When you arrive in Bangkok you cannot help but see the hundreds of mural portraits and shrines of the recently deceased King of Thailand, namely Bhumibol Adulyadej. His name is unpronounceable, but you can’t help being caught up in the respect, even worship, for him among the people. He was the longest reigning king in Thai history. The King was renowned for his behind the scene politicking which kept the Kingdom out of direct wars and allowed international money to flow to Thailand. His son, Prince Vajiralongkorn, age 68, will assume the throne formerly upon the final cremation of the King’s body scheduled for October; a giant crematorium pagoda is currently being erected near the palace.
We started our stay by booking an Airbnb efficiency apartment in a 37 story, pyramid shaped high rise. This place was gorgeous, with work out room and a zero edge pool on the seventh floor right next to our unit. We think we were the only westerners there, but in any event everyone was polite. There was a sign instructing owners not to rent apartments. We were a little concerned about that issue as we stood out, but we were friendly to the security lady and she would greet us: “how are my friends”. We brought her ice cream on hot afternoons.
Hot afternoons are the way of life here. At 2:00 pm., getting into the shade is a must. We started our explorations in the morning and then continued after 4:00 pm. We could easily walk through the neighborhoods and then spend time in China Town. Here, we did some shopping and ordered tailored clothing. We also really had fun with a “Bicycle Tour”. Our guide directed us through the narrow backstreets of the China Town residences, through the waterfront areas, and of course, through a slew of Buddhists Temples and schools. The historic “Customs House”, once the gateway to Thailand for levying taxes on traders arriving on the waterfront is now dilapidated, but apparently will be renovated as a luxury hotel.
Renovation and new construction is flourishing all over this gigantic city, which is divided by the Mae Nam Chao River, but conjoined by a frantic ferry system and some bridges. There is also a network of canals throughout the city, which in the past was the main highway. The front door of the famous “Jim Thompson” House was situated on a canal. We really enjoyed this compound of 5 houses owned by this American silk entrepreneur and art collector. He was born in Delaware and was stationed in Thailand during WW II. He settled in Bangkok after the war and built a worldwide business for his neighbor’s handmade silk. He has a splendid Asian art collection which we really enjoyed. Mysteriously, he disappeared in Malaysia in 1967.
There is still so much to see and experience in this city. We are waiting for the kids, Charlie and Gabbi, to arrive for a more widespread visit.
We moved to a boutique hotel and greeted our kids, they left Chicago after work on Friday and arrived early Sunday morning in Bangkok. We are now in the more northern riverfront district near the Grand Palace and What Pho. Our hotel was directly on the river, and more conveniently, the water ferry stop was at the next door pier-- We relax by the pool, eat breakfast on the riverside patio, walk the deck and step onto the ferry pier for the beginning of our royal excursions.
We hired Mr. Alex to guide us through a whirlwind 2 day schedule. This guy was very impressive. He had a military presence about him as he had been an officer, but was funny and very organized.
The river is very wide, mud brown color, and curls like a snake. The shoreline is peppered on both sides with high rise hotels, office buildings, but also some 4 story residences that harken back to a third world status. The modern structures display magnificent design and architecture, rivaling anything in the USA. Oh yeh, the “Hangover Two” hotel with the gold dome is also prominent, but it is more traditional—the new stuff, like the “Rubic Cube” tower blows your mind. There is the Skyline; the above ground-2 level-rapid transit, with modern trains, that connects the various areas of the city, and of course, traffic jammed expressways of cars, motos, and tuk-tuks. This is an incredible city—that like NY, may never sleep.
The ferry stopped at the docking entrance of the Palace. This was our first day of excursions with the kids. Mr. Alex took us to to The Royal Palace, the royal temple aka Wat Pho and the temple of the reclining Buddha; Canal tour, Temple of Dawn and the flower and vegetable market. The canal tour was a blast. The wooden canopied boat sped along these residential canal where the homes, somewhat dilapidated, stood on weathered wood posts, many in need of replacement. Large long lizards basked in the sun on the canal walls. We fed bread to schools of catfish that approached the boat. They were 2 feet long and would plop on top of each other in their feeding frenzy. The most fun was to see the wide eyed face of a young tourist boy who came upon the scene from another boat—he did not have bait.
Surprise with the flowers market; here is sold the packaged offerings for the thousands of Buddha stands and pagodas around the city. In other words, food, drinks, and flowers are set before the Buddha statues sitting in place atop religious tables, and then replaced every several days.
That evening we decided to visit the China town district of Bangkok for “Chinese” not Thai food. We used Uber to get to this glittering area reminding us of a poor man’sTimes Square. We used Trip Advisor to get to the highest ranked place. The food was good, not spectacular, the service great.
On day two the four of us and Mr. Alex saw the Old City, including the monk’s bowl community called Baan Bat. Here, brass and copper smiths make the “offering bowls” the monks use every morning. Monks survive by the food and supplies given by the public before noon. We also visited the Mahakan Fort, Golden Mount Temple, the Giant Swing, and strolled the vibrant “ Ratchadamneon Avenue of shops and restaurants.
Later, in New City of Bangkok we saw the high-rises up close. Visited shopping malls. Rode the Public bus system, the Skyline transit trains, the canal taxi and then the express boat to home.
We ate at the food court in the shopping center and bought some souvenirs. The kids tried the really hot and spicy stuff; us--not so much. We took the water taxi again, enjoying the congested river way. Tomorrow we were excited about traveling together to the Island of Phuket for beaches, sun and fun. See below a great photo galley that Gabbi put together for us.