Thursday, February 08, 2007

Yellow Banners in Bangkok

Bangkok is all decorated for a celebration but no one has yet been able to tell me what it's all about. The King's picture is everywhere, surrounded by mostly yellow banners and flags. My best guess is that it has something to do with the end of the first month of the year, but I'm still checking into it.

We flew out of the tiny Ko Samui airport at midday on Monday. It was Thim's first flight on an airplane and she was looking forward to it like an eager child. But the seat they put us in was at the rear of the small plane and the only view she had outside of her window was of one of the jet engines. By pushing on the seat in front of her she could see a sliver of the sky, and she kept her head glued to the crack between the seat and the window in front of her for the entire hour's journey.

At first I thought it was going to rain when we arrived at the Suvarnabhumi International Airport (pronounced Suv-a-na-porn for some reason), but quickly realized the sky was dark because of smog, not rain clouds. The pollution was as bad as I've seen it. But the traffic in the early afternoon was almost reasonable. We settled at the P.S. Guest House, which is beginning to feel like home after half a dozen stays there, and then set out to explore Sukhumvit. In Ko Samui, Thim told me how much she liked Bangkok (and, by extension, disliked Ko Samui where she was fond of neither the sea nor the sun). I'm not sure how much time she's spent here. But it didn't take me long to see that the big city did not enchant her either. Thim is a farmer's daughter and her heart remains in the rural countryside west of Udon Thani where her family raises rice and other crops. You can take the girl out of the country, but you can't take it out of the girl. We had dinner at Cabbages & Condoms, one of my favorite restaurants. The owner is the condom king of Thailand and he works closely with rural assistance programs in an attempt to curtail AIDs which is a problem here.

On Tuesday, Thim's younger sister, Song, came to visit. She lives in Bang Son in the north end of the city and works at a market in Bang Seu not far from Chatuchak, the giant outdoor weekend flea market. Both girls, whose ancestors I believe came from Laos, look similar, with the same hooked nose. And both are small, "no bigger than a minute," as my mother would say. We went down to Jerry's apartment and they checked out his place while Jerry and I drank beers and caught each other up on events. Then we went around the corner for a lunch of ah-hahn Thai.

Afterwards, Song wanted to take us to a wat. I had no idea where, the language barrier being a bit high. But we got into a taxi and took a long ride to the Grand Palace, the walled compound where royalty used to used, and Wat Phra Kaew which houses the Emerald Buddha, one of the country's most important treasures. The picture above was taken of Thim and I in front of one of the several unsmiling guards. Afterward paying our respects to Buddha representations there, we went across the street to the temple on the site of the marker for the founding of the city. It was filled with worshippers at four or five locations, burning incense, lighting candles, applying tiny gold squares to various icons (I'm getting better at it). When we had suitably placated the gods (Thai Buddhism seems more like animism than the Vipassana and Zen Buddhism I'm used to back home), Song caught a bus back to her home, and we returned to Sukhumvit by taxi. In the evening, we went looking for a movie among the upscale malls at Siam Square, but never found any that interested either me or Thim. I wanted to see "Dream Girls" but learned it doesn't open until tomorrow, my last day in Bangkok.

Today Thim and I took the Skytrain to the Chao Praya River and boarded a river taxi for the trip to Wat Pho. I've been there several times, most recently with Baron Wohlman, but I wanted to share the impressive Reclining Buddha with Thim. After viewing it, we dropped coins in buckets, I believe 108 of them, which seemed an appropriate ritual in which to participate. Thim was hungry and I took her to the S&P which she initially disliked. But I got us a table overlooking the river boat traffic and she found the food aroy. I'm sure we paid three times what the food she wanted to get from street stalls would have cost us. My efforts to impress her have not been too successful. I think she believes I am the one in need of education.

1 comment:

Bangkok Hotels said...

I think thai people's so lucky.I heard that " Sufficiency Economy Project" is started by King Rama 9.