Wow – so many photos to upload and so little time to work on the blog! Here are the photos from our first day on tour. We started in Bangkok in the morning early and visited many temples and more. Not sure if I’ll have time to update fully with text, but I have been keeping a good diary so I’ll try to update some time, just not sure when! There are many stories to go with the photos, sorry you’ll have to wait.
Okay – on our way home with a bit of time in the Hong Kong airport – let’s see how far I can get…
First I should mention our lead up prior to the tour on our own in Bangkok. Leaving Auckland was an adventure as we rose early (despite the power draining on our alarm) and had to leave our hotel at 6am. Problem was, we weren’t quite sure how to get to the airport. So on Kyles advise, we followed the taxi which picked up the oriental couple in front of our hotel as we were leaving. After a tour of the backstreets of Auckland, we emerged on the correct highway heading to the airport – so we certainly lucked out on what was certainly a shorter route! After passports left on counter tops and repacks of overweight suitcases, we also found out that our plan to leave baggage in Hong Kong for pickup on our return was not possible – all checked baggage must have the same destination. Our marathon day finally ended when we hit the pillow at 10pm in Thailand after being awake for about 24 hours.
Our first day in Bangkok we were out before the shops opened so walked through the local park – we spotted turtles and large monitor lizards along with many locals doing their Tai Chi and other activities. While walking and viewing our map, a kindly gentleman stopped to assist us and gave us much helpful advise. He suggested a reputable tailor, where to shop for tech stuff and sport clothing, and even arranged a Tuk Tuk driver for us at an excellent rate and told him where to take us. Our first stop was to the tailors where we had several outfits custom measured and ordered. We returned to the tailor in the evening for our fitting and found our clothes well on there way to complete! And of course we had a couple of Thai meals – although Kyle thinks he has yet to find his ultimate Pad Thai 🙂
Our first day of the tour had us rise early and pick our tour members. We had a big tour bus (held about 40 if full), but only 9 customers with 2 guides (one English speaking and the other English and French speaking) and a driver. There was a girl from New York and her mother from Miami – they spoke English, but they were actually Guatemalan, so they often spoke in Spanish, a couple from Switzerland who were French speaking (the wife also spoke English and German, the husband also spoke German) and a couple from Netherlands (who also spoke German). So there was lots of cross language interpretation going on through the trip and we all managed to communicate quite effectively, and I was able to practice a bit of French (despite Kyle’s embarrassment at my lack of skill).
We started the tour with a boat trip to our first temple. It was fast and bumpy and wet – so not much luck with photos of the houses built on stilts to protect from floods, reptiles and to help keep them cool. There was a fair bit of traffic on the river – such as the barges being hauled full of construction sand and gravel. And at landing there were these fish being fed which was pretty wild.
Our first temple had a lot of Chinese influence as it was built by a king who had loved a Chinese princess, but they were not allowed to marry. The Buddha here is ‘happy Buddha’ – the classic Chinese style which is not that common here in Thailand.
Next we travelled to the 3 pagoda ancient temple built in the 1300’s by the 2nd King of Thailand. The grounds were covered in pagodas – each one containing the ashes a member of royalty. The central 3 contained the ashes of the King (at right), his father the 1st King (in centre) and the brother (on left).
Our next stop was to the footprint of Buddha in the mountains. The story is that a monk was going to make a journey to Sri Lanka to see the footprint of Buddha, but he was told that he did not need to go that far – there were footprints here in Thailand. So a search was on and they found the footprint. Apparently it was left by Buddha after visiting a hermit who was meditating in the mountain. When asked by the hermit to leave something, Buddha left his footprint.
Then off to another temple where we saw lots of variety in the architecture. The pagodas here had Cambodian, Burmese and Thai styles.
We had lunch (buffet style as most meals since this works best for tour groups) with Monkey Beer! Then of course, off to see the Monkey Temple. As in Bali, the monkeys are very used to humans – and these ones can even drink Coca Cola out of a straw!!!!
Also here are some temple photos (but I’m not certain which ones :-). They give the general feel for what the temples are like. There is usually a Buddha in a central elaborate temple where people pray. You should never put your feet towards the Buddha – women sit on their feet or with their feet to the side. Men sit on their heels (poor Mike and Kyle found this quite difficult given their lack of flexibility and bad joints).
The doors to the temple (not to mention the temple itself) are elaborately decorated, usually with inlaid mother of pearl on laquerware doors. A typical Thai roof line is 3 tiered, with the ‘corn’ top buildings showing the Cambodian style.