Thursday, June 24, 1999
from the Peninsula: 12. The City of Angels

Bangkok is really interesting. Thai people call it Krung Thep or The City of Angels. The first time I arrived there I was really confused. Where's the angel? It's drab, crowded, full of traffic jams, noisy and dirty. Just like Jakarta! Then later on when we had the chance to see it at night then I can see some of the angels. You see, the Thai people always paint their temples in gold. So at night when the lights from the lamps were reflected by those temples Bangkok glitters like a crown full of gems.

I didn't visit all of the temples I originally planned to visit. It was because my friends were tired of visiting temples. I regretted it so much! But at least we managed to visit The Grand Palace and its Wat Phra Keo temple. It was amazing. It's just like a palace little girls like to dream about when they dream of being princesses :) The palace and the temple are full of intricate carvings and patterns made from colourful ceramics and glass. In modern world it would seem too gaudy, but strangely, in a setting like that I didn't think it is gaudy or vulgar at all.

One of the most wonderful thing I saw was the murals along the wall outside the temple and inside. Outside it depicts the story of Ramayana (in its Thai version) and inside it depicts the life of Buddha and the kings and the life in their surroundings.

I found it strange though that they like to have foreign architecture in the midst of the grandeur of Thai architecture. In the Grand Palace, one of the main buildings was in European architecture, but topped with Thai designed roof ornament. Unique, but strange.

Bangkok is still building their MRT-like system, which will help to ease the congested traffic. Jakarta had planned to build that kind of system but while it was about to be started we were hit by the monetary crisis. There goes our dream or modern transportation and better traffic! I donít know when weíre going to have that. It is so embarrassing that with all their effort Thailand, which was also hit hard by the same economy crisis, managed to get up from it and recover. We donít seem recover at all. Why?!?! I know, weíre so wrecked by corruption and mismanagement. Years and years of mismanagement. Oh well.

In Bangkok they have a local transportation called tuk-tuk, like a very small car with open sides. Its machine is like a scooter machine, so the sound is very noisy. In Jakarta we have similar vehicle, only in a worse version, we call it Bajaj. Sometimes we dub it 'God's Vehicle', because only God and the driver know where it's heading. Sometimes it stays straight and in a matter of seconds it can turn right or left without our having the chance to realise it :)

Like Penang, Bangkok is great for food. I ended up spending a great part of my money trying all the different kinds of food they sell in the alleyway in front of our hotel. I like Thai food. Itís always spicy, with a nice mix of sour, sweet, salty and hot taste. Verrryyy delicious. Tonight Dewiís Thai penfriend Uthai took us for dinner in an area where every street is full of hundreds of hawkers selling different kinds of food. OhÖ I had a very exciting time watching the cooks cooking and mixing and chopping meat and fish and vegetables and fruit and spices! Great!

However thereís an incident. Uthai ordered food for us and we ate. After we ate it we asked him what the different dishes were. Well, one of them was a pork dish, a very finely chopped pork dish. Dewi and Nana were stunned. Theyíre Moslems and theyíre not supposed to eat pork. Itís haram for them. Uthai didnít know that they were Moslem and we decided not to tell him because we didnít want to make him feel guilty.

Itís actually very funny travelling with the girls, they Ė except probably Dewi Ė are not the kinds that used to adventures. So this muts be hard for them. There were times when I got so impatient at them. You see, they donít want to study the places to go to, and they donít care. All they want are stamps from the countries in the passport Ė to show that theyíve been abroad, photos in the landmarks and a chance to shop for cheap souvenirs.

So they just followed me wherever I went. Of course itís very convenient for me. Sometimes they hated the places I wanted to go to, but they didnít have any choice because they were too lazy to learn about other places. So thatís how I ended up going to quite a lot of historical places and museums, although not as much as I originally wanted to. But as long as there are rows of shops outside or nearby they are happy to wait for me :)

But sometimes I got very annoyed too because I would have to always be the one who decide everything, plan the trip, look for information, read the map, look for means of transportation, check this and that etc, and when I had problems or failed to find a certain place they all just looked at me with blank expression!

Today I was so annoyed because they critised me for not knowing the best place to shop, that I gave them my guidebook, maps and all the information I had, and let them decide where to go to and I just followed them everywhere :) Oh! It was so funny. Of course even with all those information they still didnít know where to go to or how :)

Bangkok is supposed to be famous for its nightlife. But we didnít even go near that place though I was very very curious. The nearest glimpse I had was yesterday when the tour bus dropped our new acquaintance, a good looking guy called Sergey, in front of the Nana hotel. I only saw the merry lights. Next time? Maybe, when I go with my best friends the crazy girls. They would love to explore the place with me. To see the other type of 'angels' :)

To break the return trip to Singapore into a more comfortable length we decided that after this we would stay overnight again in Penang. It should be more bearable, especially for Nana.

Bangkok, Thursday, 24 June 1999

Posted at 09:43 pm by koeniel


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