Thursday, March 23, 2017

Short Ride on a Long Tail

Every city  with canals is called the Venice of, fill in the blank.  Bangkok is the Venice of Thailand.  Dazzled by city lights it is easy to miss the khlongs (canals).  The Chaophraya vitally provides north/south transportation for locals and tourists.   No visit to Bangkok is complete without a ride on the orange flagged express boats.  But for east/west transportation, locals still rely on the khlongs.

For tourists the khlongs slice through local life.  If you are nimble, most certainly join locals jumping on a canal boat for a mere 10 baht.  A more leisurely, and expensive, alternative is hire a long tail boat.

Our Boat
With some bargaining, you can hire a boat for 1000 baht per hour.  

                                                Roslyn, and our friends Justin and Sharon
With 4 that is about 15 dollars per person for two hours.  You can find boats for hire at Tha Chang Pier, near the Grand Palace, River City Shopping Pier, and Sathern Central Pier.  The latter has the most boats, and is conveniently located a few steps from the Saphan Taksin stop on the Silom line of the Sky Train.

Before heading to the Khlongs, we stopped at Wat Arun.  Some restoration was on going.  Having taken many pictures on prior trips, I only took a few this time.

The khlongs feature a wide variety of houses, most with canal access.

 Saw the children too late to get a well focused shot, but they were so cute, that I kept it anyway.

Wats accessed by the water are also part of daily life.

Before reentering the river, we stopped at the Royal Barges Museum.

One of the pleasures of the museum, is that it is among the least visited of Bangkok's museums.  The museum is tricky to find by land, but has an easy dock for boats.  On special ceremonial occasions the boats carry the royal entourage in a procession of over 50 boats.

The King's boat is the one with the nagas (serpents).

The museum usually houses 5 or more yachts.

The boats, although not wide,  are quite long.

The guardians on the bow have motifs you will have seen at the Grand Palace complex.

As you head back,

you might even get a cooperative driver to stop for coffee

But the far better option, is to wait until you return.  The Bangrak section of Bangkok, is a prime area for street food and small local restaurants.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Sharp Difference Between UK and US

We all fear the mega terrorist attack.  We cannot forget 9/11, or the Paris massacre.  Fortunately, the greater the need for coordination and movement of people and material, the greater the chance of detection.

The home grown, self-radicalized terrorist is the dangerous needle in a haystack.  His only resources are his unbalanced mind, his focused hatred, and the weapons he can buy or assemble.   In today's attack in England, the weapons were a car and a knife.  Do we have any doubt, that in America, an assault rifle would have multiplied the carnage?

European gun control laws partially defang lone wolves.

Monday, March 20, 2017

History Made Easy

Many history buffs design itineraries around Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Bagan in Myanmar, or Sukhothai in Central Thailand.  But Ayutthaya is an easy add on to a visit to Bangkok.   The 2nd capitol of Thailand, after Sukhothai,  and before Bangkok, is about an hour and one half from Bangkok.  Multiple tour groups offer packages that usually include travel one way by boat. Low cost independent travel is available by minivan or bus from Mo Chit Bus Station, and by train.

We hired our own guide and driver.  Even that convenient method only cost a bit over 200 dollars with hotel pickup and drop off, all admission tickets, and a great lunch.  As noted in my prior posts, the trip also included the Summer Palace and a local, it touristy, floating market.  But the heart of the day was the temples of Ayutthaya.

Wat Phanan Choeng just outside of the historic park actually was built in 1324, predating the establishment of the Ayutthaya kingdom in 1351.  Unlike the vast ruins, this temple has been preserved and renovated, remaining in near constant use.  Do not miss the robe ceremony.

Think of the Blue Man Group, but with orange silk replacing the endless stream of toilet paper.

If you look carefully you can see Rosyln in the lower left corner.

Viewing the giant Buddha is a heady experience.

Along one wall are hundreds of tiny Buddhas including the ones below.  Can you find the empty square?

Rubbing the wheel until it makes a sound brings good luck.  My smiling wife made it hum.

Ayutthaya contains an endless parade of Stupas and Buddhas, dating from the 14th Century.

 A well perched, bird.

Ayutthaya has its own reclining Buddha, presently sans gold.

An obvious highlight is the buddha enveloped by a tree.

Our guide, Nook, was always there to answer any question.  An official Thai guide is extensively trained, passing a test to get her license.

But the most important questions for Nook, were where, and what, to eat.  She took us to a local favorite,  a large, and blessedly air conditioned, restaurant.  She ordered a wonderful Tom Yam soup made with peanuts instead of the typical coconut milk, and a standout noodle dish.  But my favorites were two dishes I never had in Thailand, fried mushrooms, and a semi-dried beef.

Friday, March 17, 2017

It's Nice Being King

As with the summer palace outside of Beijing, the King of Thailand has an oasis to escape the sweltering heat of Bangkok.

Bang Pa is less than an hour out of Bangkok, usually visited, as with us, on the way to historic Ayutthaya.

 Although dating back to the 17th Century, almost all of the structures were built in the 19th.  The european influence on much of Bang Pa is evident, particularly in the incongruous statue of a Swiss gentleman.

 Only one classical Chinese structure is on the grounds.  It includes a throne room.

 Thai architecture is the highlight of the summer palace.

Diverted water from the nearby Chaophraya River created the artificial lake, and water for the lush grounds.