We started Day 4 with an optional tour of the Grand Palace and Emerald Buddha. We took the tour bus through the crowded streets of Bangkok to get there. There were cars and trucks everywhere. Then there were people that weaved through the traffic on scooters. It was not uncommon to see multiple people, including children and babies, as passengers on the scooters. Only a few of the people wore helmets.
Like yesterday, the palace and temple contained intricately detailed ornate designs. My photos don’t do it justice.
Today I had to wear pants and a shirt with sleeves to gain entrance. To view the Buddha’s in the temples visited, we had to leave our shoes outside. We were not allowed to photograph the Emerald Buddha. Upon entrance to the Emerald Buddha, Paul and I both remarked having a strong unexpected emotional response that is hard to explain. It almost brought me to tears. We couldn’t imagine going there if we were actually Buddhists. The Emerald Buddha itself was very small and dressed in the winter wardrobe. The Buddha’s clothes change with the seasons. We were struck by its beauty.
Above is a picture of some of the sacrifices made to the Buddha.
The monks in Thailand don’t have to be monks for life. Our tour guide was a monk for 3 months (the shortest period of time allowed). Being a monk brings honor to their mother. Monks only eat twice a day, once at breakfast and lunch. People bring the monks food alms.
After the temple visit, we took a boat canal tour. The boat on the left was our boat.
Here is another picture of a boat on the river in downtown Bangkok.
We had to wait a few minutes for the canal locks to open. Once inside, the boat was tied up until the locks closed and we could begin our tour.
I took a few pictures of what the houses along the canal look like.
It is hard to imagine that people live here.
Although there aren’t any crocodiles and alligators, there are huge lizards.
The picture below is of the nicest house on the canal. If you look closely you can see that the windows are broken and the house has been left to ruin. The owners were robbed and murdered. No one wants to live there with the ghosts in the house. This is not the norm. Our tour guide said that the rich and poor usually live side by side in harmony as it is the Buddhist way.
Then after the tour, we met up with a friend of ours that lives in Bangkok. He married a Thai woman and promised her father upon marriage that they would come back if he became poor of health or reached 75 years of age. While in America, they adopted a little girl.
The first thing we did was go to a food market. There were rows and rows of food sitting out to be sold. The smell was nauseating and we didn’t buy anything. After that we went to a grocery store. The grocery store was smaller than the market. Most of the food wasn’t ready to pick up and put into the cart. Some of the food was in bulk or needed to be weighed.
After that, we picked up their daughter from her school. She attends an English speaking international private Catholic Buddhist school. I asked how that worked. He said that he thinks they like the idea of family with Mary and Jesus. The Buddha is always single.
Then we visited our friends house. They live in a house that was about the same size as their house back in the US. They are really close to their neighbors. We could hear when the TV was turned on next door. It was stifling hot in the house. But to them it was not hot enough to turn on the A/C.
After our friend’s wife returned from work, we walked 8 blocks to a restaurant. The restaurant was outdoors and ducks were hanging out front. We were able to choose what kind of duck meat we wanted and also the noodles in our soup. No one in the restaurant spoke English. The total cost of the meal was $10 for 5 people. We tried juice that was made from flowers and/or juice from fruit that we never heard of before.
Afterwards, our friend’s wife and daughter walked home and we were off to the entertainment district of Pat Pong. It is impossible to cross the street anywhere, so they have little walkways every so often that go over the street. We crossed the street and hopped into the back of a truck that had two rows in the back. Our friend stood on the platform in the back of the truck. We jumped off the truck 10 minutes later to catch the sky train. The sky train was tricky. I’m sure we wouldn’t have been able to do it without someone that knew how.
After we got off of the sky train, we walked through a block of people selling items like sunglasses to reach the Pat Pong entertainment district. At Pat Pong there were 3 long rows of markets surrounded by a dozen of night clubs with pole dancers. Outside the clubs, there were greasy looking men holding cards that had a list of things the girls inside could do for money. I will leave it at that. It was pretty seedy.
Some of the pole dancers came out of the night clubs wearing hardly any clothes. Quite a few of them had braces. These girls looked really young. My guess would be that most were in their early teens. Where did they get the money for braces? Or did they get braces to look younger and make more money?
We walked through the rows of markets, but there was nothing I wanted to buy. Everything started looking the same. I was getting sick of shopping at the markets. There were a few infants and toddlers sleeping on tables at the market outside of night clubs. It was absolutely heartbreaking to see how these children and young girls lived. I try to keep an open mind when visiting other cultures, but there are some things that I just am not okay with.
We stopped by a quiet bar without dancers to have a few drinks and talk to our friend. Paul asked our friend what he thought the hardest part of living in Thailand was from the perspective of an outsider. Our friend replied that he had a hard time dealing with the isolation. He didn’t have anyone that he could talk to and relate with.
The waitresses at the bar were older than the pole dancing girls. We gave them a small tip for the drinks and they seemed surprised and thankful. On the way out of the entertainment district, we walked by a short plump man who was cracking a whip trying to entice us to see his girls.
We bid our friend farewell at the sky train. Thankfully there was a monitor on the train that had some English on it so we could find our way back by ourselves. Paul and I spoke freely about our adventures of the day on the train. No one understood a word we were saying. The people stared at us smiling. We exited the sky train and took the last ferry boat back to our hotel.
Today we got the whole Bangkok experience.
Tomorrow we leave for another city.