It’s morning of day 3, I am now in Cambodia waiting for my day of temple seeing to begin…but let me tell you a little about yesterday.
I took the advice of a friend who travels to Bangkok frequently, and hired a driver for the day. My friend gave the email address of the driver he uses, so I contacted him and Jay became my personal tour guide for the day. It cost $100 for the day, which seems to be the going rate, and was worth it, especially since he spoke English and was able to point things out as we went.
The day started by another boat ride, this time through Bangkok. Another tourist trap, and another costly adventure, but in the end I’m glad I went. Along the riverbank in Bangkok there was a real mix of decent looking villas and shanty areas (complete with satellites attached to their roofs!). We met a family selling bread for 30 cents to feed the fish (those are the crazy big fish pics with them swirling and twisting over who gets the last crumb) and a boat vendor who sold me a beer. A fun hour spent.
Next up was the reclining Buddha. It’s pretty self explanatory: a huge reclining Buddha in gold. It’s difficult (read impossible) to a decent shot of the entire thing in one frame, but through a few pictures you get the idea. Following that I walked around the grounds and was in awe at the ornately designed and adorned buildings in the compound. One of the best things to see yet, and for 100 Baht (roughly $3) a good deal (even if the locals get admitted for free).
Following that, my driver, Jay, took me to the Emerald Buddha. This was a bit of an ordeal, since you have to be properly dressed to enter the site – women are to have covered knees and shoulders. I tried getting in with my shin length lululemon pants and tank top with a scarf wrapped around my shoulders. I was stopped and had to go back to the entrance to buy or rent a top. I was a bit disgruntled about this, since others are allowed in with a scarf, but off I went to fix the situation. Instead of going to the government clothes rental place (way overpriced) I went back outside the walls of the tourist site, where there were lots of street vendors. It was there I met a lovely older women who took it upon herself to ‘dress’ me. She took off my scarf and wrapped it around my waist as a sarong; even though my pants were passable, it was much more respectable to see the Emerald Buddha in a skirt! Then she rented me a bright red and white tropical shirt ($1) which clashed horribly with the purple ‘skirt’ but was passable for the wardrobe police/guards. It was also during this wardrobe change that I met an eager young ‘tourist police’ who wanted to learn English – more on this later.
The Emerald Buddha (named so because it is green and when first discovered was mistakenly thought to be made of emeralds) is great to see, but the buildings around it in the compound are equally stunning. It helped that the entire time I was there monks were chanting that you could here throughout the area!
As I left and tried to find my driver, the young tourist police found me again – she was super friendly and just wanted to be friends! She said she wanted to practice her English, so we walked to a nearby market where she showed me the good places to eat (such good food!!) and even bought me some chicken bamboo curry for 30 Baht (($1). This might seem like a simple gesture but she later told me her annual salary is around 10,000 Baht (just over $3000). A humbling experience.
After that we made our way back to the entrance of the reclining Buddha where I found Jay waiting. I said goodbye to my newfound Thai friend and continued my day of sightseeing. Next up: a jewelry factory. This was Jay’s idea, since we at this point didn’t have time to go outside the city to another site I’d wished to visit. But the jewelry factory (they market themselves as the largest jewelry store in the world) was actually pretty cool. No pictures allowed, unfortunately, but glad I went!
So a good day all in all, but at this point it was getting late, and Jay and I were afraid that we might not have time to get to the airport one hour away! Stressful!! Luckily Jay is an expert driver and the Thai road rules are super relaxed (ie. not existent!). The drive to the airport, which took about 30 minutes, was so nerve-wracking / exhilarating that I ended up taking a video of it. Without video there was no way anyone would believe my story of my cab driver driving a mini-van as if were on a scooter: cutting off people, driving on the shoulder to pass, and narrowly (and I do mean narrowly) driving through cars and trucks in their respective lanes. If I can manage to upload the video I will – quite a ride!
And next up: Cambodia. Siem Reap and Angkor Wot. Love it!!