Thursday, February 13, 2014

Fun Times in Bangkok

13 February 2014
Our trip from Seattle back to Bangkok wasn't quite as great as going over - in Seattle, the agent said they were asking for volunteers to give up seats since the flight was overbooked.  So of course we said sure, we have no time constraints, and we like freebies.  Turned out they didn't need our seats, so we flew - first flight, Seattle to Dubai, seemed to be full of screaming babies.  Not crying, screaming.  With helpless parents who somehow made things worse, since they'd rock the baby in the aisle and not realize they were smacking me with the kid's foot, or their coat.  Then Dubai to Bangkok, somehow in the volunteer and fly shuffle, our seat assignments were lost, and we ended up with horrible seats.  The agents and the attendants tried really hard to make us happy, but squished into a middle seat (me) and being run over by the cart (Richard) didn't make us happy flyers.  Especially when they had rows (ROWS!) of empty seats in Business Class.  When the airline makes a mistake and messes up someone's seat assignment, they really should be nice and give a free upgrade.  (Our original seats were a window and an aisle in the same row - we started out about 30 rows apart!!!)  Ah well, the ceiling starry skies of Emirates is always nice, even if the flight is horrendous.

My father's hat followed us from Bellingham, so since it fits Richard he's wearing it around as we travel.  The hat seems to have absorbed my father's quirky sense of humour - when it blew across the street and landed on the elephant statue's head, we knew our dad was happy to be joining us on our travels.  So watch for new episodes of "Where in the world is Maury's hat?"

We're still having fun in Bangkok, so we decided to hang out a bit longer before we head south to the peninsula and the beaches.  And Friday is not only Valentine's Day, it's also a Buddhist festival, so we want to see what happens.  Evening candle lighting or something.  We're still at the point of Thailand where things are endlessly fascinating.  

For example, what is this knit set that includes what appears to be a utility apron, a hat, and gloves?  Is it for the chilly carpenter, or the cold Buddhist monk in the family?  Grilling outside in winter?  We have no idea, it was just one of those interesting things we encountered.

The food carts are endlessly fascinating.  Each cart seems to be devoted to one variety of food - all sausages, or fish, or vegs, or fruit - and we hear various advice.  Try the street food, it's wonderful and safe.  Avoid the street food, it's a breeding ground for bacteria.  At this point, we haven't tried much - I find there's something about the odour of the sausages that's decidedly off-putting.  I suspect the meat is just cured differently than I'm used to - but some of it smells so unpleasant I have to hold my breath as I walk by the cart.  So no, I'm not trying that out!  (Note the lovely red apples labelled from "USA" - each had a Washington apple sticker!!!)

I've started collecting photos of the king's pictures - such interesting displays!  One of the people who posted replies to the blog is a professor here in Bangkok and he/she (I can't tell from the name, I know little about names here in Thailand), anyway, the person said that this is part of the culture here, to have these large signs of the king and royalty around the country.  The huge display that looks almost like a boat is my fave though!

So, politically - there were elections held on 2 Feb., while we were in the US.  Some districts were unable to complete elections due to various problems, including demonstrations and protests.  So there will be a second round of elections.  However, the Shutdown Bangkok movement is losing momentum and proponents, and the protests are slowing down.  We did encounter some signs of protest up the road from our hotel, including baby-faced soldiers in a "bunker" of sandbags and camouflage netting - though the jungle netting hardly constitutes camouflage in downtown Bangkok, it just makes it more obvious.  At any rate, the protests continue on a decreasing scale, and we aren't sure how things stand right now.  Plus the head of the protest movement has his own very negative history as a former military government man, and is losing his credibility.  Things aren't as bad as they sound in the media, and we hardly notice any problems other than traffic jams and taxi drivers who are forced to take alternate routes around the protests.

The shrines continue to intrigue me - I like this little one with a variety of warriors.  They look like a mock up of Star Wars in Thailand or something.  I love it!  And the outdoor markets all have a few stalls with people making lovely flower garlands and little hanging things for the shrines and temples.  For just 10 baht (30 cents) you can buy a handmade little garland of tiny white flowers and red roses.  Or maybe a rondelle of roses.  Just one more thing that fascinates me.

 The streets are endlessly interesting - some have yellow flags hanging criss cross overhead, indicating who knows what.  Most of the street names are in Thai, but then suddenly there's Rue de Brest, a lovely French name, over by the French embassy.  People say hello, try to sell us their goods, and I just want to take photos of their items or their adorable children, like this little guy playing on his dad's scooter.

As Richard says, life is good in Southeast Asia.  And we're having a great time. 

Okay, apparently I once again have more photos than words.  What can I say, I'm an art teacher, I like pictures.  So enjoy - there isn't one I think I should take out.  I have little more to say.  Just look at the photos and think about how warm and sunny it is in Bangkok, not like the frozen tundra of the northern hemisphere, or the soaking rain of other areas.  Come visit!!!!

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