Saturday, 8 July 2017

Bangkok day 3: A 4-hour walk, Wat Hua Lamphong and falling in love with Bangkok on Asalha Puja.

The moon must be full today on July 8, because Asalha Puja is celebrated on the day of the full moon in July.

THAT (the full moon) probably is also the reason why the Squamish Nation Pow Wow is taking place TODAY in North Vancouver.  

Being just a tiny bit more connected to nature wouldn't hurt Western Society one tiny bit ;-)

I get up at 3 am.


A quick internet check reveals that Wat Pho, the temple of the Reclining Buddha, opens at 8:30 am today.  Yesterday was not a satisfactory day for me.  Too much work; not enough play.  I need to explore at least a little today.


5:45 am

Time for a morning walk. And it's during this walk that I fall in love with Bangkok.  Because on my almost 1 hour walk I don't see a single tourist.  One of the reasons for this is that I don't walk towards Khaosan Road, but in the opposite direction.  


The original motive after noticing the sunrise behind buildings was to walk to a particular bridge so that I could see the sunrise over the length of a canal.  But that plan is foiled by clouds rapidly filling the sky.

So why didn't I want to walk towards Khaosan Road?


There is absolutely nothing special about Khaosan Road. You can find a backpacker's ghetto in pretty much any mid-size Asian town. I've walked through quite a few of them myself. And they all look and sound the same.  Presumably fun if you're in your 20s, but I honestly AND proudly can say that I'm too old for that ! 

In addition, they contain NO TRACE of the particular country you're actually in.  So that would qualify as the denizens as tourists with backpacks, and not as travelers, who in turn try to hang out in places where the country's culture and social structure is still intact.

After crossing the bridge in the above picture, I decide to follow the canal path below.  I see food vendors along that path already cooking up a storm at this hour.   And the canal is gorgeous !

 I see platters brimming with fresh Phad Thai, meat skewers gently and carefully being roasted over open flame, and carts with fresh vegetables and fruit.  Street Food Heaven !
 I refrain from taking pictures of the stalls.  Why?
 Imagine a bus load of Massai warriors arriving by bus in your driveway and then lining up to take pictures of you while you're making breakfast in your kitchen.   How would that make you feel?
 OMG, WHAT is THAT?




Oh, I SO HOPE that I will be allowed to walk up those ramps !
By retracing my steps on Google Maps when I'm back in the hotel I learn that I'm yearning to ascend Wat Sa Ket (also known as The Golden Mount by climbing its 300 steps.
 I already knew that I would find my way back to the canal and its food vendors.  
 I could not NOT buy any of that decadence for breakfast back at the guesthouse ;-).  When I arrive back in the food vendor stretch the scene has changed yet again.

I buy two pork skewers (or maybe it's chicken after all; it's SO TENDER I can't tell the difference, LOL) for 20 Baht and four mandarins for 35.  Maybe I got overcharged for the mandarins, but maybe not. There is the fact that I haven't seen mandarins on the guesthouse table since the evening of my arrival. 




After my second (or is it the third) 'breakfast' today during which I enjoy the freshly grilled skewered meat on a croissant, I am torn between visiting Wat Sa Ket or Wat Pho.   
Wat Sa Ket is much closer, so the Reclining Buddha will have to wait for another day, LOL.

WHAT is that?  The Canadian Lens pen that I bought in Ha Noi all that time ago broke down and instead of cleaning my camera lens now smears GOO all over it !  You GOT to be Kidding !   


8 am

I start feeling nauseous and fall decide to lay down

1 pm

Five friggin Hours of sleep?  Wow.  At least the nausea is gone !

I've found a Camera store in Chinatown on Goggle Maps. 30 minutes walk one way.  Time to get another lens pen to clean my camera lens.  (I'm back FOUR HOURS later and my feet are KILLING me.  Here's why :






I actually walk back 20 meters to take a picture of this beauty.  A Mercedes star and the 2nd half of the name Mercedes-Benz?  One hell of a sewing machine



All of a sudden I find myself in watch-band and watch-repair country. About 10 stalls right next to each other ....


There are also street stalls selling anything from remote-controllable vibrating eggs to more serious sex toys.  Police innocently peruse the offerings with big smiles.

Chinatown.  That's where I am !



video


After all that walking and sweating, I am not entirely surprised that the location of World Camera in Chinatown is in the process of being gutted or renovated.  OH SHIT.  I've walked all this way to buy lens-cleaning equipment and have to walk back empty-handed?  NO WAY !
Mylef Tfoot was here ;-)
I keep on walking because I think I remember in which direction there are MORE camera stores.  
Oh Look!  There is a Metro station. 


Right after I pass the Metro station, I realize that I am DRENCHED in sweat and that I have NO IDEA where exactly those other camera stores are.  What to do?
This is when I spot a cheap hostel (minimum stay 3 hours) with Wifi and a Cafe.  Let's buy some water and check the map on my cell phone for those camera stores.
The closest to me is yet another branch store of World Camera.  I'm drenched with sweat already and I don't really want to walk that far.  I don't even dare to think of the way back to the hotel.  But hey, I could take the Metro one stop and then it becomes bearable.  

Thought becomes action:

I master the ticket vending machine (actually, it vends casino-chip-like plastic tokens).  16 Baht for a 1 station journey ain't cheap but the same amount also would get me as far as 3 stations.
At the terminus station the new passengers have to wait for a quick clean-up of the train


This looks JUST LIKE an MTR train in Hong Kong !
Of course, there has to be another temple, RIGHT at the next Metro station.
And I notice something.  Today is one of the highest religious holidays in the Buddhist world.  Does everyone wear black and walk to the temples with a solemn face?   NO.  Granted, everyone is dressed nicely, but this whole affair has an atmosphere similar to that when the fair comes to town !


This will be a night market tonight.   Former King Bhumibol is looking on.  And at the very end of this street a man is showing people a menu with naked women. At least I assume that's what they are because I don't actually look at the menu.
King Bhumibol is everywhere
After some initial trouble finding World Camera, I locate it inside a flashy expensive shopping mall.  OK, not as flashy and expensive as malls in Hong Kong, but flashy and expensive for Thailand.

When I see the store, my hopes of finding what I'm looking for almost evaporate. It's TINY. 

But in their very limited selection of goods for sale, they actually have what I'm looking for.  During the last year, Yashica must have bought the rights to The Canadian Lens Pen.   The two products are IDENTICAL !



WOW, when I came through this street 45 minutes ago, ONLY the rubber pads serving as support for the metal structures and indicating the location of the stalls had been on the ground.  These guys work FAST !!!  EVERY BLOODY DAY Too !
When I look up again after taking this pictures, a guy grins at me and says:
Boom Boom?  Buy one get one free !  
LOL, in my present exhausted state 1 would be too much to handle ;-)






Yes, he is covered by tiny bits of gold-foil
I learn later from TripAdvisor, that this particular temple specializes in collecting donations for coffins for the poor, those who would otherwise not be able to afford one. 
There are about 20 of those and your supposed to ring every single one.
I watch people do it but refrain myself because I have no idea what it means



I would have liked to spend more time here, but since I don't really understand WHAT is happening, I decide that it's time to take the MRT one stop back to the end-station.
Now why does that terminus station sound so familiar?

I've discovered Bangkok Central Railway Station
None of that poisoning and hating of pigeons around here. People even go to lengths to feed them ...






New-Tire Street


Flea- or Antique-market Street




I briefly consider climbing the Golden Mount now, since I'm standing right in front of it, but I can barely feel my feet as it is.  Tomorrow !

So this is where the canal boats come from that stir up the sediments right below my balcony
I'm ALMOST home.  My feet are begging me to get them home faster.  What could be a worse moment for a lot of cops and a lot of guys in even more serious looking uniforms preventing pedestrians and cars to enter the main road that I have to cross?  At first there is NO traffic on the main road.  Then there are about 10-20 bright RED identical model Mercedes limousines speeding by.  Only to be followed by a yellow or beige Rolls Royce and then another 20-30 Police motor-bikes.  The serious uniforms salute at whoever is in the Rolls.  
Did the king just see the King?


FINALLY back in the guesthouse.   I down a bag of salty pretzels I bought along the way and a cup of noodle soups and can't wait to get my sore feet into the bed.


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