Friday, September 19, 2008

Lots of Wats

Today was wat-tastic. We visited five wats and saw about 500 buddhas. We went to bed at 9pm last night and woke up at 4:45am (thank you, jet lag!). I actually worked out this morning in our room, which I think is something I'll need to do daily, as there is no resisting the tantalizing treats in this city. We had an early breakfast of yogurt, museli, and fresh fruit at a stall across the street from our guest house. Getting a jump start on the day is a good idea in Bangkok, as it gets hot quickly and the tour groups start making the rounds around 9am. Our only plan for the day was to visit the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaeo, both of which are in the same walled complex.

We walked around the palace and the wat with our mouths hanging open. Everything (EVERYTHING!) is a gold or variegated mosaic with extremely intricate detailing. Everywhere we looked was a picture-perfect view of a scale too large and stunning to capture on film (some feeble attempts are below). After an hour and a half of wat gazing, we decided it was time for second breakfast, and got some great curries in an outdoor market. Then it was on to fresh-squeezed tangerine juice. Did we mention that we love this country?

We continued down the road to see the Reclining Buddha, which was immense and, well, reclining. The wat that houses this buddha figure was just as breathtaking as the first. After many exchanges of, “Is this for real?” and, “Damn, there's a lot of gold around here,” we headed down the street and consulted our map. A Thai man hurried over to us and eagerly told us what we should visit next. We know to be wary of people who approach us, and we've already avoided a couple scams, but most people we've met have been genuinely sweet and helpful. I think many people are eager to practice their English. This guy drew all over our map, circling sights we should see today, and drawing little buddhas by the wats we should visit. He hailed a tuk-tuk, essentially pushed us into it, and negotiated with the driver (“Better price! These my friends!”). This is how we got a personal driver for 40 baht (a little over a dollar).

The wind generated by our driver's freestyle driving was a great relief from the heat. If you want to maintain your sanity while in a moving vehicle in Bangkok, I think it's best to pay attention to the sights around you and not to what's happening on the road. We made several stops, saw lots of buddhas, avoided being pressured into buying custom-made suits at a store the driver took us to (commission?), and finally left our tuk-tuk behind at the Marble Wat. A long walk home left us tired and sticky, but very happy.

We've been having afternoon siestas to shower, escape the mid-afternoon heat, and use the internet cafe. This evening it'll be more street food and a walk to the evening flower market to see some orchids.

Some photos:Boats on the Chao Praya River

Wat Phra Kaeo


The wat officials deemed my short-sleeves to be too short (and I purposefully wore sleeves instead of a tank top today), and weren't pleased with Ian's shorts, so we're wearing borrowed clothes from the dressing room.

Part of the Grand Palace.

One of Ian's favorite images from the paintings in the wat: people making out in the bushes.

Reclining Buddha. I was in a big crowd when I took this picture, and was lucky to get a shot with no heads in the way.

Isn't he pretty?


steveandbub said...

Wat? No Jade Buddha? Love your photos and commentary. Have wats and wats of fun!

Love, Mom and Dad

Lynne said...

Ohhhhhhhh, you two are soooooooo lucky!

I am ready to quit work and join you!

Pretty awesome, guys!