Monday 10th December 2001, Bangkok Thailand.
Well, here we are. It is the last day of our world trip … and therefore the last entry for this diary.
Having done the beaches of Phuket, Bangkok’s markets, and seen the Kwai bridge, Brigid felt that we should make an effort to see the sights with which Thailand is most readily associated – the great Buddhist temples. Of course, we have already seen lots of temples.
You can hardly miss them, with their brightly glazed tile roofs, and golden ornaments. But Bangkok’s temples are special. We couldn’t see them all, but we planned a circuit that would take in the Royal Palace, the Emerald Buddha, and Wat Po (home to the gigantic ‘Reclining Buddha’).
(To get an idea of the scale of the Reclining Buddha, look at the tiny figure silhouetted in the doorway at the far end of the temple.)
Brigid also wanted to visit ‘Old Siam’ (a shopping mall with a difference), and Sampong Lane in Chinatown.
We were completely awestruck by the Royal Palace and its temple. We posed for photos beneath the great enamelled guardian statues. In the open courtyard we listened to the gentle tinkling sound of the wind chimes that adorn the eves of the temple roof. Then we removed our shoes to gaze at the statue of the Emerald Buddha high up on his throne. The Buddha has three outfits of clothes for the ‘dry’, ‘rainy’, and ‘cold’ seasons, which the King changes personally as befits the season. Being the ‘cold’ season, the Buddha was wearing a golden cloak.
Today is the second anniversary of John’s father’s death, so before leaving the temple, we each made a little offering to the Buddha for Mick and for ‘absent friends’.
Wat Po was a little different in that it was undergoing renovation works and photography was allowed inside the temple, which is highly unusual. The Reclining Buddha is so vast, that one can only actually see all of him from one corner of the temple.
We ate lunch in a steakhouse in Old Siam. The restaurant clearly had an extensive menu, but only the grilled steaks were given an English translation. Neither of us wanted a heavy meal, so Brigid ordered Pad Thai (fried noodles with shrimps and bean sprouts), a standard Thai dish, but John wanted stir fried beef with peppers or oyster sauce with plain rice. None of the waitresses understood a word of English, so John sulked over his beer – it was, after all, 3.30pm and we had had nothing since breakfast – and decided not to eat at all. Suddenly Brigid remembered that the Lonely Planet guidebook includes a short glossary of food – together with its Thai translation. Eureka! There on page 146 was ‘Beef with Oyster Sauce’. We beckoned the waitress over, and pointed at the Thai script. She beamed, and disappeared into the kitchen with John’s order.
The dish, when it arrived, was quite the best Beef in Oyster Sauce that we have tasted anywhere in Thailand (though perhaps a little spicier than most).
Sampong Lane went on and on. We moved slowly through the milling crowds in this narrow street, where the stalls’ canopies completely blot out the sun for most of its length. The market sells everything, but is heaven for collectors of fridge magnets, hair ornaments, and junk jewellery.
We caught a ‘tuc tuc’ to take us to the Skytrain. However, the driver had other ideas. “I take you to a shop. You no have to buy. You just say ‘very nice’ while I buy petrol.” Yeah, yeah, OK. We had heard that ‘tuc tuc’ drivers have a reputation for doing this sort of thing. Basically they get a fee for ‘introducing’ customers, and a commission on anything they spend in the shop. John and I weren’t in the market, but we made all the right noises until we felt it was safe to leave. Eventually we caught the Skytrain to Sukumvit for dinner.
We had an excellent curry at the Maharajas Restaurant but, by the time we arrived at the airport, Brigid was complaining of an upset stomach …
What a way to end the trip!