11 August 2006

Bangkok - Grand Palace

At 3am, as I stumbled toward the bathroom, I saw the front-page headline of the Bangkok Post tucked under my door…”World Airline Chaos.” NOT a headline I wanted to see… I decided to just go back to bed and deal with it in the morning.

Apparently, a number of bombs were discovered destined for transatlantic flights to the US from London. The plan was to assemble and detonate them midair. It was thwarted but airline security has gone to 9/11 days and lots of flights (mostly out of Heathrow) have been canceled. We’ll have to gauge the situation when we get to the office…

We went to the office, checked mail and worked with the students for the morning then went to lunch with everyone plus Karen Oerter. We went to a restaurant in a huge mall near Chatuchak Park.

It was an interesting sort of restaurant. When you enter, you’re give a card with a barcode on it that is ‘charged’ with 1,000 Baht ($25 or so).There are all kinds of food stations, mostly organized by nationality…Vietnamese, Chinese, Thai, Italian, etc. When you see something you want, you tell them and give them the card. They read your card and debit the amount of whatever you’ve selected. You go station to station until you have all you want then take the food to your table. When you leave, you hand them the card and pay for what you’ve debited along the way. Quite an experience… Jeab says her kids love it and she’s there almost every weekend.

After lunch, some stayed to shop at the mall, Ashraf and Sajid headed off to the airport and the rest of us went back to the office. Dave and I finalized shipping our PCs back to the states since we’d heard that laptops wouldn’t be allowed as carryon. We said our goodbyes to the office people then went to the hotel to drop stuff off and headed out to see the Grand Palace.

The last time we tried this, we took the subway to Sukhumvit station, then got on the sky train and changed trains to one that took us right to the river. This time, we decided to take the subway all the way to the end of the line, then walk the few blocks to the river. We thought it might be quicker because we’d start the river journey part further upstream and wouldn’t have to make the 2 changes from sub to train and train to train. I don’t know if it actually worked that way but we got to walk through some interesting streets of Bangkok so it was a win as far as we were concerned.

We found the Marine Department Pier and got a river taxi upstream to the palace. It was 3:15 and they stop letting people in at 3:30 but you can stay and wander the Grand Palace grounds after that.

We saw the Emerald Buddha (made of jade) and some of the grand halls. Mostly we just walked the grounds.

After that, we went looking for the amulet market that Dave had read about…across from the Wat Maharat. I hit an ATM for 2,000 Baht since I was down to almost none and Dave had to buy my 250 Baht admission to the palace. I returned the favor by paying for a batch of amulets from one of the vendors. He got matching “luck” amulets for his team. I got several for various people. 30 Baht each. At another vendor I got some more for 20 Baht each.

By the time we got done with that, it was approaching dusk and we decided to head to the Siam shopping district to look for the government sponsored shops that support the hill tribes and rural people. We got a river taxi to the Central Pier then took the sky train to Siam station. It was near quitting time so the river taxi was packed with people (right), including monks who have a special place reserved for them on the boat (left). We walked around quite a while in the chaos trying to get our bearings with the map. Eventually it got full dark and we finally found the place. I bought some temple bells and incense (690 Baht) and a set of cotton placemats and napkins for my dining room (285 Bahts).

The shops closed at 8 and kicked us out so we got back on the train a stop or 2 from where we got off and headed back to the hotel.

I called and made a massage appointment through the health club…figuring I could really use it before the long, long plane ride home. I opted for the “traditional Thai massage” which is a lot of deep pressure-point work and static stretches. Then I packed up and went to bed at 11pm, setting both alarms for 2:45am with a 3:00 wake up call from the front desk.