Sunday, July 03, 2005


Palace, Klongs and Chatuchak

So far, Bangkok has not been nearly as bad as the image I had built up of it in the many years since I was last here (which was 30 years ago on a soils geography field trip through the geography department at the University of Hong Kong!) It certainly is hot here – noticeably more so than Singapore was. But the traffic has not been so bad – probably because our first full day was a Sunday.

Even the weekend Chatuchak Market was easy to get to by subway and was not as crowded nor as threatening (pickpockets) as our friends in Singapore had made it out to be. The market, which is billed as having everything!, was interesting, but lacked any electronics-type products (which my son and I were seeking out). It was mostly clothes and home products, and had a very large tropical fish section. Pet squirrels of some kind also seemed popular in the pet section, though the squirrels themselves looked terrified and depressed.

Earlier today, the five of us (a colleague from Flagstaff also arrived in BKK yesterday) went to the Imperial Palace, a boat ride through the klongs (canals), a stop at the Temple of Dawn, and an unanticipated stop at a ‘lapidary’ factory (with jewelry shop and Thai clothing and gift shop). They were all very high-end (unlike us) and we walked through with our personal ‘handler’ in fairly short order. The temple portion of the Imperial Palace compound, where hordes of tour groups congregate, was quite spectacular, and the Emerald (jade) Buddha statue, though only maybe 1.5 feet tall, was spectacular at its gilded thrown in the center of the royal temple.

The klong ride gave a great peak into the variety of homes that make up the city of Bangkok (from the poorest to some very wealthy). And despite the many other klong tourists who we saw along the way (from large groups to individual riders – some of whom were Thais on a Sunday outing), many of the people whose houses we past were happy to wave hello to us. That is a bit of the Thai personality that I experienced 30 years ago in southern Thailand (Phuket area), which I did not see so much at that visit in Bangkok and Chaing Mai.

I this photo our tour guide shows a pictures of the Emerald Buddha dressed in its hot season, rainy season, and cold season regalia. On the King and Crown Prince of Thailand are permitted to change these clothes. (Photos are not allowed inside the royal temple.)

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