22 May 2006

Real Thai Life: Bangkok

May 18 - 20 2006
Chaotic town of Bangkok brought us back to reality very quickly after the serene island life!! We spent 2 very busy days trying to absorb as much as Bangkok as possible and we did just that!! We took a superb bike tour that lead us to some unbelievable sights of Thai living. We rode thru tight alleys where locals lived in very unpleasant conditions, saw local markets, passed a kindergarten, took a fairy across the river, rode on elevated concrete paths, tried local Thai snacks, went to a glove factory, went to a temple where they have a dead monk on display in a glass case, visited the local bike shop, and attempted to ride thru the busy streets of Bangkok on a bicycle. I dont recommend biking in the midst of Bangkok trafffic! I can say that I have been there and tried that! This bike ride was absolutely the highlight of my Bangkok trip. It turned out to be a bike ride that wont easily be forgotten, it was a mind-opening experience. I just can not fathom living in such filthy, muddy, grimy conditions. Some of the living quartesrs were not much more than 3 walls of shabby used materials with some sort of creation as a roof and then many people crammed into a tiny area. The bike ride was excellent, that is all I can further state about it. If you are interested in seeing more photos from the ride, the company has placed some up on their website @ www.realasia.net On the lefthand side, find Daily Biking Pictures, then go to May 18 on the calendar, then go to the afternoon ride, scroll down once the pictures appear. You will be able to see a few more photos of the amazing ride!!

Our final day in Bangkok. Our plane leavea at 1AM, so we have the entire day to tour around. I wanted to see a few temples/wats. Something a bit spiritual, touch my soul wont you, as this trip has already been an eye opener. I had 2 items on the agenda and in between was up to Buddha. I wanted to see the Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho and the Emerald Buddha at the Grand Palace in Wat Phra Kaeo. Wat Pho was lively and shambolic, a great complex with arrangements of lavish structures, even a turtle pond! This is the oldest temple in Bangkok founded in the seventeeth century. The Reclining Buddha is a 45 metre-long gilded statur of plaster covered brick which depicts the Buddha entering Nirvana. The chapel is only slightly bigger than the statue, for you cant get far enough away to take in anything but a surreal close -up view of the beaming 5 metre smile! The feet on the statue very impressive, vast black soles are beautiffully inlaid with delicate mother-of-pearl showing 108 lakshanas, auspicious signs, which distinguish the true Buddha. Along one side of the statue are 108 bowls which will bring you good luck and a long life if you put a coin in each. Of course I had to attempt my fate with good luck for I just got married, I need all the LUCK I can get! Grand Palace hangs together in a precarious harmony of strangely beautiful colours and shapes. It is the holiest Buddhist site in the country, housing the most important image, Emerald Buddha. Wat Phra Kaeo was built orginally as a private royal temple and occupies the northeast corner of the huge Grand Palace. Entering the temple is like stepping onto a lavishly detailed stage set, from the immaculate flagstones right up to the gaudy roofs. The whole temple compound is surrounded by arcaded walls, decorated with extraordinary murals of scenes from the Ramayana. Each time you proceed thru gates you are confronted by six-metre tall Yaksha, gaudy demons from the Ramayana who watch over the Emerald Buddha who ward off evil spirits. Each item you come across has some important significant role, so many to tell you about. But the important one the Emerald Buddha: the walls of the bot sparkle and inside a nine-metre high pedestal supports the tiny Buddha of 60 centimetre! The spiritual power of this jadeite image derives from it legendary past. Reputed to have been created in Sri Lanka, it was discovered when lightning cracked open an ancient chedi in Chiang Rai in the early fifteenth century. The image was moved around the north, dispensing miracles wherever it went. Then it was taken to Laos for 200 years. It was believed to bring great fortune to its possessor, so the future King Rama 1 snatched it up , and then installed it at the heart of his new capital as a talisman for king. What a way to get what you want! So much lively history spread around this massive, chaotic town, but there is truly something special about Bangkok. So much history, check it out for yourself!!

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