Monday, October 20, 2014

Postcards from Thailand

Thailand is a country full of exotic fruits and flowers, gorgeous temples, elephants, silk, massage and amazing food! Thailand is one of my favorite countries; hence this is my fourth trip here! Arriving in Bangkok feels so easy, familiar and friendly — yet exciting and full of surprises. No two days are ever the same. My last trip was in 2005 and can you believe my luck that the tour guide that picked me up at the airport was the same one I had in 2005?!! I used a different company and was beyond shocked he remembered me because I didn't remember him. It wasn't until I got back home and looked at my old photo album and saw wow he has a great memory, he leads tours every week meeting hundreds of tourists a year, how could he possible remember me?! But what a wonderful welcome back!


The last time I went to Thailand was shortly after the tsunami so I cancelled my trip to the island of Phuket where it hit. This time I arrived just a few months after the Thai army declared martial law in Thailand.  I saw on the news that soldiers and armored vehicles were occupying the streets of Bangkok and parked outside broadcast facilities. Under martial law their powers granted the military takeover authority to prevent public gatherings, restrict media, set up checkpoints, and search for weapons. People were detained for publicly criticizing Thailand’s military takeover or the Thai monarchy. To prevent demonstrations they shut down access to many areas around major shopping and hotel districts in central Bangkok. I had heard of people cancelling or postponing their trip to Thailand due to those all the unrest, but luckily when I went the demonstrations were no longer in full swing and I felt safe enough to stay in Thailand.

Did you know that the King of Thailand has reigned since 1946 thus making him the world's longest reigning current monarch, recently celebrating his Diamond Jubilee after 60 years on the throne. He was educated in Switzerland and met his wife in Paris, she was the daughter of the Thai ambassador to France and they have 4 children. My first stop was the visit the most ornate palace – the Grand Palace in Bangkok, the former home of the Thai monarch. It is filled with over 54 acres of spiky temple spires, gold-plated walls and overly elaborate painting, sculpture and metalwork, gold stupas and a mural of Ramayana (the great Hindu epic) along the inner wall which is the longest wall painting in the world. 

public transportation boats
Bangkok is a huge city with a population of 6.3 million (NYC is 8 million) and a size of 606 sq miles (about the same size as Houston, DC is only 68 sq miles). There’s a lot of Americans that live in Bangkok that they have 5 American schools and even have their own residential area. The canal is the main form of transportation and a ride on a canal public "bus" will cost you $0.25. It's also the best way to explore Bangkok, as Bangkok is called the Venice of the East with so many canals. There’s also the sky train, hot pink taxis and tuk-tuks.  I traveled by myself along the canal navigating my way to transfer boats twice, asking for the express boat and making sure to get off at the right stop. You have to get on and off the boats very fast as I counted they only park at each stop for less than 30 seconds. I saw a group of hip monks in orange cloth riding the canal taxis  as well. No journey to Thailand is complete without riding a tuk tuk with its bouncing seats, zig zaging through traffic while wondering if this is a safe way to go as you take in all the air pollution. You should always bargain the price before getting on. Traffic is a nightmare so crossing the street by foot is scary.
tuk-tuk
















Before are some pictures to show you what a most spectacular experience I had complete with sensational sights and exquisite cuisine. I fully enjoying all the Thailand has to offer, including embracing the chaos, the humidity, and the noise.  I’m a big city girl at heart, and Bangkok is the latest city that I have grown to adore. My hotel was right on the river so I watched the sunset every night from my high balcony.

Reclining Buddha - 150 feet long








purple seats on the plane!




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