Monday, September 9, 2013

Bangkok, Thailand

We also went to Cambodia during this visit, that post is here
Welcome to this blogpost.

The Journey

Most flights to Bangkok depart too late after dinner and arrive too early for breakfast. The journey isn’t long enough to get any REM sleep nor is it short enough for a power nap. It is also not long enough to watch two movies nor short enough to watch one and not have time left to regret the permanent loss of those two hours. It’s too dark outside to look for interesting sights and inside you’re surrounded by families dressed up for the foreign vacation status they are about to acquire. You don’t even get too many miles out of the whole affair. The good part, as one would expect, is that Thailand seems to not be the sort of place that people want to take babies to.



The return journey is timed better, mostly due to the time difference. The airport is littered with the proverbial idiots, carrying around their boxes, trying to get the tax reimbursed at the airport aided by some weird tax agreement between Thailand and India. The conveyer belt at your destination will probably feel like a Croma store. At the Bangkok duty free, you might be innocently picking up chocolates and other goodies when your eyes turn to the liquor shelf. If the assistant tries to sell you something called The Mekhong Express, then politely decline and tell them that Harpic is much cheaper where you come from.

There might be references to Chinese/Korean/Japanese tourist groups (I'm not too sure of the nationality) in the rest of this post. Just in case you haven't come across any, there are two modes they function in -

Mode 1: If something picture-worthy presents itself then they will all take turns to pose while the rest click away. There are a lot of these folks, many more combinations, and multiply that by the number of poses, so you must wait to eternity to get a chance to look at what some artisans painstakingly carved hundreds of years ago, and you traveled thousands of kilometers to see, while it is being chosen for the honour of being a Facebook picture's background (or the Chinese equivalent). Don't bother looking for sights not being hogged by some other group, the system is in equilibrium and every sight is occupied to capacity by one group or another.

Mode 1. This is the default.

Mode 2: Where photography isn't allowed

Mode 2.
GIF source  9gag


Shopping

Bangkok is supposed to be a shopping hub. There are big stores and malls across the city. I bought a fridge magnet and some bottles of water and was extremely satisfied with my purchases.

I also undertook an excursion to the Chatuchak weekend market. It stretches over an area of more than 30 acres and is well worth the walk around on the first day to get a feel of what Bangkok is like outside of it as well. It’s very easy to get lost inside and hardly anyone speaks English so it’s a good idea to go while the sun is up so you know which direction east is. The only landmark is supposed to be a clock tower somewhere near the center of the market which I could not find.

An overwhelming majority of shops sold clothes although the thousands of minimally dressed locals and tourists thronging those lanes didn’t look like they wanted any in the near future. The demand for food and drinks easily outstripped the demand for clothing and had the next highest presence. A cold drink in Thailand is about three fourths ice and one fourth drink while the street food consists of various sorts of fried meat with seafood being the staple. If you tell someone you’re vegetarian they probably think you’re a weirdo of some sort although they’re too polite a people to look at you strangely or point at you and giggle with their friends. Thailand is also predominantly Buddhist. I find that combination strange.

For sake of completeness I also visited a mall, Centara Plaza, and wandered around Chinatown. The mall was huge and there were too many school girls in their school uniform roaming around at 8 in the night. If you must ask, I’m pretty confident that they were actual school girls. Chinatown was like any Indian market with its crowd and hawkers and peddlers and noises and smells.


In a towel, I actually prefer walking alone.

An anthropomorphic elephant
riding a three-headed one.
Intelligent Design: 1, Evolution 0

I can't decide if this is funnier worn towards the front or back.

Retired crash dummy.

All it was missing was a ventriloquist. Or the rest if its body.

Even within pigs, some are more equal than others.

You missed the bus, pal.

Gender crime is not that high there, I guess.

Thank you, I don't want any. My mother taught me to not
pick up things from the road and put them in my mouth.
The best of Dr. Frankenstein's failures feat. spices

Heritage

Most of the temples and the royal palace are situated around the river, as are some museums. A day pass for the boat service gets you easy access to all of these spots and you’re free to just loll around on the boat itself reading a book, if you’d so like. If you’re rich (and/or if you’re staying at The Hilton or some such) then you can probably get your own private boat. The tickets to the Grand Palace and The National Museum are a little steep but you’ve probably already spent a lot money and you might as well spend a little more instead of missing out on something. Both these spots are best visited early in the day as they can take a significant amount of time.

The National Museum is a fairly long walk around if one wishes to see all the displays. The exhibits include historical artifacts, art relics, ceremonial stuff, the story of Thailand’s past, a whole lot of Buddha statues, fancy and austere, the reason why elephants are held in such high revere, and other standard museum stuff. There are are too many galleries with artwork and sculpture and it could become boring after a while but on the whole this museum is well maintained and informative and is a pleasure to go through. Even more so because of the air conditioning and the sparse attendance, which is a welcome relief if you've been out in the sun the whole morning being jostled about.


What must have been a cock-fighting legend.

For the soldiers with really poor aim.

It looks grand but isn't the smoker basically inhaling the lion's farts?

And one day, someone will play fetch with you and the curse will be lifted.

A very small part of the royal funeral chariot.

If you have time for only one, then skip the museum and go see The Grand Palace. The palace is huge and intricately decorated and carved with gold, mirrors, mother-of-pearl and all sorts of other embellishments. I haven’t been to Las Vegas (yet?) but I bet The Grand Palace could offer it a run for its money when it comes to being shiny and glamorous. The Buddha temple inside the palace complex topped this with a richly decorated interior and a Buddha statue and pedestal to match. Again, for a Buddhist community and place of worship, this seemed highly unusual.

If you have sufficient time at the palace then avoid taking the audio tour. It is informative but is also expensive and constraints you to getting through the whole palace complex in two hours when it really deserves at least three. A good amount of time can be spent trying to understand which part of Ramayana adorns the wall, without much success necessarily, or scowling at all the Chinese/Korean/Japanese tourist groups hogging the sights and building their profile picture database, or looking at the details of the mini Angkor Wat and comparing it to the actual one. Buy a book in advance if you're genuinely interested in knowing about the history and the story behind the complex.

You can also visit the museums inside the palace complex where they have everything from spoons to spittoons, and all of it was insignia in some way or the other. The items on display also include medals, currency, gifts from other nations. and even a video of some ceremony during which the royal baby is basically put to sleep but with a whole lot of holy water being sprinkled about and chanting. Take care to avoid getting trampled under the feet of the Chinese/Korean/Japanese tourist groups who will be whooshing by you as taking photographs isn't allowed inside the museum.

The palace and the temples are fairly strict on the dress code so you'll see plenty of skin at the gate with annoyed folks inside of it. There is a booth to the side where you can borrow appropriate clothing but you're better off just dressing up in normal jeans and a t-shirt.

Water pistol precursor?

Two heads are better than one,
any giant royal guard will tell you that.








Elton John undercover


All the guards were told to act fierce
but this one couldn't hid his boredom.


You can fistbump the guards on your way out

The Forensic Museum

The Forensic Museum and the Anatomy Museum are housed in a hospital and are not something I expect to see anywhere else in the world. This is not for the queasy or those with a faint heart nor are the pictures below.

Most of the information is in Thai, which is a bit of buzzkill, but the displays include real bodies and body parts with various types of injuries or diseases, foetuses in different stages of development and some pregnancy related items, a section on how the hospital helped in the aftermath of the tsunami, and another section on bugs and parasites and the diseases they causes. I was told photography isn't allowed only after I'd taken a few so here they are -

"Tharacopagus conjoined twins"

"Dicephalus dibrachius dipus"

Being a museum display after
death is, no doubt, purgatory.

"Alcoholic cirrhosis of liver."

"Scrotum of a patient with Elephantiasis"
Yes, scrotum.

"What's up, dude?"
"Nothing man, just hanging with my bro."


Bangkok, Miscellaneous

Bangkok, and I expect Thailand in general, is a lot like India in many ways, and then in many ways it isn't. Tuktuks, motorbike-taxis, hawkers, etc. will try to fleece you but are polite. Car-taxis are metered but they adhere to it if you ask them to, and without a fuss. They drive to the left as well and the roads are jammed, but people maintain lanes and public transport seems robust. The wages are low enough that the tip will make a big difference to them but they won't blatantly ask for one. The police are actually helpful (apparently because tourists, a big source of income, shouldn't go back and give bad reviews) and skirts abound, without a care for size or age but English is a problem and there are plenty of tourist targeted scams on the road. There are plenty of cheap hotels that can be booked online and even the airfare is comparable to visiting another Indian city. If you're okay getting around an Indian city then with a little preparation, a budget backpacker trip should be manageable.

Economics and statistics programmes offered

Bangkok is fast becoming a popular honeymoon destination

The shrewdest architect, considering he got away with a five
year old's Lego elephant as the design for a building

I was going to caption this, "The richest
man with all his THBee'.
But then I realised they were locusts or
something and he was cooking them.

The transfer window was still open back then. Can you tell?

The monk who sold his Ferrari and bought an
Isuzu and hired a chauffeur instead

The most popular excuse amongst chronic late comers.

"Pizza offers are universal" - Lohit Vankina

Shame shame, Sue.

The shirt says "New Zealand All Blacks"
The pyjamas say "Not"

Inside the Metro

Wolverine slap victim.

"Hey Vidic!"
"Huh! WTH Pepsi, you scared me!"

2 comments:

  1. You captured everything Spot On!
    And I thought I had seen every possible gold painted temple, neon colored satin boxer and insect delicacy. Missed a lot, it would seem. :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hahaa, well done, Das. Your post takes a refreshingly funny view of the psuedo-Buddhist city that Bangkok is :D

    ReplyDelete