Bangkok is huge. 10 million people live here though only about 6 million are “official”. It is a metropolis of pagodas, temples, new buildings, a ton of cars (nothing to envy my beloved Los Angeles), tuk tuks, brand new cars, a wave of pink and green and yellow and orange cabs and –needless to say- people shoulder to shoulder in the street that manage to follow their own path and not be swallowed by the swell of people going another way.
We are headed to Ayutthaya, a couple of hours away from Bangkok.
It was the capital of Thailand for 417 years, and is now registered as a UNESCO world heritage site. I take advantage to write a blog that I very possibly won’t be able to post for a few days. At least it will be ready to go.
We will walk the last part of the trip and I am really glad to do so. Ever seen a leaning stupa? The soil is soft to begin with, but the floods have made it even more uneven and this one is going sideways, indicating perhaps that too many years have past and a time to rest has come.
I pass scenes of daily life that mean nothing to those who live it while I feel blessed to be able to witness.
A headless Buddha intrigues me. In the old days it was customary to –when making a Buddha statue- to put valuables in the Buddha’s head. As a result, when this country was invaded Buddha statues were decapitated to find what they held. Later, looters finished off what the invaders did not find. It is during this walk that I start to see “The Land of Smiles”.
We arrive to Ayutthaya. Everything guides you to look up. There are a few stupas on the side that hold ashes of past kings. A gold offering plate contrasts with the redness of the rocks.
Otto told us that Americans have a penchant to check bathroom facilities everywhere they go. He may be right. Bathroom break. We have to pass through a market to get there.
Disco balls anyone?
The bathroom itself is worth it just for its signs. We pay 5 Bahts to get in (roughly .15 cents in US money).
The sign that indicates the female toilet just makes me want to break out in song… “I am woman. I am strong!”
We head to the temple. It is at this Buddha’s feet that I decide to follow tradition and pick up a bamboo cylinder with wood straws with numbers on it. You shake it until only one of them falls out. On my first try number 9 comes out. Then you make an offering and you are handed a paper that corresponds to it. For those curious, mine said in Thai and in English: “Going South or West will bring you good luck. Love affairs will not yet meet up to your expectations. Health problems are lessen. Donation is beneficial to you in the long run.” I quiet my inquiring mind that wants specifics and would have preferred it to read something like: “You will continue to travel and be inspired for the rest of your life. You are where you need to be. Getting old won’t come with aches and pains. Donation will bring you much wealth.” Not touching the love section 🙂
We make another stop at a place where we can feed and ride elephants. I am doing a mahout course (elephant owner/trainer) in a Chang Mai elephant camp that rescues them. (Mahout) I don’t think I want to do this 10-minute ride, but do so anyway. I feel sorry when he raises his trunk and its mahout asks me to put a dollar in it.
Next stop is Rich Restaurant with two honorable mentions. One is and ice cold Singha beer. And the other a dessert that consists of combining a whole lot of things (I won’t even attempt to know what they are), adding ice cubes, a sauce that has evaporated milk in it, mixing it all together and getting something that looks complete unappetizing but that tastes delicious! I have two servings. Our guide says it’s called friends dessert ‘cause so many different ingredients are joined to create something fabulous. I agree.
With full bellies and a happy countenance, perhaps due to the beer, we head to the river.
We board a long boat. (Actual nomination; not a description.)Life along the river is hard.
Some live on it. Some don’t have it that hard. Some worship along it.
Catholic Church on Riverbank
Some observe from it. I am relaxed and marveled by it all. The hour ride seems like minutes.
A two hour bus drive to the hotel and we are on our own. But, of course, I have built up an appetite and Otto has talked about a restaurant called Cabbages & Condoms. The restaurant has really great food, some organic, most healthy, in a really cute, laid back (yes, pun intended) environment. “Statutes” made of condoms dot the entrance.
Tiger figure. Read the sign. 🙂
Lamps are condom covered. It was established in part to support the activities of the Population and Community Development Association and promote the health and safety aspects of condom use in a fun and amusing manner. All proceeds from the restaurants are used to fund this organization.
A quick tuk tuk ride back and we are done for the day.
Tomorrow, Laos awaits!