Sunday, June 17, 2007

Happy Father's Day!

Happy Father's Day, Poppy!
I love you & miss you.

p.s. please quit smoking

Thursday, June 14, 2007

A day spent in Bangkok

I will try my best to finish what seems like the never-ending vacation full of stories today. It's really only the last day in Bangkok that I need to cover. We woke up the next day with the goal of discovering Bangkok. After finishing getting ready and checking out of our hotel, we headed out to see what was out there. Our first goal, was to find something to eat as soon as possible. There was a huge food court on the way to where we would be able to find some taxi's, so it was there that we ate. I ordered the one thing that I could find that I was pretty sure was in fact, vegetarian. I read it off the sign with my English accent and the man just laughed at me. After my dish was finished, I handed him my money, whereby he laughed again. He wouldn't take it! He kept directing me towards some sort of booth. I walked over there, hoping that I would see something that represented something along the lines of "pay for your food here" but to no luck. I stood, hopeless, lost, confused and then a man approached me and explained in very broken English that I need to buy a card and then bring the card back to the place I bought my food from. I walked around the corner and found the card buying place. I gave the woman the exact amount for my food and she gave me a card back, I ran it back over to the place and they took it. It was rather stressful, but so simple if the language barrier hadn't been there.

After finishing up brunch, we headed back out into the oven that is known as Thailand weather in May and began our walk. We ended up in a taxi and told him the area of where we wanted to head to, and we ended up at the Golden Mount.

I don't really know the purpose of this place, but you climb up a lot of stairs and into a building and up a few more stairs until you're outside and able to see a beautiful skyline of all of Bangkok. It was some sort of Buddhist holy place from what I could tell. True to it's name, there was a Golden Mount on the top, where many people were on their knees saying chants or prayers.

From there, we went for a walk to find the Giant Swing - it's name intrigued Brian greatly and we set out to find it. When we got there, it wasn't much more than two red poles shooting into the sky, topped off by what looks like typical Asian architecture for the roof. In front of the Giant Swing, across the street was a temple, we didn't enter it because it cost money and it was our last day, overly hot and people just weren't really into doing the whole tourist thing.

From there, we decided to try to find the water that goes through the city, we ended up walking through this amulet market that was just crazy. There were dozens upon dozens of amulet dealers just sitting on the sidewalk with all their amulets on display for those who were looking. I honestly couldn't tell the difference from one dealer's amulets to the guy sitting next to him, but it seemed the Thai people knew what they were looking for. This market went on and on and on for about 10-15 minutes of walking through it and people just looking from one blanket of amulets to the next. They were also related to Buddhism somehow or another, but I'm not exactly sure how. We finally got through this craziness and into some inside type of market until we reached the end. We did in fact, find water, but nothing exciting to do with it. So, after all that, we walked back out.

Our next destination was to the Royal Palace. From afar, the colors were so eye catching that I really wanted to go in. Brian, Haruka & I went in as Katie waited outside. Brian thought that it wasn't that different from the Royal Palace that we had seen in Phnom Penh, but I thought it was a lot different. A lot of the buildings were so much more colorful and not just painted. They were almost like 3-D murals - as each building had a small square of color on it. The many small squares of colors combined together to make a spot on the building that all appeared whatever color those small squares were. Inside this area was also another Golden Mount look alike, and many LARGE Buddha's that were also 3-D murals. The area had all sorts of holy places for Buddhism - all colorful in nature and very extensive handiwork. There was also an outer wall that had extensive painting - that goes all the way around the area. It was very impressive, my favorite part being the gold paint.

After that, we just walked around, got some lunch back on Khao San road and pretty much called it a trip from there. Katie believes it was because it was the end our trip, but not all of us were really overly impressed with Bangkok. I thought the sites that I saw were beautiful and impressive, but the city and the city people were not that great. It seemed everyone was trying to rip us off, from taxi drivers to tuk tuk riders to anyone on the street. It got annoying when we knew how much it cost from our hotel back to Khao San road and when people were telling us waaaaaaaaay more than it would cost. Then, when we expressed we're not stupid tourists and we know how much it costs, the taxi driver's would refuse to give us a ride. The traffic was terrible which in turn led to unbearable pollution. The pollution combined with the heat led to a pretty difficult breathing situation. This is definitely a city I would never want to live in. When the tourist road in the city was one of the best parts of the city, that's a bad situation. At this point in our trip, all of us were really sick with all sorts of digestive problems from the food. We don't know exactly when and where our stomach's lost the ability to digest food, but we were all pretty much dead from digestion. After eating some ice cream, we caught a taxi back to the hotel to grab our bags and went straight to the airport hours and hours in advance.

One thing I learned from this trip, mostly from Cambodia is that even the poorest people in the world are happy. I had a hard time accepting this and coming to this conclusion because we have ingrained into our minds from home that the Western way is the only way. The fact that a person that maybe does not possess materialistic things, have huge homes, new clothes, and the best cars can actually be truly happy, maybe even happier is a hard thing to grasp. Most of these people seemed generally happy with their living conditions. I think that if health care and education could be brought into the country, the standard of living could improve a little bit, but really there is no reason to change how these people are currently living if they are happy and healthy. I think that's a problem that a lot of people have with the PeaceCorp or other organizations that go into third world countries and try to westernize it. Just because they are living differently from us doesn't mean it is wrong. What should be focused on is health care and education. Of course, these are areas in our own country that there are huge problems.

I haven't given up on Thailand yet, I am planning a trip back there to see the country side and to head into Laos, but don't expect me to spend a lot of time in Bangkok! Anyone want to meet me there? I'm serious, right now I'm planning this trip alone (which would be lame) but hoping someone along the way will want to come!

To see ALL my pictures from Bangkok (42 in all), click HERE