May 17, 2016
|We had a nice big breakfast then meet the group and walk next door to get a long tail boat for our canal tour. The weather was mostly clear and quite warm – like really hot. It was cool on the river as long as we were moving, but quite warm when we stopped.
Anyway, we traveled down the main water route of Bangkok- the Chao Phraya River – and ran into water buses, taxis, cruise ships, and lines of barges pulled by a tug boat. We sailed past many temples as well as lots of high rises – hotels, condos, and office buildings.
Then we turned into one of the canals and travelled through the Thonburi district – a salt water canal about five miles from the ocean. We went past quite a few temples but what stood out was the large number of poor and rundown buildings. Many were unoccupied as the government is trying to clear those buildings over the canal for sanitary reasons. Some were still occupied. There were some very nice places as well. We passed through a B&B district where people come for home stays (staying in a room in the house and having meals with the family) and past an impressive building made of rare wood that Peter said would sell for $900,000 – when most places would be less than $50,000.
Along the way we saw some fairly impressive wildlife as well. Many white cranes and quite a few very large (5 to 6 foot) “Asian Water monitors,” which looked a bit like alligators. We stopped at one temple and fed bread to “100,000” fish (catfish) to bring us luck. The fish were so aggressive that at times they piled up so some were completely out of the water. The only problem was that there was a distinct sewer smell along most of the canal.
Back on the main river we stopped at Wat Arun – the “Temple of Dawn.” It was an impressive temple (with lots of shops selling souvenirs) but it was very hot and humid – probably 90+ degrees and 60 – 70% humidity. We walked up some of the temple steps and looked around – beautiful artwork and intricate designs, and the traditional depiction of the Buddha and some of the gods. We only stayed about 20 minutes before we were back on the boat on the pretty polluted river heading to the other shore.
On the opposite side of the river was the Wat Phra Kaeo, the most holy temple complex in the country. We walked a few blocks from the river to get there. All the women had to wear “modest dress” and people had to buy extra clothing to cover shoulders or legs. The temperature seemed to have gotten hotter.
Three main spires are based on Sri Lankan, Thai, and Cambodian architecture. One is said to contain a piece of the breastbone of the Buddha. The main building in the complex houses the jade Buddha – where you had to remove your shoes to enter (and no photos). We were surprised at the small size of the statue. The most amazing thing was the crowds. Thousands and thousands of people – mostly Chinese but elbow to elbow. The people and the heat made the experience a little less than ideal.
The group gathered together and we went through a building onto the grounds of the Grand Palace – the home of Kings for hundreds of years. A ceremonial guard outside the still used portion had people running up next to him to have their picture taken – again and again… Poor guy.
The palaces were impressive buildings, one actually the official residence of the King of Siam (which Thailand was called until 1939) at the time the movie was set. By this time though we were all pretty worn out so we headed out to the town. Peter bought us all some cold water and our bus finally came.
Back to the hotel we took a quick shower to cool off, packed our bags and made ready to leave for the airport. At about 1:00 we headed out and got to the “old” airport about 2:00 for our 4:30 flight. Going through security I dropped my passport – but got it back pretty quickly. We needed to eat lunch but all that was available was – McDonalds, KFC, Burger King, and Subway. Alice had McDonalds (which also served a rice and vegetable dish) but Kitty and I had Subway – tasted pretty much the same.
We eventually boarded the plane (well, a bus that took us to the plane) and headed off to Chang Mai, the former Lanna Kingdom incorporated into Siam about 1590 years ago. They still have some distinct characters and words that differs fro the rest of Thialand. We got in after a one hour flight and had no trouble getting our stuff and meeting up with the bus. Traffic was a bit busy but we finally got to the Siripanna Resort – a very nice venue. We were met with welcoming cold tea and a scented wash cloth. Everyone was very nice and welcoming. Resort looked very nice – like a jungle lodge.
We got to our room, which was very nice, and proceeded to do laundry in the bath tub! We’ll have a three night stay so there is plenty of time for them to dry. Then we took a walk around the pool (with some bats to keep us company) and in to the dinner. We had a buffet meal which was quite nice – even choice of a great variety of desserts.
Back at the room it started to thunder and lightning, but no rain. Also saw a bunch of geckos on the wall outside of the room. The hotel people had been in and turned down the bed and left us two Pandan Leave Rose flowers – hand woven roses. But we were pooped so off to bed.