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Saturday 10 Jan
Bangkok, Thailand

The Seething and The Serene

Sounds like a soap opera, huh?  Bangkok is a many splendored city and like any other mega-metropolis, it is a showcase of all things holy, bawdy, inspiring and disgusting.

One of my earliest memories of travelling abroad is arriving in Grand Cayman with my parents when I was about 6 or 7 years old.  The international airport was an open air grass shack with a dirt floor and a cacophony of voices from humans and animals alike.  After Bangkok's recent civil unrest, I knew that the airport here was a gleaming monument to prosperity and modernity but I still expected to be bewildered the entire time that I was there.  I should have been worried about the International Terminal at Los Angeles Airport (LAX).  It is an unmitigated disaster with mislesding signage, rude employees and barely room enough to turn around.

The new Bangkok airport was indeed a modern wonder.  I retrieved my baggage and sailed through immigration and customs to a very well managed taxi stand.  As soon as we pulled away from the curb, all regulations ended.  I cajoled the cab driver into turning on the meter and repeatedly declined his offers for a cheap hotel, tailor, restaurant and female companions.  By asking him questions about his family and his plans for his son, I was able to minimize his sales pitches and we arrived at the Nankornping Hotel on Samsen Soi 6 (Road 6 off of Samsen Road) without incident.

The hotel was reccomended by my friend Josh.  It is only a 5 minute walk to the famous backpacker mecca Khao San Road and a river taxi stop.  After settling in at 9am, I was determined to get on Thai time.  I packed my day bag and took off for a tour of Bangkok's holiest wats.  I wandered around with a general direction in my mind and my map in my bag, rarely consulting it.  Wat Suthat is a massive complex with a huge Buddha in the main temple.  As I knelt inside to take in the magnificent interior, I was surprised to find a service starting.  The chanting, led by an orange robed monk that knelt in front of the deity, filled the cavernous building and immediately washed away all of my anxiety.

Next to the Grand Palace, where the diminutive Emerald Buddha rests, is the wonderfully ornate Wat Pho.  The main temple houses the Reclining Buddha.  Words will not do it's magnificence justice.

Near the end of the day, I headed back to the Baglamphur district where I came across on of the narrow roads that hosts several of the more popular guest houses.  I found a ratan chair in front of a lily pond and ordered a large, cold Singhai beer.  Soon, I was in a conversation with a Dutch guy and two American girls.  We exchanged stories and plans and then an hour later cemented our new friendship with a trip to a massage house... gotta love this place.  I've been here about 50 hours and I've had 4 of the best full body massages of my life... each for about US$7. 

More about seething Bangkok and the wonders of the ubiquitous Thai massage in another post.  Pictures to come next time, if I remember my USB cord.

Tonight, I'll take a 12 hour train ride to Chiang Mai and Pai to ride elephants!!

Much love,

Kemble

 

2 Comments for this Travel blog entry

Pieter Says:

10 January

sounds like a great beginning

Mom Says:

10 January

How exciting the trip sounds. Wish I could be there

SE Asia 2009: Stage 1: Bangkok & Northern Thailand

Travel blog by kemblekpope

 


I'll be easing into SE Asia with the traveler friendly city of Bangkok. Then, I'll take a train north to explore Chiang Mai and the surrounding environs.

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