Friday, August 23, 2019

Wandering Bangkok

Bangkok is hardly Utopia but it did restore my belief that a huge city can be clean, somewhat orderly and quite beautiful. Dhaka are you paying attention. What you can't hear me because there are to many horns blasting at the same time all day and night? FUN FACT: The population density of Toronto is 4334 people per square km. The population of Dhaka is 26 995 people per square km. That would mean the entire population of Niagara Falls, Canada would be jammed into a 3 square kms. Good Grief Charlie Brown!

There is a reason Bangkok is a major tourist stop. It is an epic city. Big, brash and colorful. It has a long deep history that is evident everywhere. You can be good, bad or somewhere in between and it is fine. Nobody would blink let alone care. Getting around is easy. Neighborhoods are interesting. Food is incredible and readily available. However there are constant reminders that this is a big city with big city issues towards unsuspecting tourists. Touts, pickpockets, dishonest Tuk Tuks,  taxi drivers and various other scammers. Nothing to be afraid or to make you feel unsafe. I have been robbed before, it happens. Don't ignore it but don't let thoughts of fear control your every moment.

Take a cup of water. Dip your finger in it and flick the water over your shoulder. Those are the bad people in the world. The water left in the up are the good people. I read it and I liked it.

This is a nice ride The big ass temple and colorful bus
Ministry of Defense Colours, colours and more colours
I have no idea what this temple is Too many Wats to count.

The Chao Phraya River runs through the middle of Bangkok. It has many tributaries that wind in and around the city into and through different neighborhoods. People have always lived along the river here and I wanted to see the waterways and homes. Surprise! Tourist boats are available all over the river offering cruises for about $45 for an hour tour. So I bought my ticket from a lady who did not give me a ticket, smile and put the money into her back pocket. Tourist workers ripping off employers is a national sport in the industry. Trust me, I worked in the tourist industry for many years. I jumped aboard the long boat and sat back. I was not to be disappointed. 

Boat traffic was light on the main river but once we turned into a side waterway it was active with small boats, tour boats and people living and going about their daily lives. The rivers actually had  street names, directional signs and navigation markers. Houses were flush up against the river and in some instances the river was winning. I could imagine 50 years ago people would be fishing off their porches for supper. Now, not so much. Pollution is the scourge of the earth, everywhere.

Boat ride on the The Chao Phraya River Boat ride on the The Chao Phraya River
Boat ride on the The Chao Phraya River Boat ride on the The Chao Phraya River
Boat ride on the The Chao Phraya River Boat ride on the The Chao Phraya River

Wat Arun, The temple of the Dawn, is a Buddhist temple in Bangkok Yai district. It was the only "hop on hop off" stop on the one hour boat tour. I hopped off and decided not to hop back on. What a rebel! A little google map check revealed it was about an hour walk back to my hotel neighborhood. I would be able to discover new areas of Bangkok that I had not seen before. It was all riverfront so I should be interesting. There was a "docking fee" of $3 for each tourist, which like the boat ticket was received with a knowing smile. You do become a portable ATM machine in so many part of the world.

This temple was magnificent. Naturally I know nothing about the religion or history of the religion but it did not stop me from enjoying the wander. The various temples inside the main temple were colorful. Statues of gold, blues, reds and yellows. Stone carvings of lions seemed to be the animal of choice. In one area locals were lining up to be blessed by a monk, with the mandatory cash donation at the end of the blessing. It's not religion if there is no money involved.

I have been in temples all over Asia. In China, Tibet, Nepal, India and Thailand. They are usually ornate and splendid spectacles. However it always amuses me how these "palaces of worship" who always preach magnanimous living and simple lives always seem to be prosperous beyond what the masses can afford. The impoverished giving what they can so that the purveyors of dogma can live comfortable lives in the name of their god. It's a global phenomenon that I can only shake my head at.

Thailand is interesting. The openness of one part of their society selling sex and booze. The preaching of strict adherence to a simple and good life through religion. This creates an societal mix that can only be enjoyed. The Kingdom is also as corrupt as any in Asia, as any in the world. Through it all people flock here for all their personal reasons. Maybe it is the mystery of history. Maybe it is the beauty of the natural world. Maybe it is the readily available sex. Maybe it is a combination of all of the aforementioned. I don't know and I don't care.

Thailand, you are a mysterious creature.

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