2: Thailand, here we come! The "last hurrah," many years in the dreaming, several months in the making, and after a 15-hour flight, 3-hour layover in Hong Kong, 3-hour flight to Bangkok, and we were ready for the adventures to begin! | Cup of Noodles - the ultimate travel food! | Yay for airplane food!
3: What happens if they don't pick up? | Hooray for Asian food and grammar!
4: Bangkok As one of the world's most exciting cities, Bangkok was bustling with life. Although it is strange to be in a country surrounded by Asians, it is even more striking to see how history and religion permeate all aspects of modern life. | Ehh...Good Enough. There seems to be a greater acceptance to going with the flow of the universe. Consequently, there is a different mentality when it comes to getting a job done. People learn to live with temporary fixes such as wires dangling in the streets, broken pipes, and children playing on rusted equipment. | Pink taxis good, yellow and green bad | Prices on taxi boats vary if for locals or tourists | Different docks are designated by direction headed (ie. separate for East and West) | Tuk-Tuk
5: In Thailand, there are many common practices that wouldn't fly in the U.S., and vice versa. Steven concluded that there are two unofficial mantras that guide Thai life: | You're in charge of you. We found the Thais to be very kind and helpful. But when it comes to getting from Point A to B without getting scammed or killed, you're on your own to figure that out. | Be aware that the spelling of your destination in your guidebook may differ greatly from the maps and signs: Chatuchak = Jatachuk | Fish sauce factory, the main condiment in every Thai kitchen
7: Steven found a cute B&B for us to call home while in Bangkok. Although getting there was rough (they got the dates mixed up, so for the first night, we slept on the benches at the airport), our room was very romantic, with a view of Wat Arun, directly across the river. Each morning, we had breakfast made to order: pressed coffee and the best jook ever.
8: Chinatown When the bus-boat dropped us off at a dirty, dark, and empty Bangkok alley, we weren't convinced searching for our dinner destination was a good idea. But soon, the lights and traffic of Chinatown emerged, and we found ourselves walking among the locals, sandwiched between cars and food stalls. We knew our dinner by the crowds amassed outside fresh seafood being grilled, and orders drawn up and down on pulleys of string and clothespins. For about $20, we had grilled prawns, cockles, fried crab balls with delicious "dirty sauce," and a whole fish steamed in lime, chilies, and garlic.
10: Chatuchak Market Thailand's biggest market, held every weekend, has over 6,000 stalls that occupy the space of over five football fields. From crafts, amulets, tools, pet supplies, to endangered animals, there are collections for everything a Thai would want.
12: Me, mesmerized by the leather crafts. | Most all Thais wear amulets for luck or protection. Even every vehicle we rode in had a special flower amulet.
13: My lucky day: I've never seen Steven have so much shopping endurance!
15: Foo | Foodie Paradise At the market, there was an emphasis on fresh produce, seafood, and pork dishes, prepared in front of you.
16: In the pet section were lots of animals huddled together. Sadly, the market has been referred to as the "wildlife supermarket of the world," selling some endangered species. We were unable to capture on film what appeared to be dozens of sugar gliders and other wild rodents, tightly tethered with string and drugged to a glassy-eyed stupor.
19: Not quite Central Park, the grounds outside of the market are still bustling with life. You can climb the rusted play structures, rent a mat from one of the salesladies, buy snacks, and feed the fish in the pond.
21: Floating Market Down narrow canals, women run mini markets and kitchens out of their boats. Baskets on long poles help exchange money and goods. Whether sitting or strolling, everyone has a front-row view of the action.
28: After seeing the floating market, we got in our own longtail boat and ventured down the canals to see where the locals lived and how they relied upon the river.
29: On the way we found homes, from shacks to newly built retreats; store fronts, restaurants, and wats. Life seemed quiet, peaceful, and simple.
31: As well maintained as the American River Parkway, our bicycle tour took us past banana, jackfruit, and coconut plantations. | Candace and Susan, teachers from Japan,shared Thai snacks of steamed coconut wrapped in and fried bananas with peppercorns.
32: Our guide, Esso, was proud to tell us of his Buddhist heritage and the stories from reliefs carved into temple walls.
34: People crowded around the Buddha and covered it with gold leaf inside the ancient temple encased by Banyan trees. Butterflies and statues of roosters and warriors guarded the entrance. Magical.
37: Shortly after our snack, we reached out lunch destination, dining by the water. Although stuffed, we somehow made room for steamed fish, fried chicken, shrimp omelette, stir-fried veggies with basil, and the best green curry we've every had.
39: 1. People can do good with a sense of humor 2. People will ignore that message and do their own thing (we saw several white guys escorted by young, seemingly apathetic Thai girls on the streets around the restaurant) 3. Pay attention to the Soi (alley) number; odds will be on one side of the street, and evens on the other (we were circling this shady neighborhood for quite some time) | Things we learned at Cabbages and Condoms:
42: Unlike most wats in Bangkok, the Temple of the Dawn reflects the Khmer architecture of India. The various towers symbolize Hindu-Buddhist cosmology, with each level representing the ascent to various realms of existence, heavens, and happiness. | As this is a holy place, leave the club-wear at home | Wat Arun Named after Aruna, the Indian god of dawn | Wat Not to Wear
48: Wat Pho We stayed down the street from Bangkok's oldest and largest temple, which is also Thailand's foremost center for public education. It is renowned for its famous Institute of Massage, validating several local vendors. At the entrance to temples, we chuckled at the special status given to true Thais when dropping off shoes.
51: Giant Reclining Buddha The 150-foot statue fills the entire wihan, or assembly hall. On the soles of the feet are mother-of-pearl images that represent the 108 lakshanas, the auspicious signs of the true Buddha. We were amused by the pleasant tinkling of coins being dropped into the long line of metal bowls.
54: Ceramic tiles and flowers decorate the chedis and mondops, towers with spires which house an object of worship, sacred text, relic of the Buddha, or ashes of a king. Statues of "farang" guards are caricatures of Westerners, with big noses, beards, and top hats.
56: Apsonsi are half-woman, half-lion
57: Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaeo Among many wonders in the complex include include a military museum and resting place for the sacred emerald Buddha. Tourists enjoy impersonating the garudas, mythical beasts that are half-man, half-bird.
58: A young monk gets help pinning his robe Women dip lotus buds in water for good luck Scale model of Angkor Wat
64: Eating street foods was no problem for us, as we just followed our noses and the crowds. However, we avoided smelling the various dried sea products. Chicken skewers were divided by similar body parts: wings, butts, dark-meat pieces all lined up. In the process, Steven discovered that he likes livers. Stomachs, not so much.
65: "I'll take that one."
68: Secret Street
69: Outside of the food market, past the amulet vendors, we discovered a hidden alley that is home to one of Bangkok's oldest neighborhoods. Although we felt we were trespassing, the friendly inhabitants didn't seem to mind us poking around and peering into their modest, one-room homes. Most families laid on the floor, cooled by electric fans as they watched TV.
70: Hua Lampong Train Station Under blinding fluorescent lights, in broken chairs, with backpacks wrapped tightly around us, we brushed aside the trash and waited for our train to Chiang Mai. In the midst of all the activity, we observed all action stop at 6 p.m. when the national anthem played and people stood to salute their king. We also killed time by surveying the curious snacks, fortune-telling machines, and mesmerizing Thai Justin Bieber dancing across the megatron.
71: Plenty of room, and dinner too: chicken with cashews, duck curry, soup, and fruit. For breakfast, we had jook, a sandwich, and fries, all for about $5.00.