Sunday, December 26, 2010

Bangkok.. the conclusion

Another picture heavy post... I hope you are enjoying this mini-travelogue as much as I am enjoying putting it together. It helps me relive the vacation and reflect on what I saw and learned.

Bangkok is famous for its floating markets. We visited one of the larger ones, I think. You hire out a boat for an hour and are paddled around the market. You browse through the stores, some of which are on boats and some of which are on land. Vendors in boats also peddle food and drink. Some of it looked very interesting although I did not experiment with street food on such a short trip. This is one of the quieter parts of the market.
This is a close-up of one of the stores that were on land. As you can see, the wares are displayed so as to be easily viewed from the boat. The store owner and the oarsman (in our case it was an oarswoman) cooperate to keep the boat close to the store. The store keepers also had hooks by which they could snag a boat and bring it close to their store. They also used this to hand items to people on boats who couldn't come close to the store (you'll understand why very shortly).
Bangkok is notorious for its traffic snarls. The floating market is no exception. We were caught in this jam for quite a while. It was a lot more enjoyable than being caught in a car jam as one can people-watch, shop and enjoy the nice weather. This is also why boats can't pull up to a store sometimes. Interestingly, the boat owners provide hats to the renters... The hats are a necessity as the sun is hot. Fortunately I had brought sunscreen although I didn't bring my hat to the market.
We also visited the Thai Human Imagery Museum. While this is reminiscent of a wax museum, the figures are made of resin, not wax. The very first one I saw made me look twice because one of the docents was explaining that we shouldn't sit on the furniture or touch the figures. Behind her were a couple of lounging figures and that is when I realized that they were part of the display! As we left, I saw a man sitting on a bench. He was very still and by this time I was conditioned to expect displays in the public areas of the museum. I was convinced he was part of the display till I saw that he was swinging his keys back and forth!
These men are playing chess.
There are also images of famous people like Mahatma Gandhi and Abraham Lincoln. But most of the figures are from Thai history, culture and religion. A small museum but a real gem.

The next day we went on a temple marathon. Bangkok is full of lovely Buddhist temples called Wats - each with its own flavor and architecture. We only visited a few of the major ones. We started at Wat Phra Kaew - the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. Sadly, the temple itself was closed that day due to some event that was taking place. But the grounds were open and there was a lot to see.

Right in front of the the entrance to the temple is a shrine where people can make offerings. There are a number of figures in this enclosure.
This is the ornate entrance to the temple. Since I couldn't see the Emerald Buddha myself, I thought I would share this image with you. It was as close as I got to it.
There are a number of other structures in the courtyard, representing different periods of Thai history and architecture.
This tower has a number of very intricate figures at its base. Each one is different.
I have already forgotten what each one of these is but the variety in the architecture was fascinating.
Each gate is guarded by these tall guardians who represent characters from the Ramakien, Thailand's national epic.
The galleries around the temple are filled with murals depicting scenes from the Ramakien. Gilt paint is used prominently in Thai art and architecture - as is evident from these photos. It shines very brightly in the sun and highlights the details of the decorations.
Adjacent to the temple is the Grand Palace. This used to be the residence of the royal family and is still used for some ceremonies. It too was closed so we couldn't see the museum or the throne room inside. We had to be content with the courtyard and the architecture.
This structure is used by the king to mount and dismount from a ceremonial elephant. It is very beautiful in its proportions and architecture.
Another lovely structure. I really enjoyed looking at all the buildings and I think I've fallen in love with the roof lines of Thai architecture. They are so graceful in the way they reach up to the sky.
The next temple we visited was Wat Pho - the temple of the Reclining Buddha. This Buddha is truly gigantic, in contrast to the Emerald Buddha. How serene his face is...
This is a view of the entire length of the Reclining Buddha, trying to show the scale of the figure.
The soles of the Buddha's feet are intricately engraved. The toes have prints on them. What a gorgeous work of art!
Lastly, we visited Wat Traimit - the temple of the Golden Buddha. This Buddha is lovely and so is its shrine, which has recently been renovated.

After that, we went to Chatuchak market which is a fascinating maze of the most incredible stuff - from things you would find at any flea market in the US to lovely handicrafts and silk as well as modern decorative arts. The rest of the time was spent with family - eating and visiting and lounging around. I wish we could have spent more time there. Bangkok seems to be a fascinating place to explore - let alone the rest of Thailand, which has a lot to see and do.

Now I return you to our regular scheduled knitting...

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