Monday, January 19, 2009

Tourist Wagon

Day 313
I got myself up early and grabbed breakfast from a street stand. It was muesli, yoghurt and fruit. I loved it. On the way there I passed a shrine that had some food on it and some really gross rats munching on it. It had drawn quite a crowd, you would have thought that no one had seen rats before.

For today I really wanted to get out of backpacker land and see the city. There are loads of wats in Bangkok and I had planned on visiting a lot of them, but decided to just visit one instead. I didn't want to get watted out after all. I picked the most famous and beautiful, Wat Phra Kaew. Luckily this was quite close to where I was staying and I was able to walk there. Wat Phra Kaew is also known as the Emerald Buddha Temple. The temple was so shinny that it was hard to look and I had forgotten my sunglasses. From what I could tell it was stunning.

The Emerald Buddha has an interesting story. The buddha (actually made of jade), was first recorded in 1432. It has been covered in plaster to protect it from Burmese invaders and everyone thought that it was just a simple statue. It was wasn't until a bit was accidentally chipped off and the green shone through that people realized what it was. The monk that discovered it thought that it was emerald and that's how it got its name. The buddha was quite small and set very high up and far from where I was allowed to stand. Pictures were not allowed. I felt that the buddha was the least impressive bit of the temple.

Right next door was the palace, entry was prohibited, so I simply took a few pictures and headed out.

I wanted to get away from the tourist area before grabbing a tuk-tuk and wandered for some time. When I wanted one I couldn't find one so I just walked and walk. It took over an hour but I eventually got to Jim Thompson's house. Jim Thompson was an American who was stationed in Thailand during WWII. After the war he decided to stay. Thompson rediscovered the dying Thai silk trade and pretty much single handedly revived it. His company still exports silk all over the world.

Right across the river from his factory he had 6 traditional teak houses from around Thailand brought together to form one house. He decorated it with Thai, Chinese and Burmese antiques. Sadly Thompson was only able to enjoy his dream house for 9 years. In 1959 he went hiking in Malaysia's Cameroon Highlands and was never seen again. His house was eventually turned over to the Thai people and preserved as a museum. It was really beautiful.

Not too far away was the massive Siam Center, a mall. I didn't want to go shopping, but I did want to see a movie in a VIP theater. It was really wonderful. The seat reclined almost to a lying position and there was a pillow and a blanket. It was a very comfortable way to end the day.

When the movie was over I decided to walk the hour or so back to my hotel. When I got there I really needed a shower and was pleased to see that there was hot water! I hadn't expected it. After some street pad thai I spent the evening reading before falling asleep.

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