - Touring

Our Thailand cruise is divided into three web pages. The largest is the page devoted to the Tsunami. The other two are this one, devoted to our side trip to Bangkok, and a third about cruising in Thailand.

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From the 17th of December through the 23rd, we were in Bangkok and environs. Our children, Sloane, Thomas and Catherine flew in for a Thai Christmas, so we spent time in Bangkok before returning with them to the boat. Bangkok is a great city; almost 20 million people, different markets all over, and housing incredible temples and palaces, beautiful parks and government buildings. The best, of course, are the wonderful Thai people.

Yes folks, this is the Golden Buddha, all 13 feet tall and made of solid gold. It was lost for hundreds of years as it had been covered with plaster to make enemies think it was simple a cheap statue, but the Thais forgot there was gold underneath. Lucky was the priest who noticed the shiny metal showing through on the nose after a piece of the plaster fell away!

We had a lot of fun touring around Bangkok, looking at the temples and palaces, and, most of all, the people.

Okay, the Reclining Buddha is so large I had to take two photos to get it all in. Some 150 feet long, it is merely gold covered, not solid gold.

On the grounds of Wat Pho, the temple housing the Reclining Buddha, is the School of Traditional Medicine, which is the premier place to learn Thai Massage. Just outside the school you can get wonderful massages from the students, or see these statues depicting the techniques. The pain in the (stone) patient's face indicates the "intensity" you get in a Thai massage. I took a pass.

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There are many other services within the grounds of the temples. Catherine got her fortune told by astrology and palm lines by an old fortune-teller. Mr Bang, our temple guide translated; Dick merely took notes.



In keeping with our policy of eating our way through SouthEast Asia, you see Leslie and Catherine buying street food for lunch the day we visited Wat Pho

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Bangkok surrounds the Chao Phraya River, and the river has been used since the site was first settled for transportation. This typical scene show some of the buildings facing the water, along with (from left to right) two ferries, a rice barge (tourist), a workboat, another tourist boat, another work boat and two longtails (doing duty as river taxis). Scenes this crowded are not uncommon. We had fun using the river to move around. It was a lot less frustrating than the Bangkok street traffic.

Along the river was the Royal Palace, with many towers and wats on the grounds. This tower is covered in gold too! Where did they get it all? For scale, the monkeys at the bottom are at least four feet tall.

Just across the river was one of my favorite temples, the Wat of the Dawn (Wat Arun), done more in the Khmer tradition of Wats. Note the school children. Everywhere we went we saw kids on school outings learning about their history. This group was especially young, but they were starting to see their culture.

Here we are, up the steps and on the balcony of the temple.

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Back to food again!!

One of the best places we found for street food was the stalls at the ferry terminal near the Royal Palace. This woman and her helper (see below) helped us select some great Thai food, after we turned down the spiciest selections.

The ambiance of the food stall was not up to the taste, but the food was good and did not cause bad health.

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A few days later, we took a tour up to the ancient capital city of Ayutthaya, followed by a leisurely trip down river on a "converted" rice barge ... with staterooms and all.

The city had to be abandoned when the invaders from the north (Burmese) threatened to overrun the city. After the flight, the Thais build their new capital near Bangkok, and moved it there shortly afterward. Again, schoolchildren were all around, learning the Thai history.

We took the obligatory elephant ride.

The rice barge touring boat gave us a slow-paced trip seeing all the sights downriver until we reached Bangkok the next morning.

Such as this Large Buddha

Some of the tugs on the Chao Phraya towed triple loads of barges - a lot for the small vessels.

Their loads made the little tugs squat in the water with the effort they had to put out. And dig the cup hook they (all) use to attach their tow rope to the barge!

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We got to bring baskets of food to the Buddhist monks who ran an orphanage/school. After "wei-ing" (bowing with hands in prayer position), I was allowed to hand the gift to the monk, however the women in our group were not. They had to put the offering on a mat and after they removed their hands from the bucket, the monk could then touch it. It was an interesting ceremony in Buddhist traditions.


Here is where our touring story ends. See the other two Thailand Photo Gallery pages for more Thai stories.

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