Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Big Mango

Bangkok from the Chao Phrana River

We arrived in Bangkok to a cool day of 90F with the wind at our backs from the Chao Phrana River, which meanders thru the middle of the town. Records date this city back to the 15th century and it was the center of Siam's (the original name of the country of Thailand) modernization in the late 19th century.
It’s a really big city

We are located at the Bossotel, ( located in the area of Silom. It’s a great position; Wat right across the street, 3 blocks to the metro-skytrain/BTS and the main ferry station. Our first outing attempting to find the river, took us on a wrong turn (imagine that!) and straight into the most wonderful food court-market. While there we met a lovely gentleman who was a boat inspector for the government; he made sure the ferries are safe. He spoke pretty good English, I understood his name to be “Joe” and he helped us navigate the food court for our first time, getting a great soup and avoiding the chicken feet.

Lots of really good food, cheap.
On his recommendation, we took the evening ferry ride up the Chao Phrana River, past Chinatown, past several large Wats, past the Imperial Palace and of course, past several really big shopping malls. Some have referred to Bangkok the Venice of the East. It is crisscrossed with canals or khlongs and much of the public transportation relies on these khlongs. The river was alive with watercraft of all shapes and sizes.
Rolling down the river.
Our first official whole day out, we grabbed the ferry to Memorial Bridge, to witness the giant flower market located there. I must say, these folks really know how to “flower”. Row upon row of blooms and greengage to make whatever kind of floral display you could envision. Even though we arrived late in the day (9am), it was quite impressive.
Flower Arrangements
Markets are like living things here, they just continue growing and changing as one strolls thru. Within a short distance, we were in the middle of India. Yep, there were Hindu temples, men in turbans and really different food. We spied a very small food alley attached to a small neighborhood. Alleys are the best. First, they are local-the real deal. Secondly, they are shady because that is where all the locals hang-keeping in mind, it’s a lovely 90 degrees here.
Harvey smells food.
India town gave way to Chinatown, decorated with large, red hanging lanterns. The market morphed into a mecca of sewing supplies. Every kind of fabric, thread, button, feather one could imagine or never could conceive. Feathered wings in several sizes and colors!

Come and get your wings!
In spite of all the exotic sights and sounds of the market, the most incredible experience that day was going to see The Jungle Book at the Paragon shopping center, movie complex. The shopping centers that we have visited on or journey, have all been over the top. The Paragons’ 24 theaters, were located on the 5th floor, at least the lobby was. One can buy tickets online and reserve seats! In fact, all seats are reserved. Located in the lobby, was a small food court, with of course popcorn stands (3 favors of popcorn to choose from), a McDonalds, Burger King, Starbucks and 4 more local eateries.
Ronald "Pranams" you in Thailand
 Upstairs, was just as extravagant. Our theater held about 1200 seats and was not the largest (the IMAX was). By the time the movie started, the theater was more than half full. It was incredibly immense and sponsored by a local hospital chain. The seats were leather and comfy and I cannot envision any movie better to have watched in Thailand (except for maybe in India) than The Jungle Book.
Bathroom entrance in the theater

Full sized horses as floor lamps.
The King of Thailand, Bhumibol Adulyadej, referred to as Rama IX, is well respected by the populace in Thailand. In Buddhist religion here, he is a deity. He appears in shrines, right next to Buddha and Ganesh. He is considered the “father” of all of his people. So with this in mind, before the movie started, the massive screen flashed and announced that we should all stand for the King and thus started a 3-minute musical/historical montage of his life. It felt a lot like standing and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in the good ol’ USA. At the end, all the audience bowed to the Rama IX.
Life sized depiction of Rama IX
Shrine in Flower Market

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