Sawat di krab, my friends!
After a very long 27 hour journey from Denver, Jaimie and I arrived safely in Bangkok yesterday. We almost missed our connecting flight from Beijing, but channeled our inner "Amazing Race" skills and sprinted with our 30 pound backpacks from customs, through security, and to our gate as it closed behind us. Already, we are feeling alive, invigorated, and in awe of this place. There is something so rewarding about planning and thinking about something so far in advance, only to find it even more exciting than you had imagined. The people we have interacted with thus far have been kind-hearted, generous, and helpful, which has certainly put our weary traveler hearts to rest.We are staying in a traditional Thai Bed and Breakfast for the first few days, which lies just a few blocks from the Royal Grand Palace, Khaosan Road (a backpacker's mecca), and the Wat Pho temple (home of the 46 meter-long Reclining Buddha). We set out to visit these landmarks, yet found navigation trickier than expected, and accidentally stumbled upon two wrong temples before finding the Grand Palace, which by that time was about to be closed for the day. However, the two "wrong" temples were absolutely gorgeous, and all the wandering allowed us to really get a feel for the area of the city where we are staying. When you enter a (buddhist) temple, you remove your shoes, and often move past worshippers burning incense, releasing canaries, or meditating. Jaimie and I found both temples endlessly fascinating, as they were gorgeously built with inlaid gold, high ceilings, and intricate details all around. Knowing little of Buddhism, it was a cultural experience that was enlightening and interesting for us to see for ourselves.
The day progressed with a lovely lunch at a nicer restaurant with a live pianist and Thai singer, which Jaimie and I enjoyed very much. Jaimie "wai'd" to the singer as we left to thank her for the performance, and was honored and surprised when she "wai'd" in return, bowing lower with hands together in respect. We left the restaurant again in search of the Grand Palace, and once we found it, decided to come back the next day for a longer period of time. Consequently, we met a man leaving the museum next door who began a conversation with us, welcoming us to Thailand and giving us many helpful tips, recommendations, and guides to better enjoy our trip. He called a "Tuktuk" taxi driver over, instructed him on three locations and a price ($60 Baht, or $2 USD), called us his friends, and invited us to see him perform with his band on Saturday. Not sure what we were getting ourselves into, we reluctantly climbed into the open-air three-wheeled taxi and nervously began the wild ride around the city. This ended up being my favorite part of the day, as we were whisked from place to place while the driver waited for us patiently while we explored the landmarks. Halfway through the ride, all traffic was stopped by uniformed military, and a police-escorted processional drove by with a white Rolls-Royce in the center--The King of Thailand! The Tuktuk driver and others surrounding us seemed as if this was a normal everyday inconvenience, but we felt honored and excited to see a nation's king in such close proximity, considering we've never been stopped at a stoplight in the USA for the President to drive past. The Tuktuk ride came to an end, and we found ourselves on the famous Khaosan Road. This is a short walking street filled with entertainers, clothing, bars, hostels, and vendors--think an Aladdin bazzar meets Las Vegas. We were still feeling a little jet-lagged and overwhelmed by the day, so we hurried down the road and back to the B&B, promising ourselves we'd be back after we were better rested.
All in all, the first couple days have been extraordinary. Now that we feel we're getting our feet beneath us again, we hope to really sink our teeth into what the city has to offer, so long as it isn't fried scorpion, monkey brains, or something still squirming...