1 – 2 February 2012
Siam’s Bangkok is fast-paced, like many capital cities in South East Asia. I started out at Lumpini park which offered a quiet spot away from the morning frenzy.
A great friend Jim from America joined me on the trip and Kia, my great university friend decided to show us around his city. So we hopped on a ferry and made our way to see the Grand Palace.
Established in 1782, not only can you find the royal residence and throne halls but also a number of government offices as well as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. You know you are in Thailand once you set foot inside the complex.
Surrounded by 4 walls totalling 1900 m in length, it used to be the administrative and religious centre of Thailand from 1782 to 1932. Today, the Grand Palace is a centre of the monarchy and serves as a tourist attraction.
The Grand Palace is divided into four main courts, separated by walls and gates. There is the outer court then the middle, inner and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha which is in fact a royal chapel. It was built in 1783 and houses the Emerald Buddha. The colours, intricate designs and hooked roof never fails to amaze me. Thank goodness people constructed this back then and preserved it so well or else I wouldn’t get a chance to see such beauty.
Kia had to drop something off at his university so we paid a quick visit to the campus. With the Royal Princess and a former PM as its notable alumni, it is a good university in Thailand. Smack in the middle of Bangkok, we were surprised to witness a small-scale protest outside the main hall. Kia told me that Thammasat University is known for being a rebel university since students often voice their objections and are not afraid to challenge those in power. In fact, in 1973, Kia’s university became the centre of a pro-democracy protest movement which ended in bloodshed. Students were protesting the arrest of 13 pro-democracy student activists and leaders so police came in and it ended in many deaths and injuries. Some of the former student leaders became professors at Thammasat thus this fighting spirit lives on.
In this particular case, some professors were questioning the lèse majesté law. This law meant that criticism of the Royal Family is strictly prohibited and critics could be jailed for 3 – 15 years. They argued that people’s voice should be respected and there must be less intervention from the royal family.
To end the day, Kia took us to Bangkok National Museum which allow visitors to see some great collections of Thai art and history.
It was a great day to hang out with a great friend who is not only hospitable but also very knowledge and generous. The guqin playing Kia will surely be an asset to his country and I’m so lucky to call him friend.
The next day, Jim and I headed out to see some other sites in Bangkok. I drove my big brother insane since that’s what little sisters do. We took our time and headed to Wat Pho also known as the Golden Reclining Buddha.
It’s a popular tourist attraction since the temple complex houses the largest collection of Buddha images (more than 1000) in the country.
To top things off, there is a 46m long reclining Buddha.
Apart from being a place of worship, it is also known as the birthplace of traditional Thai massage. We took our time and decided to check out some of the shopping areas in Bangkok.
We took the metro and bought black tokens for the ride. Being a silly-billy, I was joking with my brother when a token rolled off the railings. We told the staff and clearly they were not impressed.
After getting off at Silom MRT Station, we felt hungry so we followed the neon lights and headed down the road. After a while, it all clicked. Lots of expats and lady boys + girls, people selling DVDs, people handing out tickets to see weird shows – ok….then it struck. On my first night in Bangkok before Jim’s arrival, I was walking around another metro station trying to find food and as I strolled around in my pants and hoodie, a girl suddenly grabbed my arm and before I could react, I saw her bosom right in front of my face. I felt extremely awkward and uncomfortable. Now, we found ourselves in another red light district and after finding food, we left….I couldn’t shake the images of fake breasts, short skirts, high heels and sexual exploitation out of my head.
And now, we are having dinner in a restaurant surrounded by all those lights and noise. My goodness- a country so immersed in Buddhism is so open and tolerant of such scenes. It was a hilarious experience and absolutely fascinating for me to observe such phenomenal. I felt like those old Western men indulging in fun- their fun is with a local young girl while my fun is with my diary.
I can’t wait for tomorrow’s Ayutthaya trip -> give me something historical because that is what Thailand is most well-known for!
- Politically unstable so clashes and protest are a common sight.
- Thai girls are big on make-up and fashion. No doubt, the same goes for the lady boys too. Thailand is a deeply Buddhist country yet on the other hand, the sex industry is well-developed and lady boys + red light districts are out in the open.
- Modern city and fast developing with their fair share of problems.
- Bilingual signs at the MRT stations with friendly locals and friendly police.
- Tremendous respect for the royal family.
- The sex industry is well-developed and when I was grabbed by that girl in Silom, it reminded me of the time when three Vietnamese girls called me darling and when two Cambodian girls wrapped their arms around me. Crikey! I felt like those perverted guys.