Saturday, February 8, 2014

A Trip to Thailand (Part 2)

Kristen says...

Happy Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics!!

Chris and I had a really interesting experience today--we went to a friend's house to watch the Opening Ceremonies but due to a technical glitch ended up watching not the NBC "American" version, but the local Russian version...which of course showed the same thing, but with all commentary in Russian...

Luckily, Chris had DVRed the NBC version, so this afternoon I re-watched the entire thing with Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira...and was glad I did, because I got a lot more out of it actually understanding the history and reasoning behind the symbolism (instead of guessing, which is what we did this morning). :)
But you wanted to know about the last part of our Trip to Thailand...

If you remember, we spent our first day in Thailand visiting the Reclining Buddha and the Monastery of Wat Pho, as well as the Grand Palace and the Wat Arun.

Something I failed to fully discuss were my thoughts on the Grand was really, really huge, and gorgeous, and really, really Thai. However, and this is not at all a bad thing, it did not meet my expectations of what a Grand Palace should be.

To me, a Grand Palace is Versailles, or Schönbrunn Palace, or I suppose even Monticello, in a way...what I expected was a house that you could go through and see how the monarchs lived, see some of their clothing or dinnerware or something personal...

What the Grand Palace in Bangkok was, was Buddhist temples.

European palaces (and American estates) are all about the people who lived there. The Grand Palace in Bangkok was all about Buddha.

Which, in a way, makes total sense, since most of the people there (94.6 %!) are Buddhist, but in a way makes no sense at all since the monarchy is still alive and well and totally it surprised me that there was no place where the common people (and visitors) could go and see how the monarchy lives (I mean, you can tour Buckingham and Kensington Palaces in London!)

Anyway, not a bad thing, just not what I expected.

So, at the end of our first day we were pretty tired and a little footsore (the first day in sandals always gives me blisters between my toes), so we went out for a quick dinner at a German restaurant (AMAZING, I had the cheese spätzle, yum!) and then went to bed.

Day 2 was pretty boring, we had to work. Ho hum.

Dinner that night was much less boring, we went out to a burger place and Chris fully enjoyed this:
Huge burger, fries, good times
and I fully enjoyed this:
Thai Tea--very similar to Hong Kong tea, except that it's served cold rather than hot, and uses sweetened condensed milk rather than evaporated milk. Not too bad at all.
 Next we went to a neat restaurant with an outdoor terrace on the top of a downtown building for drinks and an amazing view:

On our way back to our friend's house we saw some other fun Bangkok nightlife, including a number of mobile bars:
 Oh, and protesters:
Yep, I'm not sure if you've been following the news in Thailand, but there have been large protests in Bangkok over the past weeks, and we arrived within a week or so of their beginning.

I've never spent a lot of time around protesters or protests, but I have seen footage on the news and I have to say these seemed like very peaceful and controlled protests to me. I asked the taxi driver who took me to the airport about the protesters and he reminded me that Thailand is a Buddhist country, and the teachings of Buddha promote peace...thus the low-key protests.

Our third and final day started early again, this time with a trip to the amazingly huge Chatuchak (JJ) Weekend market:
Needless to say, the market was also amazingly overwhelming, but we didn't get lost and we didn't get ripped off (as far as we could tell) so it ended up pretty well! :)
Walking around the market. Photo by Tim Kase, used with permission (Thank you!!)
 I have been to a few markets around the world (most notably the night market in Hong Kong and the big market in Guatemala) and this was by far my favorite market experience. As opposed to Hong Kong, this one had a much greater variety and was full of things I actually wanted, and opposed to Guatemala, the sellers were SO nice! Instead of high pressure sales/following you around trying to sell you things, they just said hello and smiled at you. Lovely.
More market offerings. Photo by Tim Kase, used with permission (Thank you!!)
One of the funniest things about this market was this amazing sign:
 Yes, squat toilets can be found in Thailand, too, but often they are interspersed with "regular" toilets, too...and this sign showed how to use the regular toilets for those who needed to know. Thailand definitely wins the prize for best signage!

After about two hours at the market we were tired and hungry, so we headed back to our friend's apartment and got some food, then spent a few hours by the pool. Then I took a little nap because my plane back to Vlad was going to leave at 1:00 AM (ridiculous time for a flight) and I was tired! :)

Before the sun went down on our last day, though, we took advantage of the fact that our friend lives in a really, really tall building...with a helipad on top.
 So, we went up to the top of the world!

 We went up first via elevator, and then had to walk up some fire stairs.

Notice anything interesting? Level AA takes the place of floor 13, because floor 13 doesn't's a superstition thing. :)
Anyway, here's the view from the helipad:
Beautiful Bangkok
On Top of the World. Photo by Tim Kase, used with permission (Thank you!!)
Chris :)
The photographer. Photo by Tim Kase, used with permission (Thank you!!)
 After our trip to the top, Chris and I ran one more Thailand errand:
Chris had a fitting for his new suit and blazer!
Yes, like so many before him (Obama and both George Bushes included) Chris visited a tailor in Bangkok to take advantage of the low prices and excellent craftsmanship to get a custom-made suit. Snazzy. :)

After that, it was a waiting game until 10:30 when the taxi came to take me to the airport for my 1:00 AM flight (again, that is a ridiculous time for a flight!) Notice I am talking about just myself, Chris actually stayed in Thailand for another week for training, so I came back by myself.

It was a smooth flight, and due to the early hour I actually managed to sleep for about 5 of the 5.5 hrs of the first flight, hoorah! In fact, I slept so long that I had this cute little note on the seat in front of me when I woke up just in time for the descent:
After a short two-hour layover in Seoul (where I allowed myself to enjoy a delicious frozen treat unavailable to me in Vladivostok)...yummy!!!!
 It was back on the plane for the 2.5 hr flight to Russia!

Something interesting that those who haven't traveled internationally lately (or at least haven't traveled in Southeast Asia lately) and who understand World Geography might be wondering is, why does it take 2.5 hours to fly from Seoul, South Korea to Vladivostok, Russia, two cities located just under 500 miles apart (think Omaha, NE, to Chicago, IL)?
 Check out that flight path!
 That is why. International airspace issues are really, really interesting!

So, long flights aside, I made it back to Vlad no problems. I had planned to take the airport train back home, but found it wasn't running for another two hours after I arrived, so I took a bus instead.
Good times. There was a movie and everything! :)

And, so, even though it was almost 70 degrees colder in Vladivostok than it was in Bangkok, there were some definite advantages to coming back...first of all, of course, was the adorable puppy waiting to welcome me home, and the second was this, the city welcoming me back:
I never get tired of this view. Beautiful!


1 comment:

  1. Thailand is awesome dude...I went to Thailand last year specially for exploring the cuture, thai food, spa and the gorgeous temples.I was there for 5 days and had stayed in Chiang mai for 2 days.
    Actually I am big foodie and shopaholic person ,so could not stopped myself to eat yummy food and do lot's of shopping.
    Thailand is known as land of smiles where visitors are treated as guests.Awesome place for your vacations.


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