Amazing Bangkok   (03/20/04)

Last updated 04/13/04                                                                                                                               

Our arrival to Bangkok after 7 weeks in India felt like a warm welcome back to civilization as Westerners know it, starting from the very airport which had clean carpets, courteous personnel and no disinfectant smell that is so peculiar to Indian public places. All this is to say, we instantly found ourselves almost at home, and even the "almost" part got removed once we reached the hospitable house of Sant Uncle and Rani Auntie -- many thanks to them for making our stay in Bangkok so pleasant, and for helping arrange the rest of our trip around Thailand.

More blog details are to follow, for now let me just say one thing: I love Thailand, and I will be back one day. As I'm writing these lines, I haven't even left the country (we are currently in Chiang Mai on Songkran festival), and already I am making the mental promise to come back again, because this place is as close to paradise as it gets without paying deluxe rates. From the many faces of Bangkok, to beaches and party time in the South, to wats and water fights in the North, Thailand is a great place to be for a backpacking farang (foreigner).

Bangkok delighted us with the first tastes of authentic Thai food (Thai restaurants in California do a decent job, but not quite the same!), with shopping markets that spread across many streets and offer anything from handicrafts to software, with majestic buildings of ancient wats (Buddhist temples) not too far from moderen glass-and-chrome skyscrapers, and with warm welcome from Thai people who feel proud when the farang like their country.


5-ton solid gold Buddha statue at Wat Traimit                Typical Thai architecture at the Grand Palace                Modern Bangkok: Skytrain next to skyscrapers                Our hosts, to whom we are grateful

Views of Bangkok, from ancient to modern. "Wai-ing" McDonald and reclining Buddha below coexist peacefully in this city of contrasts.

  Ronald McDonald with his hands folded in traditional Thai greeting - the "wai"                Grounds of the Wat Pho temple                Enormous statue of the Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho                Reclining Buddha's feet encrusted with mother-of-pearl

Tourist attractions below include the Grand Palace of the royal family (still ruling Thailand which is a monarchy) and more Buddhist temples.

  At the Grand Palace                Royal guard for the royal family                These guards look more ferocious!                Many spirits inhabit the palace grounds

  Give us a little smile...                Learning to do "wai"                The Protectors                "Chedi" - Buddhist temple structure to hold holy relics

If wats are shrines of Buddhism, surely Panthip Plaza must be a temple of geek faith! Any nerd will feel at home in this mall-sized computer store where anything from GameBoy Advance cartridges and music MP3s to barebone systems and cables can be located, and while you're trying to find your way in the maze of stalls with geek parafernalia, cheerleaders will perform for your entertainment on the central stage (no kidding!).

  Wat Arun, another prominent Buddhist temple                The walls of Wat Arun are decorated with beautiful tile work                Panthip Plaza, the shrine of geekdom