Sunday, 12 July 2015

Two nights in Bangkok - you'll find a god in every golden cloister

Bangkok, Thailand
With limited time in Bangkok, Wat Pho was our first stop. The temple complex dedicated to Buddha contains over a thousand images of the holy figure, as well as these super chedis (mounds). They were incredibly tall and ornate, and if they were built in my honour I'd feel venerated. 
A panorama of a small section of the wat showing the little brothers and sisters of the larger chedis. 
Also at Wat Pho is the enormous Reclining Buddha. That's a normal-sized door open behind him, so you can get an idea of his scale. He kind of looked like a woman, but if I said that in Thailand I'd be in trouble. There a signs in the airport telling you that if you have Buddha figurines or a tattoo of him...well I'm not sure what they do to you but it's not good. 
In order for the Buddha to retain his modesty, I was required to adorn this rather stylish green dressing down to cover my sinful arms. 
This was the best Buddha in my opinion, because seven bejewelled dragons are rearing up behind him and he's all zen. 
We had intended to visit the supposedly even more impressive Grand Palace next door, but the entrance fee was extortionate and we duly left. Instead we enjoyed the park and the sight of the palace from afar. I also watched a squirrel scuffle, which is much more fast-paced and vertical than most other animal scuffles. 
Taking a ferry across the river, we intended to see another temple but unfortunately it was not in operation. You can see it swathed in scaffolding in the background. We did take a walk down a main street, but it became immensely claustrophobic due to the market stalls covering every single available space on the footpath and we were forced onto the road where cars were neverendingly trying to squeeze past you. After a time we retreated in surrender. 
Our hotel was very near Khao San Road: the most touristy street in Bangkok, if not in all Thailand. That being said, we did take advantage of the cornucopia of stalls selling packets of bite-sized fruit to eat on the go, because we couldn't pass up fresh watermelon and pineapple on a hot day. Just a couple of streets over was Phra Athit, a better place. Though many eateries and shops were still aimed at tourists, there were local gems as well. 
Bean and Us - this cafe caught our attention for the bizarre ice creams and dips available, but held our attention with the cat. I of course ordered tea, while Yannick tested a black bean popsicle accompanied by six toppings including sweetened condensed milk, chocolate chips, almond slivers and corn flakes. It was certainly novel. Apart from that, I can't say I was a fan. But the tea was tasty and the cat was cute. I like to think he is the Bean from 'Bean and Us', but it's just as likely to be a coffee bean. (That reminds me that we bought an odd packet of Tim Tams in Australia. The flavour was three bean: coffee, chocolate and vanilla. They were actually good. Whenever I think of three beans, it's red kidney, cannelini and garbanzo, which are good in salads but not biscuits.)
Right after the cafe break, I was tempted into a fifteen minute fish foot bath. You know - the ones that eat the dead skin and provide you with a means of exfoliation. I knew it would tickle, but I could not fathom how much. I laughed solidly for the first half, by which time I had almost become accustomed to it. I thought the arches of my feet would tickle the most, but in fact it was under the toes. 
Dinner after we first arrived from Hanoi was at a hole-in-the-wall Indian food place (just one street from Phra Athit) specialising in roti mataba - lightly curried meat and vegetables wrapped up in a roti flat bread and cooked over a hot grill. The portions were small, which was perfect as I never have much of an appetite after flying. If you were hungry, you could order two or three. We savoured the delicious little parcels on neon plates. 
The following night we simply looked for an eatery on Phra Athit filled with people so we could try where the locals ate. Turns out fried chicken with rice was on the menu with a Fanta, all for 50 baht each (about $2.50 NZD). 
It's good to know that durian is an issue in Thailand as well. I believe these stickers on hotel refrigerators could help to raise global awareness.