Monday, June 23, 2014

Bangkok, Thailand. June 9 to 10, 2014

We had dinner last night in the Vertigo restaurant, on the roof top of our hotel, the Banyon Tree Hotel.  First, a few words about this Hotel.  Wow!  It is very luxurious by our standards.  To think that we went from a cabin  in the scrub of Australia, cooking our own breakfast, to a high rise hotel where someone opens doors for us, carries our luggage, serves us a fruit drink while we check in, and turns down our bed! 

The restaurant is on the 61st floor of the hotel, with fantastic views of the city.  The city seems to go on forever; watching the lights of the city twinkling under the night sky created a very romantic setting.  Vince and I dined in style, even trying some different types of Thai appetizers before our meal.  They were not exactly to our liking, but we can say that we tried something new!  We chatted with a very nice couple from England, who were also on holiday.  

After our dinner, we went back to our room and slept the sleep of exhausted travelers!  

Morning came too soon, but we had a tour scheduled, so up we were at 7:00AM.   I must say that the breakfast buffet was worth getting up for.  We had our choice of a variety of egg preparations, meats, fruits, cereals, pastries, breads, along with rice and noodle dishes.  YUM was the word for that morning fare.  

Then we were off to meet our tour guide.  We scheduled a tour of the Grand Palace and the Emerald Buddha for this morning.  The entire tour, which included our English speaking guide, Lek, and a driver with an air conditioned car, cost us $22 American.  I will say that it was worth the price!
Lek told us about Thailand's current king, Rama IX.  About how he educated the country's farmers so that they could produce more crops annually.  Lek told us that 60% of Thailand's people are farmers and they are self sufficient.  The people may not have a lot of material goods, or money, but they have all their needs taken care of and they are supporting themselves.
The Grand Palace once housed the king, but now he resides at another location.  The Palace grounds contain buildings which are very beautiful.  Some are covered with Chinese porcelain which is over 100 years old.  The buildings were originally made of teakwood, but about 100 years ago, the king changed the buildings to concrete.  They are all  beautifully  decorated with mosaics created out of colors that represent the gems Thailand is known for.   One building has a mural that depicts the Ramayana, which is the story of Rama's life.  Rama is considered an example for all Indians to follow.  One aspect of the epic poem tells how the evil Ravana (King of Sri Lanka) kidnapped Rama's wife Sita.  Rama fought for her return and succeeded.  Although this mural depicts the Ramayana, which is an Indian epic, the Thai people honor Rama and each king takes the name of Rama.  The current king is Rama IX.

Changing of the Guard

Outside view of the Grand Palace

Tamarind Tree-these are shaped to look like these cones.

Additional photos of buildings inside the Grand Palace Compound


These are the monuments that contain the cremated remains of all of the kings

people who are praying to Buddha

Outside of temple housing the Emerald Buddha

Vince and his new friend

One of the only places we saw armed guards

We also visited the Emerald Buddha.  No pictures were allowed in that temple, but suffice it to say that the interior of the temple was beautiful and quite peaceful.  I could near nothing from outside and all of the people inside were quietly praying.
Typical of tours, our guide brought us to a gem shop, which had many beautiful pieces of jewelry, and we were given a wonderfully refreshing and much needed glass of water, but no purchases were made.
Our next stop was a tailor.  That is where I purchased a few half meters of cotton fabric for my quilt.  Three were elephants, others were contrasting blenders.

Then I looked at the silks!  Glorious!   The tailor wanted to make me a jacket but his ideas and mine were miles apart.  I kept telling him I wanted a loose, flowing jacket, not fitted, long and NO shoulder pads!  Finally, he seemed to understand and started bringing out pictures of jackets that were more to my liking.  I chose a beautiful green silk for the jacket, with flowers and dragons on it. 

I was a bit apprehensive, though, and when the measurements began, I continued to describe what I wanted. We were to return the following day for a fitting.  

Upon our return to the hotel, we rested briefly and then ventured out to the local markets.  It was wonderful to walk along the streets, looking at all the goods vendors had for sale: clothing in "name brands", sunglasses, t-shirts, purses, luggage and hats.  There were also stalls selling silk scarves and cotton batik clothing.  We spent some time admiring soap carvings that looked like flowers, right down to the colors!  They were beautiful!  Along with the goods, there were vendors cooking and selling food on the streets, we stayed away from all those hazards to our systems!  Our walk was a curious mix of smells and sights!  

For dinner, we ate at the Saffron restaurant in the hotel, the prices were much more reasonable than the Vertigo, and the food was somewhat more to our liking.  

This ends our first full day in Bangkok!  

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