First, Thaniya Mall, alleged golf mecca, was a bust. So depressing! True, Geoff found a pair of Mizuno shoes almost immediately and managed to buy one pair of colourful shorts, and we both bought balls and gloves. But seriously, the selection of gear for women was an embarrassment. Clearly, the manufacturers are locals who have never heard of a 5% lycra/cotton blend. The whole clothing experience was too traumatic to go into. I did manage to buy a shirt but only did so because I was forced to buy the only pair of blue-trimmed golf shoes big enough for my gigantic non-Asian feet–a whopping size 8.5 or 39. Just say “39” to see clerks blanch. They won’t meet your eye after that, I’m sure because they are afraid of calling attention to your deformity. The good news is that they are Adidas, which I like, but the baby blue stripes, blah.
Dinner last night was on the walk back from the mall at the Bee restaurant, dubbed “the Best Pavement Restaurant in Bangkok.” Of course, they were doing the dubbing but the food was excellent and the beer cold. Total, with 1 large and 1 small beer, $20.
Tonight we went to a more upscale place called Tongue Thai. Added scallops with green peppercorn and fried basil leaves to our faves, pad thai and green curry. Fabulous! Only one beer tonight and a water: with rice $30. You can eat really well here for not much at all. Had a hot lunch today with beer for about $8 for two, with rice.
On the walk home, we were stopped at an intersection, then noticed that the military had all routes closed off, except for one lane. They were keeping us on the sidewalk but in a friendly but firm way, and in short order, a motorcade passed through, preceded and followed by police. We soon realized it was the French Prime Minister, in town for a conference with the king of Thailand.
So what did we do today? The plan was for some major site-seeing and we did manage to take in a lot. From our hotel, it is a short walk to the river where we got on a commuter “bus” ferry. They waste no time at stops so you have to be ready to get off or on quickly. I took a picture of the young guy (orange shirt) who was in charge of throwing the rope around a mooring on each dock, which forced the boat to pull to. Then, everyone piled off and new passengers jumped aboard. Almost immediately, this lad began tooting on a whistle to signal the driver that he was ready to go. Every time the whistle blew when he was still on the dock and he only just managed to jump aboard. Notice in the pictures the safety shoes that allow him so much dexterity.
Our first destination was Arun Wat, an ancient temple which my son, Joe told us was well worth the visit. It turns out, however, that Sunday is a day of religious observance for the Buddhist Thais and that all temples are open only to Thai citizens in the morning, a discovery that we made only after taking the ferry but to the required stop and having an encounter with a Tuk-Tuk driver. Having read about this scam on TripAdvisor, I knew what was going to come. “You can’t get into the temple now but this driver can take you to several other places for only 40 baht and keep you busy till 1:00pm when the temple opens.” No thanks, we said, we want to walk. Outside the gates of The Grand Palace where we thought we would start our day, we asked a guard if we were at the right entrance. No, he said, and then told us that the palace wasn’t open until 1:00pm either but that a Tuk-Tuk could take us to other great places. What they heck, we thought, let’s go!
First stop, The Lucky Temple! This one was open apparently because no one worships there, or goes there for any purpose. There was one fellow inside on guard, I suppose, who immediately began with the jive talk about how we were lucky to have been brought there as not many people know about it. Right. (Ed. note: Terry is becoming quite the cynic. Although, he did tell us that it was establish 250 years ago – oldest temple in Bangkok. However, when I read the info on it, it was established in 1836 – perhaps Math isn’t his forte?) From there, we were to be going to the temple of White Marble Buddha, or something like that, but first we had to make a stop a store selling sapphire jewelry. We were in and out in two minutes. However, we soon learned about reality. The tuktuk driver stopped after a couple on minutes and I thought “oh oh”. He asked if we could do him a favor and get some coupons for gas. “What?”, I thought. He explained a little more, saying that if we stay in the shop for 5, 10 15 minutes the owners give him coupons for gas. Ah – a tiny scam. Okay – so the first had been a bust since we didn’t stay. The second place was a tailor and the third another jewelry place, which was actually very cool. At the tailor’s they had some great cloths so we had three pairs of golf shorts and 2 short sleeve shirts made for $200 – a little more than the Shanghai fabric market but I think the cloth is better and they will deliver to the hotel this afternoon. If they are as good as we hope, we can call and they will send a car to bring us back to buy more! Thailand has loads of different gemstones and before the showroom, the “factory” was in full operation so that we could watch workers polish stones and create settings. We got the driver coupons at both of the last two stops! We never did see the white marble Buddha.
Finally, we were driven back to the Grand Palace. Crazy, extravagant, over-the-top, wild everything Thai, so many buildings and temples with gilt roofs, mosaic decorations and statuary everywhere. We were truly gob-smacked. Have a look at the pictures to get a sense of it–it really was amazing. Went inside the Temple of The Emerald Buddha but sadly, could not take pictures. Again, the gold, decorations and sheer scale of the place was jaw-dropping. The Buddha himself was relatively small but not for an emerald–maybe 3′ tall–and sat at the top of a pyramid with assorted gold-covered figures, dripping with meaning mostly unintelligible to us. (Ed. note: Absolutely none of the 100+ pictures Terry took give any kind of true picture of this place – and it wasn’t her fault. I have include 4 which may give a hint to its opulence.)
Next stop, Arun Wat. An ancient temple, this time, and also amazing. The feat is to climb it, which is hard work. The stairs are 8′ wide but 16′ high so each step requires a major knee lift. Fortunately, hand rails with tightly-woven rope covering helps to maintain a grip as you pull yourself up. As you climb, you realize both how truly steep the stairs are and how scary it is going to be going down!
At the top the reward is the great views of the river and the city. It is a living temple and the monks keep the place clean and beautiful. The cost to enter is minimal but there are donation boxes here and there with a stated purpose for each one. Having come from China, I was more than happy to donate to the fund to maintain the pristine bathrooms!
Arun Wat borders right on the river and so it was easy to locate and rent a longboat for a canal tour. Fans of Amazing Race will recognize these boats from one episode. We bargained to have an hour tour and be dropped off at the dock closest to our hotel. What a great finish to our afternoon! Much like walking the alleys or hutongs of Shanghai, the boat rides on the kongs or canals afford a glimpse into life behind the face of the city, a picture of how many of the people live. It put us in mind of the bayous in the American south and had the feel of every movie set south of Tennessee. Think “Midnight In the Garden of Evil.” Not nearly as mysterious but rough, by our standards, but the Thai people are still the happiest we have ever encountered. Incredibly polite and respectful, too. At one point, our driver stopped to let a small boat paddle up with a woman selling souvenirs. How can you not buy something? A Buddha and 3 cold beers, one for us and for the driver, and we were on our way. (Ed. note: Tomorrow I will be posting a video of our long boat trip through the canal – watch for it!)
After dinner, we strolled to a local department store to find wine and a few things for the room. Very nice grocery with a great selection of western foods, much more than we see in China, and integrated into the shelves, not separated in an “International Food Section.” New Zealand milk producers have another big market here. We were both so pooped that we were sound asleep by nine. Our first day of golf in 6 months in the morning and we are both a little anxious to know if we can still swing a club. Should be fun!