Bangkok and Beyond…

Bangkok and Beyond…

Poolside at the Shangri-La Hotel

Here I am back in Bangkok. I had not planned to come back to the city again because I felt that I had “been there and done that” but my travel writer friend Barbara Weibel of the blog Hole in the Donut called and invited me to travel with her on a Viking River Cruise through Myanmar. I had been keen to visit the country, before it changed drastically from the increasing  influx of tourist, so I jumped at the chance.

Bangkok and Beyond…

In high cotton..My room at the Shangri-La

 

The trip started off in Bangkok with a couple of nights at the Shangri-La Hotel and some sightseeing around Bangkok. The Shangri-La is one of the grand hotels located on the banks of the Chao Phraya River and when we arrived from the airport in our taxi the woman who was our driver looked up at the hotel and said “Oh very HiSo” causing both me and Barbara to laugh. Coming from the south my thought was “we’re in high cotton now” which amounts to the same thing. And high cotton it was, with its elegant lobby and beautiful pool area filled with palms, tropical plants and orchids. Our room on the 19th floor had a stunning river view and was beautifully appointed. Boy O Boy I could get used to this.

Bangkok and Beyond…

Water taxi on the Chao Praya River

The next day we were going on a tour of the Grand Palace and Wat Pra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha). We went to the hotel dock and boarded a long boat to travel up river to the Palace compound. The Chao Praya River is the lifeblood of the city with both river taxi’s and commercial boats hauling people and goods in a steady stream up and down the river. I love to travel the water taxi’s because it offers a different view of the city with its temples and palaces  covered in gold and glistening in the sun.

The Royal Palace sits in a walled compound not far from the river and our boat stop. The compound which also holds a collection of temples and official buildings has been the residence of Thailand’s kings since 1782 and is a mix of architectural styles with buildings housing museums, function rooms and guest palaces from different periods spanning 234 years.   The current Chakri dynasty has been on the throne for 234 year and the current king, Bhumibol Adulyadej, is the world’s longest serving current head of state. He has sat on the throne for 69 years. While the King no longer lives in this palace it is still used for special occasions and ceremonies.

Bangkok and Beyond…

Corner of one of the temples in the Royal Palace compount

One of the highlights of the trip to the Royal Palace is the Temple of the Emerald Buddha which is considered the most sacred Buddhist temple in Thailand. The little green Buddha is only 26” (66 centimeters) tall and is made of jade not emerald. He is very fancy for a little guy, and has elegant sets of clothes made of gold embroidery and set with precious stones which get changed three times a year…summer, winter and the rainy season. His clothes can only be changed by the King or the Crown Prince. As you may have guessed ritual is an essential part of the Thai culture.

Bangkok and Beyond…

The Royal Palace on my last visit with no Chinese tourist.

We had arrived in Bangkok for Chinese New Year and the number of Chinese tourist visiting the Royal Palace was overwhelming and perhaps dangerous. Chinese tourist have no sense of personal space and they push or shove anybody in their way and I had visions of being knocked down a flight of marble stairs. When you combine that with the fact that they are all using selfie sticks with their cell phones to take group photos (they only travel in groups) you have a nightmare. A guide told me that they used to get 10,000 visitors a day at the palace but now with the numbers of Chinese coming, it has gone up to 30,000…although, it felt like 100,000 to me. It certainly diminished the enjoyment of the visit to be overwhelmed by the crowds.

Bangkok and Beyond…

Chinese Tourist in the Royal Palace

The media talks about the “new normal” when commenting on the economic rollercoaster we are currently on. I would put it to you that there is a “new normal” when it comes to travel as well…and that is the new tide of Chinese tourist. Every country I visit now has an ever present sea of busses unloading a hoard of Chinese at every major tourist attraction…Paris, Rome, Istanbul or Bangkok it is all the same. The Chinese Government has taken to handing out pamphlets to departing Chinese telling them how to behave when they travel but it does not seem to matter. Loud, agressive, lacking in cultural sensitivities and overwhelming in their  numbers this is the “ New Normal” and it ain’t pretty.

Bangkok and Beyond…

Barbara makes a flower offering to the Buddha before we head out.

We headed back to the hotel for some pool time and a cocktail while overlooking the river and watching the sun set on Bangkok. Life here in High Cotton is good.

The next day we were heading to Yangon…or Rangoon for you colonial types…and I was anxious to see this city that sounded so exotic. To get me in the right frame of mind I started reading George Orwell’s “Burmese Days” for an insight into the period when Burma was part of the Indian Empire…at the twilight of the British Raj.

A new country and a new culture to explore…let the journey begin.

Disclosure: I was a guest of Viking River Cruises during my Myanmar trip.  However, the receipt of complementary services will never influence the content or post in this blog.  I write the truth, even if it means biting the hand that feeds me.

 

About Larry Bosco

In 2010 I had one of those “Is this all there is” moments and so in January 2011 I retired from Real Estate Appraising, sold off all my worldly goods and headed out as a solo traveler in search of a new place to live. Since then I’ve traveled around the world, made new friends and had many great adventures and some not so great. After staying almost a year in Cuenca, Ecuador I have headed back to South East Asia where I began the journey in 2011. Currently I am living in Chiang Mai, Thailand
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6 Responses to Bangkok and Beyond…

  1. Julie says:

    Just look at those beds……you really slept in them?

    OMG.!!!!!!!

    Do you think you could get used to that? Live in those places…forget your friends…..wear clean clothes every day….and breathe perfumed air?

    Larry Boscoe..this is your friend here…down he road in Khosan Road..with the backpackers…eating in the sois

    Well I am glad you saw it and look forward to reading your next blog…

    But remember…..

    there is no such thing as……………you know the rest…..

    And love the photos……

  2. Lindarose says:

    Fabulous post and fotos!

  3. Great stories. So glad we got to see Bangkok before the hoards.

  4. Nick LiVolsi says:

    Travel by invitations is Heaven for both parties.
    I’m still waiting when you’r coming to Boston.

  5. Jim says:

    Beautiful photos. I visited the Emerald Buddha decades ago; fortunately, without the huge crowds, The Emerald Buddha and the Reclining Buddha I remember well. What I find interesting about the Chinese tourists I saw in Rome last year is that they always travel in a group forming elongated lines, usually abreast two-by-two. All eat at the same restaurant, leave at the same time, and always remain in their group. Whenever I met Chinese who were in couple or family groupings, they were always from Taiwan or Singapore. Maybe, the China-Chinese were more subdued in Europe. I did not notice them to be particularly loud and obnoxious. Looking forward to following your new adventure.

  6. Bert Emke says:

    Great fotos, Larry. If Bangkok and Burma were about 5,000 miles closer to Louisville, I’d go there.

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