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Friday, June 29

Thailand Travels: The Final Day

Our last day in Thailand was much less intensive. Our flight was at 8:00 in the evening, but we weren’t going to waste a day and not book a tour. Again, a guide showed up bright and early after our last Thai buffet breakfast to take us out for the day, promising to have us back to the hotel by 4:30 at the latest so we could still get to the airport. I must admit that this made me nervous because the airport was not some hop, skip and jump away. In the end, I figured that should we miss the flight, would it be so bad to have to spend another day in Thailand? And off we went.

Our first stop for the day was Bang Pa In, the summer palace of the royal family, about 60 kilometers or 40 miles north of Bangkok. It dates back into the 17th century prior to Bangkok becoming the capitol of Thailand. Considering we had seen the quintessence of Thai palaces only two days prior, I must admit that my enthusiasm for this step of the tour was at the ultimate low. Sadly, this didn’t change much as we walked the grounds. While it is laid out beautifully, much of the palace is very European in design and hardly what I was looking for in my Thailand travelling. As you walk deeper onto the grounds, the one building that is somewhat open to the public is the ornaments red and gold residence that was built in China and presented to Rama V in the late 1800’s. This palace is not commonly used by the royal family but it just happened that on this day, the queen was on her way to spend the evening there. I swear they bussed in the harried gardeners to tend the gardens into an immaculate state. Bright, and obviously brand new, blue flags (the color of the much-loved queen) lined the road entering the palace and all throughout the palace grounds. Yet still I was unimpressed and sitting with KH on the bus well before it was time to go. Pretty? Yes. But only in a pavilion in the middle of a manmade pond did I find any sign of the beauty of Thailand.

The real reason we had chosen this tour was for the next stop – Ayutthaya (pronounced I-u-tia). The city of Ayutthaya was the capitol of Thailand prior to Bangkok and still houses the ruins of all that is left of the original city during the Golden Age of Thailand before it was invaded and demolished by the Burmese in 1767. Many of the places in Ayutthaya are what you picture when you think about ancient Thailand. The wats (temples) embody the past splendor and glory of both arts and architecture in the Siamese region. Our first stop was at the main attraction, Wat Mahathat, which was a royal monastery during that Golden Age. Just walking the grounds brings out a sense of quiet respect, making you feel as if nothing above a whisper was appropriate while in this ancient monastery. There was one thing that really disturbed me about the Burmese sacking of the city. In their destruction, they decapitated the statues of the Buddha. Just about every one of them remains sitting where it was so many centuries ago when the city was thriving, but now headless. We were told that a few survived in the monastery but out of the hundreds of Buddhas we saw, we only located one with its head still in place. In an area where Buddhism was widely prevalent in the people, it is going to take me a lot of research to understand why the Burmese performed such inexcusable acts on a figure that was so highly regarded by people far and wide.

Back on the bus, we were taken to another spot of ruins in Ayutthaya, the Chedi of Wat Phra Sri Sanphet, a royal temple that was built back in 1491 in honor of three different 15th century kings. While Kimono Hubby is happy to please me by allowing me to drag him along as I satiate my passion for architectural ruins, he was nearing a breaking point as the oppressive heat and humidity tried to push him over the edge. Instead of standing in the sun and listening to the guide fill our minds with another history lesson, I allowed KH to drag me back to the entrance of the ruins were elephants were decorated and waiting for tourists carrying big money.

One of the things KH had placed on the list to do in Thailand was to take an elephant ride. Here was our opportunity. We climbed up the steps to the platform and took a seat. It was only a brief jaunt but the view from on top of an elephant of the ancient city ruins beyond a vast pond covered in flowering lilies was one that will stay with me forever. For only 20 baht, which isn’t even a dollar, you can buy bananas to feed the elephants. The bananas were about half of the size of those back in the States and have a much sweeter taste. As usual in the Far East, there was no direction about what to do once we had our bananas so we simply sauntered over to a line of elephants resting in the shade and decided to take our chances. We quickly discovered that the elephants know what to do. You didn’t have to peel the banana, just simply hold it out and greedy trunks would push others out of the way, sucking up the banana and then shoving the whole thing into their mouths. The feeding went much quicker than we expected as our hundred pounds were apparently quite hungry. After the bananas were gone, we discovered some sort of pellet in the bottom of the basket. While I didn’t mind handing bananas over to trunks dripping a combination of snot and saliva, I wasn’t about to hold out my hand and let them cover me in that nastiness. The pleasure was all KH’s as I remained firmly planted behind a camera.

After a good washing, we climbed aboard the bus to be taken to the relaxing part of our tour, a luxury boat ride along the river back to Bangkok, complete with air conditioning and a fabulous Thai buffet lunch. There honestly wasn’t much to do on this couple hour trip but to sit and relax and enjoy the amazing and varied views along the river of both temples in all their gold, ornamented grandeur sitting right next to houses on stilts covered in makeshift cardboard and sheet metal roofs. While I knew poverty was prevalent in Thailand, costing along that river as a foreign traveler makes you realize just what poverty really is. I can’t imagine daily life in these buildings that so many calls homes and we would call shacks. There were areas where electricity was not running into the homes. It also looked like many of the homes only had one means of travel… on the river by boat. Here in Japan driving is not encouraged because of lack of parking, bad traffic as well as the expense of owning a car, but at least you have the option. In Thailand, so many just don’t even entertain such an option. It was truly an eye-opening experience.

And so ended our touring of Thailand. We arrived back at the hotel with enough time to head out and catch some dinner. Our trip to Thailand had coincided with the rainy season and yet we had been lucky enough for not a drop of the torrential pouring to occur, until this very last evening. A block away from the hotel, we were stuck huddled underneath an abandoned shop’s front stoop. We debated making a run for it to the nearest but realized we would be drenched within second. The fact that we had no idea which way to go to the nearest restaurant didn’t help us make a decision any quicker. After agonizing over what should have been a simple decision, we decided to bolt back to the hotel, change clothes and head to the airport for dinner there.

Of course, that turned out to be more difficult than we had hoped. Because of the delay in opening the JAL ticket counter, we were only left with enough time for Burger King, hardly the end to this amazing experience that we had anticipated. But there was one thing about Burger King that was truly fascinating for me and it wasn’t the fact that it made me incredibly sick to eat greasy burgers which I haven’t had for about a year now. I was able to see my first women ever in head to toe Muslim dress. One family walked by with father and son in shorts and t-shirts and the mother only showing the slant of her eyes. This was not the only family we saw this way. It made me realize just specifically where in the world I was and how many corners of the world I have seen and how many are still out there to see. I can no longer say I have a favorite place that I have been or want to see. Each place has left an impression on me that still shakes me to the core. Each place leaves me with a bigger thirst for the next adventure. If there is one thing I wish to pass along to the rest of the world through my roaming and my writing, it is that this world is just so dynamic and amazing and wonderful and not a tiny single speck should be missed. Get out there and see something, new or old, big or small… every single day.

Friday, June 22

Thailand Travels: Day Three

Yep, so maybe I didn’t have as much time as I thought I would these past weeks to catch up with you all. It seems odd to go back and tell you about the rest of the trip now when it did happen several weeks ago. But for the sake of continuity, I just can’t NOT tell you.

Day three of our trip started with another lovely and satisfying buffet breakfast at the fabulous Lebua. Our tour guide picked us up at 7:00 a.m. We had no idea what to expect but the jam packed van was definitely not on the original list. At that hour in the morning, there ain’t no sunshine around me so we pretty much just squished ourselves into the seats and settled in for a long trip out of the city. Once we hit the highway, the driver cranked the speed up into the 90s and began careening in and out of traffic. There were multiple times that I had to re-swallow breakfast as we drove. Was that too much information? Anyway, the guide began a long discourse of which we couldn’t hear much since he was way up in the front of the van and we were way in the back of it. We amused ourselves by counting pictures of the king that flashed by the window.

Knowing my love for history, Kimono Hubby had chosen this day trip for us. Our first stop was at the JEATH War Museum in town called Kanchanaburi. The museum is a recreation of the wooden and thatch prisoner’s huts that the Japanese erected during World War II. Along the walls were pictures of the varying horrors of WWII including many that showed the Death Railway and the Bridge on the River Kwai. For those of you who haven’t heard about this except for a late showing of the old movie on TNT, here is a little history lesson:

During World War II, Japan came to control much of French Indochina (the nations now known as Myanmar (then Burma), Thailand, Cambodia and Laos). In their quest to control the riches of the region, the Japanese inflicted untold horrors on the people in this region. In Thailand, the River Kwai presented the Japanese with an obstacle. The Japanese wanted to move men and supplies deeper into the region but had to cross this river to do so. They began to build this railway and the bridge that would move them through the jungle and they used forced labor from the locals and Allied prisoners of war to do so. Of the prisoners of war, there were British, American, Australian, Dutch as well as other that worked and often died because of the horrific conditions they suffered through. I won’t go into the details but just know that the Germans were not the only regimes causing mass suffering during this war. About 160,000 died but the count can never be confirmed because the Japanese did little with regards to recording who came and went from their camps. The efforts of these men created what today is called the Death Railway (because of the massive losses) which stretches through Thailand and Myanmar. The Bridge on the River Kwai was heavily bombed by American pilots. After the war, the bridge was rebuilt and moved further down the river so that local Thais could continue to today using it as an important mode of transportation.

So that is the history lesson. And why we felt it important to go and see. The museum is small but an important place to remember what happened on the other side of the world during the war. Some of the pictures honestly broke my heart to see. But the sadness wasn’t to stop there! The van next drove us down the road to the War Cemetery where those that lost their lives in those camps were buried. It was a place of quiet, solitude and supreme honor. I never once spoke above a whisper. For all of the suffering those men endured, I would not be the one to destroy what peace they might have now. The cemetery used to hold all of the nationalities, but as our nation commits itself to the no soldier is left behind policy, the Americans who once rested there have all returned home to find an eternal resting place on American soil.

Filled with melancholy and contemplation, we boarded the van, this time to see the bridge itself. Here the atmosphere was much lighter. The area was crowded with people and a market to draw in those tourist dollars. While I’m sure some know what the bridge means, I don’t think that everyone understood that same magnitude. Not that I was bothered by the fact that they turned history into a tourist trap. We surely are the royalty of such exploits back home. There is one keen difference… at home, we would have stood and looked at the bridge from afar. In Thailand, like so many places in the Far East, you can just march yourself right out across the bridge that doesn’t seem to have been updated in the last fifty years. There was no walkway, just the wooden boards in-between the rails. The bridge was crowded so often you had to straddle a railway clinging to what you could to let a crowd pass. In my excellent footwear choice that morning, black flip-flops with little bows on them from Ann Taylor Loft, I almost slipped twice which would have found me taking a swim in the muddy river below. Both times KH with his able and strong hands caught me before I went down. Of course, each time there ensued a lecture about such silly hoof coverings. Also striking about the area is that the side we began our crossing from was filled with action… a covered market, restaurants, local homes. On the other side, a market essentially constructed from crude pieces of wood and wire. An elephant casually roamed around between the stands looking for a rider who would maybe feed him a banana. It seems if you live on the one side of the river, things are going pretty well for you. If you live on the other, well… As we were coming back to the first side, we noticed an approaching train. After several blinks to make sure it wasn’t the heat playing tricks on us, we realized that the train was headed right for us. Not fast or anything, but enough to make us get a move on and find a packed overlook to squeeze ourselves on to just before the train rolled by. It was so close, we could touch the train and the people in it without even stretching out at arms length.

Our day of historic travelling was not done yet. The next stop was for us to be on that train! We were to travel on the very train that so very many died putting into it operation. We were to take the very train past the cliffs where even more had seen during the last of their days. I can’t tell you how excited I was. But first I had to go. Really bad. Sprinting towards the ladies room, I could not believe what I found. Perhaps if you read about the bathrooms in Japan way back when I wrote about them, this will not surprise you. But it sure surprised me. The toilet was in its own stall but it was about a foot off the ground. No seat so I assumed it was something you stood over but I just couldn’t figure out how. In Japan, I have mastered the Japanese toilet and actually will choose it over the Western toilet any day now. I like the little hood that protects from splashes. It’s honestly just like when we went in the woods during childhood camping trips. Here in Thailand, I was completely perplexed. I seriously stood over that toilet trying several different options. In the end, I did it wrong AND I hurt my legs from the strain of how I was holding myself up and yet down at the same time. I was barely able to stand back up after I went and then could only manage a wobbly walk back to the train depot. I only found out I did it wrong when someone was later discussing it on the bus. Here you are supposed to stand on the edge of the toilet and squat down. The only thing with that, there isn’t much room to not go on yourself, or so I thought. Thankfully, it was my first and last Thai toilet. And enough about bathroom procedures already! Really this enter is a bit too TMI, even for my tastes.

On the crowded train, there was only standing room. Like I said, the railway is a current and important mode of transportation for the Thais. They got there first, and they got the seats. Thankfully they couldn’t care less about the scene outside the windows as we travelled through the jungle and past the precarious cliffs that followed the river path. They encouraged you to lean over them and snap away at what was outside the window. They’re not dumb… they know how to make us happy and subsequently bring in those tourist dollars! KH was quite helpful and tried to determine the age of the train by looking at the electrically sparking fan that rotated directly over my head. Just an estimate, but we think that little has been done since its original manufacturing by the Japanese. It was yet one more thing that added to the constant authenticity of Thailand.

When we got off at our train stop, we found ourselves in a sleepy local town in the jungle. After a bit of a walk, the tour guide led us into a restaurant which consisted of a thatched roof and picnic tables. It was beautiful. A buffet of local food was laid out for us. Ice cold Cokes were available in the same tiny bottles they sold back in the 50s and 60s. I filled up on the tiny local bananas which are sweeter than the regular sized one. Our tour guide encouraged me to pack some into my purse. I couldn’t say no.

You would think the day would be drawing to an end for us. But it was only just beginning. Our next stop was something I had been looking forward to since we first planned to go to Thailand. We had heard about this monastery where the monks lived communally with tigers. We were headed to just that monastery. As we walked in, free roaming water buffalo, pigs, ducks and deer passed by us going about their daily business. A peacock floated in their midst but never let me get close enough to stroke its gorgeous plume. A monk sat on a platform ahead with a baby tiger playing with his robes. At first we only took a risk to give it a few pets. As the monk assured us it was fine, we were able to pick it up and cuddle it. I now totally understand why people keep tigers for pets in their apartments. So cuddly! Well, except for the gnawing which we were told to discourage. I guess they are trying to train them not to eat people. After handing the tiger back to the monk and cleaning off the smidge of pooh he had managed to get on both of us, we were escorted to the canyon where they adult tigers live.

This is a very regimented process. And for good reason. We are talking about wild animals with jaws that could consume a human head. Before we went in, we were told that nothing has happened and that it was all very safe. Yet, one Thai takes your camera and has the responsibility of taking multiple pictures of you with each tiger. You are led one at a time by the hand of another Thai who places you in a particular position next to each tiger. Was it for the best picture? Or was it because this was the position that the particular tiger disliked the least? There were about ten tigers but several of them were in the distance and you weren’t brought any where near those. Perhaps they are the maulers. After they escort you through, the give you a book and tell you to look at the pictures. If you don’t like them, they will escort you through again to get more shots. We called it at one. With huge, satisfied grins on our faces, we headed to the exit and began to peruse the book they had handed us. It was a book that talked about each tiger and included their likes and dislikes. For all of the prior claims that the tiger petting was all fine and safe, the book told explicitly otherwise. I’m actually quite glad I didn’t know that before I went in. I’m sure they can smell fear and know who is an easy target. I surely would have been a goner.

It had been a long tour and a long day. But how many times do you get to Thailand? The restaurant and area that we had wanted to visit the night prior but had skipped because of traffic was now open and clear. We cleaned up, caught a cab and went to Sukhumvit. The restaurant was called Ruen Mullika and we never would have found it without the driver knowing the area. It was hidden in a local neighborhood where little else was around for the tourist crowd. The restaurant was constructed from an antique wooden tea house that wrapped around a beautiful garden. Not only was the setting romantic and quaint, but the food was supposed to be out of this world according to “Thailand’s Best Restaurants 2006” and Timeout’s travel book on Bangkok. The menu was huge and we took full advantage of it. The Mai Thai’s helped cool us off from the hot summer night and the spicy dishes in front of us.

Full and exhausted, we meandered down the streets trying to get back to the main street but only making turns that took us deeper into the local neighborhoods. I would have loved to explore if only I wasn’t so exhausted from the day. We finally hailed a cab and made it back to the hotel. All dressed up and running low on nights left in Bangkok, I convinced KH to have one more drink at the bar on top of the hotel. Called the Sky Bar, it is a circular bar that projects out of the 64th floor of the hotel. A railing of metal and glass surrounds the bar with limited room to walk and a dizzying view of the city and river below. The wind makes you feel like it will whip you, or at least your drink, right off the edge to plunge into the darkness. It was exhilarating. A scene right out of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. But rich and famous we are not. And bedtime it was.

Only one more day left to share.

Monday, June 11

Nothing Says Sunday Spirit Like A Monk "Oh-ing" At Your Door

Last Sunday, while I sat through yet another long day of cramming Cold War knowledge into my head, I heard the most peculiar sound. From somewhere in the neighborhood rose the sound of voices in a steady, drone of “Oooooohhhhh.” One voice would start and it seemed another would answer with the same plaintive sound. It took a few calls before I dragged myself away from the computer screen to peer out and see what was happening outside in my little Japanese world.

I could see nothing.

The voices faded. KH and I laughed it off. I moved on and went back to my work.

A few minutes had passed when the sound came floating into my ears again. This time I stood on our balcony, camera armed and ready, for whatever was passing by and making this most mellow ruckus. Only a few minutes and my patience paid off. Six men, who I can only guess were monks, came shuffling down our narrow road. I hate being caught staring, so I ducked down below the railing and peered through the holes to view the scene on the street below. They stopped in front of each house’s door, faced it and continued making their hollow “O” sound. Never did they knock. Never did anyone approach. And after about a thirty second stance planted firmly in front of each door, they simply moved on.

Were they begging for money with their monosyllabic chant? Were they blessing each house in our little quarter of Zushi? Were they just bored and thought a nice tour of the neighborhood was just what was needed on that beautiful Sunday?

Wish I could tell you. Maybe you can tell me?

PS – There is still more to share of our Thailand travels. Sadly, six classes and a fulltime subbing schedule at an elementary school have been keeping me from sharing. But the grand insanity will be downgraded to just mild madness after this week and I will get back to being a normal gaijin in Japan.

Friday, June 1

Thailand Travels: Day Two

Breakfast by the hotel’s eternity poolside started off day two of our Thailand trip. An elaborate buffet spread was included in the ridiculously cheap package we had booked which allowed me to fill my plate of exotic, local fruits and Thai omelets.

After eating more than our fair share, we hit the streets in search of a travel agency to book all of our trips. Should you ever travel to Thailand, yet another place were the prices are bargainable are the day trips. Even though the hotel offered packages, the prices were not necessarily pricy, but pricier than we were willing to spend. The concierge kindly offered up directions to an agency he recommended nearby. We set off in that direction full of confidence but it took only twenty minutes until we recognized that we would be terrible candidates for the Amazing Race. Instead, we located what appeared to be a reputable service and entered. Perusing their information, we found the tours we had already sought to do and began working at a better price. Three tours – one for six hours, the second an eleven hour tour, the third a ten hour tour, including lunch and we got the price to just under $125 per person. While surely it was not the best deal in Thailand ever, it certainly wasn’t too shabby for my first real attempt at bargaining. Kimono Hubby sat silently by.

Having three hours of free time before the first tour guide picked us up at the hotel, we set off to find a good market. As we stood on the corner, a friendly local asked if he could help. After talking, we discovered he worked at our hotel. He gave us the skinny on local markets, and then escorted us to a cab that looked more like a covered tricycle sporting a motorcycle engine. We climbed in, our friend providing the destination in Thai, and began our excursion through the hectic streets at speeds that seemed entirely risky for the unbalanced contraption we were perched upon. There were moments that cars whizzed by, both going our direction on one side and the opposite direction on the other where, as if I was a small child, I had to be reminded to stop sticking my hand out to touch the zippy passerby’s.

When we arrived at our destination, our surprise was surely evident. We had just been discussing the possibility of hitting one of Thailand’s infamous tailoring shops for cheap suits for Kimono Hubby if there was time. Here we found ourselves pulled up in front of one. There must have been some miscommunication when we had mentioned shopping in our street corner conversation. While this turned out to be a good misstep for Kimono Hubby, it certainly wasn’t the market filled with colorful silks that I was hoping for. Offering me a Singha beer upon entering at 10:30 in the morning did much to make me smile though, allowing me to be quite content as the fitted KH for his multiple suits. Another salesperson worked on me. At first, I was quite resistant as I really don’t need suits or pants or skirts. But once the price hit $100 for three pairs of custom tailored pants made of fine wool, I could no longer say that silly no word and found myself with measuring tapes strapped around my waist and thighs. The sale complete… the beers gone… we headed back to our motorbike cab. (Thailand is known for and very proud of three things – custom tailoring, massage and jewelry. As I will not mention the suits again in my writings, I did want to make it known that the night after the order was placed, a man came to our hotel room for us to try the new pieces on. Any adjustments were made that night. The final product was delivered back to our hotel at no extra cost the next day. That is exactly 36 hours after the order that the final product was hand delivered. And let me tell you that nothing we have ever bought has been so gorgeous in its fit.)

We assumed our cabbie was taking us back to the hotel so we were quite surprised at the next step. A jewelry shop. But not your everyday kind. This place had escorts draped in Thai silk waiting at the door. They brought you through a workshop where jewelers were hand making the jewelry as people watched. Through another set of doors and you arrived inside a huge store lined with glass cases of the most elaborate and original ruby and sapphire pieces. This was all lovely to see and I was happy to be encouraged into trying any piece on that I wanted… however, there is just absolutely no way that I would ever spend that much money on jewelry for myself no matter how much damn bargaining I did. The last case before you exit has the cheap stuff. You were ushered there in a last ditch effort but even this did not sway me into a purchase. It wasn’t that the stones were imperfect as was repeatedly indicated, I just wasn’t looking to drench myself in gold and gems on this trip. Pulling away for the outstretched arms of our salesperson, we made it to the front door. Our cabbie was casually propped in the shade reading a paper under the assumption that we would be awhile. He was surprised to see us out so soon. It was only later that we would come to the supposition that he may have gotten a cut for getting us there.

We had time only for a quick lunch at this point. Ready for the taste of real Thai, it took me only moments to find a street cart on the filthy street behind the hotel to stake my claim at lunch. I think it was pork with some definite, serious chili peppers going on, and a little bit of god knows what else thrown in. Oh and rice from a plastic bag. Taking my lunch to a rickety plastic table in the alleyway, KH looked at me with disdain as I shoveled forkfuls down. The fear of something like Montezuma’s revenge made him shy away from trying even one bite full. Having had this revenge before from the Mexican devil himself, I feared no evil. Only when we came upon another food vendor housed in a concrete cage would KH lower his guard and try it. Somehow the idea that this place was in a building made him presume that it was safer. I couldn’t have cared less as long as he ate. You just have no idea how angry that man gets if he doesn’t eat.

Soaked through from the heat of the day and the heat of our lunches, we changed into heavier clothes for our afternoon tour. Or should I say the tour forced us into heavier clothes. The afternoon destination was the Grand Palace and the Emerald Buddha, a magnificent temple structure that required having shoulders, legs and toes covered. Our tour guide promptly picked us up at one in the afternoon, talking incessantly on the way to the Grand Palace. She told us a little history about the King and then a little history about the royal family. Then after that was more on the King’s history and a little more about the royal family. I think she mentioned Bangkok once or twice. But what we came to realize above all, is that it was all about the King. While I understand that royalty is quite important in Thailand, there were moments throughout the day with our guide that we began to question if brainwashing techniques were involved. I’m not trying to be cruel or not understanding when I say this. I just can’t fathom a country who can only talk about how wonderful their King is. The streets are lined with royal yellow flags. Yellow is the color for Monday and the King was born on a Monday. The Queen was born on a Friday, hence more infrequent blue royal flags. Pictures of the King were plastered onto every third building. Magnificent shrines housing the King’s portraits were found on every other corner. We heard stories about how the King does so much good for his people. The King gives everything back to his people. And the stories were repeated over and over throughout every single tour we took. Somewhere in the afternoon, it was mentioned that it was illegal to talk bad about the King and you could be imprisoned for doing so. A-ha! Could that we why the nonstop praise and all-hail-glory-be? I will stop there because I am still pretty close in proximity to Thailand and I don’t want to spend even one day exploring the Thai prison system. But seriously… weird!

The Grand Palace it self… well? Simply amazing. Gold. Glittering. Magnificent. I don’t know what more to say about this place. It was honestly beyond words. Every where you turned, there was a structure or statue more amazing than the one before. This place was certainly a place fit for a king.

The Emerald Buddha, one of Thailand’s most famous Buddha’s is housed in this area and we were eager to see the glory of the jade sculpture. Blessing the crown of our heads with a lotus flower dipped in blessed water, we entered the gold room that housed the Emerald Buddha. Many were kneeled on the floor saying silent prayers. High above the many heads in the room sat one tiny Buddha. For all of its hype, we were expecting something bigger than three feet tall. While honestly a superb piece, we just were not prepared for its smallish stature.

After all the gold glory, we were ready to be shuttled back to the hotel. Our guide prattled on during the drive, more King talk, blah, blah, born on Monday, blah, yellow color, blah. Hey look! Another shrine for the King! How can the people not love their King when it seems to almost be shoved into their brains? (Gah! Please don’t arrest me! I too love the King!)

Instead of taking us to our hotel, we pull up into… yet another jewelry factory and store! Seriously, what is this racket? Same deal except they added a movie about gemstones and some free drinks to this tour. We moved much quicker this time out of it. I no longer cared if it was construed as rude. I wanted a shower and nothing on this earth would have made me chose a ruby ring over a shower! Our guide seemed disappointed to see us so quickly on the other side of the building but begrudgingly led us to another tour bus that proposed to escort us to our hotel. The heat and the constant bargaining had worn us down for the day.

Without any real energy but not wanting to miss a place on our Thai wish list, we drug ourselves out for dinner. Our hotel provided the hotel and we provided the address for a restaurant in an area called Sukhumvit. However, traffic on a Friday night in Thailand adds about an hour to travel time. No exaggerating. I would have been asleep and probably sold into Thai prostitution in an hour. A quick change of plans and our cabbie chose to drive us to Suam Lum Bight Bazaar. Again outside of the plan but absolutely what I had been hoping for but was told it was very pricey. How very wrong this information was. We ate an excellent Thai dinner under the stars and then wandered through the maze of shopping tents until the heat threatened to destroy our three years of marriage. We had passed an outside bar area with live concert in process on a huge stage at the front. Even the thought of an icy drink was not enough to calm KH’s heat fatigue and fury. I was melting too but willing to allow it to happen. I just hate to think of missing one single moment of this life. Heat be damned. But sometimes, you just have to make the sacrifice. So I called it a night. Yet a third shower for the day and then I can only assume I made it to bed of my own volition. Sweet dreams… to me… and the King.