Sunday, March 1, 2009

Thai two

Despite the “help” of the friendly stranger, we were able to arrive at our first site on foot. Wat Pho is the home of the world’s largest reclining Buddha. The great gold being is kept inside, and there it is behind many columns, making it difficult to behold in its entirety. With the exceptions of feet and face, the Buddha was quite plain, and impressive in size only.

More exciting, was the playground outside. Well, not a playground, but it had me running around every corner. We were in an open-air fenced off complex full of ornate spires and engaging statues. The spires and their foundations were coated with colorful mosaic tiles. Each statue was a character full of personality.

I have seen a healthy handful of Japanese shrines, and I am far more excited by what Thailand offers up. In color, detail, and imperfection, Thailand dominates. Yes, even imperfection. There is something quite honest about the cracks and missing tiles. Walking through the historic shrine, I felt as though I was… well, walking through an historic shrine. Not to beat-up on Japan, but they are so neat about everything. The result feels like plastic, or Disney Land.

Our next stop was the Grand Palace. It was a quick stop. I was wearing shorts, and did not feel like renting the necessary pants to enter. We moved on to find another site, with lower standards for its visitors. A quick ferry across the river landed us at Wat Arun. Right on the river bank and a recognizable Bangkok image. The structure was a huge spire/tower surrounded by smaller, closely related versions of itself. It was accessible by a couple stages of steps, and a third roped off section. I felt no loss of the roped off section, the first two stages were literally climbing the stairs.

It was another ornate structure, superb in detail. The height granted a fine view of the river, an eaves-dropping look of surrounding neighborhoods, and a postcard shot of the modern skyline hazy horizon. I am sure what purpose they set out for with this shrine, but I am sure they accomplished it.

Back over the river, we continued our way north to arrive at Khao San Road. This is the traveler spot. The whole area is outfitted for tourists, but this street in particular is the backpacker/spring breaker mecca. The street is laid out wide, but populated thick. A constant flow of travelers coming and going with bags, eating international street cart cuisine, drinking cheap domestics, shopping for friends, and shopping for self. And for every tourist, of which there were many, there was also a local, selling something.

Some streets have a hum, the buzz of life happening all around. Khao San has something more. Khao San has a roar. Stepping onto the street is stepping into a stadium. Inside, everyone is part of the spectacle. There was plenty to see, and we were not about to see it all, so we stepped into a hostel and booked the next night.

It was dark, and we were a few neighborhoods away from our current dwelling, so we started walking. After a day on our feet, an epic stretch of backtracking was not ideal. We did manage to cover some familiar area in new light, or… dark. A big central park became a market for random items. The shrines glowed with their night lights, and then at 10pm they disappeared. We walked through the flower market, easily the most colorful sight yet. Fruits, vegetables, and flowers by the bag load. At this point my camera battery decided to run down.

We hit our Chinatown, walked the length of it, and found our guesthouse. Sleep was perfect.