Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Return to Paradise - Hok. Sed Laow.

September 5-6, 2017

Nobody gets out of here without playing Chinese checkers
Ted, Hiustyn, Tim and I packed our bags and bid farewell to Pattaya as we headed to Bangkok.  The crew in Chiang Mai would be returning to Bangkok in the evening, and we wanted to spend our last night together.  On the way to Bangkok, we stopped at Suvarnabhumi Airport to see if Ted and Hiustyn could get seat assignments for their flight, as they were unable to do so online.  We hustled in to the customer service counter, but no one was able to help.  We hurried back out to the car, and K. Mick dropped us at the Best Western Premier Amaranth hotel, which would serve as our rendezvous point.  It was fairly close to the airport, and provided free airport shuttle service for our travelers' early morning flights.

Had to leave our durians outside 😜
Our hotel room looked down onto the roofs of an outdoor market
 We took a taxi into the city.  Our destination was Wat Arun, a beautiful temple complex on the west side of the Chaopraya River; it was one of the few attractions in Bangkok we hadn't yet visited.  I'd intended for the taxi driver to take us directly to the temple; but showing off my Thai language "skills" cost us some time and money, as the driver dropped us at a boat dock on the east side of the river.  At first, he dropped us at the wrong pier.  Luckily, it took him some time to turn his taxi  around, so we were able to catch him before he left and get a lift around to the correct pier.  No matter, it was a quick, inexpensive trip across, and we disembarked right at the foot of the temple.

One of the many displays honoring the royal family

With a central spire of nearly 230 feet, Wat Arun is difficult to miss, towering over four corner spires at a bend on the muddy Chaopraya River.  The ornate facade is breathtaking, with delicate patterns of colored glass and Chinese porcelain.  We picked up our fifty-baht tickets (about $1.50 USD), and passed through the small opening leading into the temple grounds.  We made sure we were properly dressed, and that we didn't "dangle any dolls." (?)

Every inch of the magnificent structure was adorned, a true feast for the eyes.  This temple, also known as the Temple of Dawn, or Wat Chaeng, is a remnant of the Chakri dynasty.  It was built before the capital was relocated to the east side of the river, and was added to by Ramas II and III.  The ashes of Rama II are interred here.

Steep steps up the side of the main structure allow visitors to climb onto the upper level for a lovely view of the complex and the river.  We took our time strolling around the spire, then walked through the adjoining garden that was dotted with whimsical stone statues.  In this garden, a second, more traditional temple was flanked by two massive guardian giants, or yags, common characters in Thai mythology. 

The roof of Wat Pho is visible across the river

 These stone statues were originally imported as ballast on ships trading with China.

Where did he come from?
Many people think this is Buddha - it is actually Budai,
(known as Hotei or Pu-Tai in other Asian cultures), a Chinese monk associated with good luck

Afterward, we visited the little outdoor riverside market stalls.  We bought some beautiful colored wall hangings made of water buffalo skin, and some jade-green statues.

Some monks near the market

Tourists can try on the traditional Thai dress - for a fee

The waiting area for the ferry to cross back over was a bit chaotic.  It seemed people had two or three different kinds of tickets, with indeterminately-marked lines for the different ferries.  We were sent to wait in a side courtyard, and were entertained by watching people try to figure out where to go, and by the growing trickle of water at our feet as the river's level slowly rose.

Back on the east side of the river, we looked for a place to get lunch.  Chosen for it's air-conditioning, the Tha Tian store sufficed for a simple meal.  We walked the streets outside the Grand Palace and Wat Pho, then wound back toward the river, passing a colorful row of waiting tuk-tuks.  We took a couple of wrong turns and wound up behind a warehouse - no ferry, but a lovely view of Wat Arun across the water.  We crossed an old wooden walkway to the pier where we boarded a ferry for a leisurely trip down the Chaopraya.


We arrived at the modern entertainment venue, Asiatique, just as the sun was setting and the lights were coming on.  We spent an hour or so visiting the shops, then went in search of the air-conditioned gelato shop we'd visited the last time Ted was here.  Amazingly, he remembered where it was after nearly two years.  We enjoyed some gelato (almost as good as Iorio's,) then walked a bit more before queueing up for a taxi to take us back to the hotel.

The Chiang Mai crew arrived at the hotel on schedule.  Here are a few pictures from their day at the Elephant Nature Center.

They all got caught in a huge downpour

We enjoyed our final evening together in the Red Brown lounge, where Michael hijacked the singer's microphone for some karaoke.  We enjoyed his singing, as did one young lady on staff who decided to try to dance with him as he was singing.  At one point, husband Tim and Mike sang a duet of - what else - Sinatra.

We bade goodbye to Ted and Hiustyn, Mike and Jenna, and Evan and Katie, as they would be leaving for the airport very early the next morning.  It was not so difficult, as we knew we would be seeing them soon on the flip side of the globe.

Our last day in Bangkok was spent with Tim and Chloe, and we all enjoyed a low-key day.  We had a lovely breakfast in the Bua Chompoo restaurant in our hotel, then walked around the surprisingly extensive grounds.  Tim and Chloe wanted to do some last-minute shopping, so we took a taxi into the city to MBK, the multistory indoor discount mall of street vendors.  It took a lot longer than we expected; should have known the traffic would be a big factor.

We were fortunate to choose this day for indoor activities, as a mighty downpour drenched the afternoon.  Chloe found some Thai pants for her sisters, and Tim bought me a wind chime as an early birthday present.  We contemplated seeing a movie, but nothing good was showing.

Another long taxi ride took us back to the hotel, where we ordered pizza from Pizza Company, and watched a movie.  We squeezed in a last game of Chinese checkers, and called it an early night.  Tim and Chloe were catching the same early-morning flight as the others had the day before.

Koon Mick was home in south Thailand, so we had our frequent substitute driver, Koon Tawit, pick us up early the next morning.  We dropped Tim at work, then returned to Pattaya.  Long morning.

Wonderful memories.

Our last night together
PS - Thanks to everyone in the group for sharing their amazing photos for this blog.  Hugs!