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Saturday, October 28, 2017

FABULOUS FALL FANTASY: Day 15: What You Should Do in Bangkok

If some of you wondered why I did not indulge in the conventional activities of Bangkok tourists, consider that I've been here more than 25 times and I took this extended trip down South mostly to rest.  I've been to all the great restaurants in Bangkok:  Gaggan (Pellegrino's best Asian restaurant), Nahm (#5), Eat Me (#31), The Dining Room (#39),and #40 L'Atelier (#40).  Actually, I've never been to #15, Suhring.  Maybe next time.  Gaggan is that tall guy.

However, if you've never been here and plan to come, here is a top fifteen of things to consider:
  • Visit the most important shrines and temples:
    • The Grand Palace (above)
      • where the King lives, but he also has 19 other royal palaces and a bunch of other mansions
      • this is the only location in Southeast Asia where I dropped Pearl's Ashes
      • here rests the Emerald Buddha in Wat Phra Kaew (or Kaeo)
        • is not made of emerald, but of jade or jasper
        • also has an origin about 800 years ago, but one story has it going back to 43BC in India
        • visitors are expressly warned not to take a photo of the statue...but you know me:
    • Wat Arun
    • Erawan Shrine (which was bombed two years ago, next to the Hyatt Erawan, where I've occasionally stayed)
    • Wat Traimit (Golden Buddha)
      • made of gold:  body (40%), chin to forehead (80%) hair and topknot (99%)
      • weighs around 5.5 tons and worth around $250 million just for the gold
      • origin could have been 800 years ago, probably in India
      • through most of its life was covered in stucco and only rediscovered in 1955 when it was dropped, revealing the gold
      • housed in new building in 2010
    • Chao Mae Tuptim Shrine (also known as the Phallus Shrine--and I am not showing photos out of respect for the King)
    • Then too, there must be thousands of temples just in Bangkok.  A popular number seems to be 30,000 for the country.  Even Quora has no answer.
    • Chao Phraya (their main river--just don't look at it...but I saw many splashes of large fish in the muddy mess)
  • Chatuchak Weekend Market (only on Saturdays and Sundays--be prepared for heat stroke and the same old stuff throughout the shopping area)
  • Walk through Khao San Road for street food and cheap shopping
  • Visit the Bangkok National Museum
  • Try Sea Life Bangkok, an aquarium, and Dusit Zoo
  • Have a massage
  • Experience the nightlife at Patpong, Nana Plaza, etc.
  • Stroll Lumpini Park
  • Consider a motorcycle taxi or tuk-tuk, but reach an understanding on cost before you depart (read this to gauge how much to pay)--and, by the way, taxis all have meters, but you need to negotiate double or triple the fee in special situations such as coming back from a Royal Cremation ceremony
  • Watch Muay Thai (kickboxing--I went once and left because a large cockroach kept circling my seat)
  • Come during Songkran (April 13-16, 2018)
  • Try not to come during the monsoon period, but this lasts from late June until October, so wish on luck; plus, here are eleven things to do if it rains (which you can also do at home)
  • Visit Jim Thompson House for the history, but don't buy anything--I bought a $150 Thai Silk tie, and stained it the first time I wore it
  • For once in your life, taste durian

Come to think of it, kind looks like and has the texture of jack fruit...except for the horrible smell.  A few otherwise normal people I know, very few, actually crave this noxious putrescence.

There is a variety of options close to Bangkok.  Perhaps the most cultural is Ayutthaya Historical Park, a city founded in 1351.

You've heard of Murder on the Orient Express, that classic book by Agatha Christie and movie.  A new version starring Kenneth Branagh, Penelope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench and Johnny Depp will soon come.  Rotten Tomatoes has given it a 99% "want to see it" rating.  Well, there is another one,  train, that is, the Eastern and Orient Express, from Bangkok to Singapore.  I made this journey.  What an experience.

In Thailand, aliens will be referred to as farang, which is sort of like haole in Hawaii for Caucasians.  This can be an insult or not depending on the circumstances, and is mostly applied to Europeans/Caucasians. There is also farang dam for blacks.  Farang is innocently, Thai for guava, while potatoes are called man farang.

My final meal in Bangkok was mostly free at the The Sala, the colorful square below my room:

Satay, prime rib sandwich, Singha Beer and a martini.  I just couldn't refuse a Johnny Walker Gold label on rocks at the end.

I sat there just in total contentment about my Bangkok stay.  Earlier in the day, taxis were difficult to get, so the bellman negotiated a high, but reasonable, price from the Plaza Athenee' to the Sheraton Grand Sukhumvit.  The going was so slow that I finally gave the driver 20 baht (65 cents) more than that amount, about a ten minute walk to my hotel  As I was picking up my bag, he bowed to me with his hands together in prayer and wished me a pleasant trip to Heaven.  My first reaction was that I was not ready for that royal ascendence, if there is one, but I think he meant well. Secondly, you don't need to give a tip in Thailand.  However, my Sala server was so efficient and friendly that I left a 100 baht tip (about $3).  As I was leaving, she bowed the same way with her hands together and said I had a good heart.  The people of Thailand make a crucial difference!

Typhoon Saola will pretty much roll over Narita Airport late Sunday night:

I am scheduled to arrive around noon on Monday.  Still looks okay at this point.


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