Anything I say about Bangkok is already said. Every single spot I display here has already been explored by a million people. Promoted in recent times as a hot business destination, its been one of Asia’s biggest shopping cum tourist hotspots for centuries, after all. Ashoka the great called it Suvarnabhoomi (Golden land or land of Gold in sanskrit) when his empire covered this region some 2000 years ago. At the time we landed at the airport, I didn’t know that. The renaming of the Bangkok airport was underway with huge suspended banners in glittering gold typography. Needless to say, I was surprised to make note of this. Suddenly, I felt like I was home but in another chapter from a past life!
Like any other city in the world, Bangkok is throbbing with action. Famous for its notorious sex parlors, it’s perplexing to note that a largely devout Buddhist society should be lost to its very own ideal. Promiscuity, materialistic pursuits and greed seem to co-exist with ancient rituals, folklore and a love for Buddha.
On my trip there some years ago, I realised its easy to make friends as long as you can thank the locals with the ‘Kap Kun Khap’ refrain, hands folded like the Indian Namaste. My efforts at greeting every vendor with the Sawat Dee (hello in Thai) refrain helped in getting some great bargains while shopping in the colorful Chatuchak weekend market. Like in India, you must bargain, bargain, bargain for complete satisfaction. No wonder its such a popular destination with Indian tourists.
Buddhism is important in Thailand. Religious artefacts in general and Buddha statues in particular are sacred. The head is the most important part of the Buddha statue and should not be touched. Any disrespectful handling of a Buddha statue is considered desecration, which results in severe criminal penalties. An observation made in the zillions of curio shops that sell Buddha heads in every proportion, size and material. Also attached to the purchase of a Buddha statue is the statutory export tax. It’s not something you can casually carry back home. You have to declare it holding it from the bottom else you don’t get out of the country!
Every street corner had large banners in Thai with pictures of the monarch in all his finery. As I learnt from the Tuk Tuk driver, the Royal family are revered and respected. Jokes about royalty are absolutely not tolerated. I believe you must walk on your knees and always seem shorter than the royalty whether they’re seated or standing. Being tall, my slouch was back!
Pretty much like the Hindu customs, we were informed by the temple staff at the temple sites we visited that when sitting, ensure that the soles of your feet are never pointed toward anyone, particularly a monk or Buddha image. The feet are considered the lowliest part of the body by Thais. Oddly, you get the best foot massages there!
One great thing about the people was their smiley disposition. It’s almost impossible to find a frown on a Thai’s face unless they’re staring at the sun or lost in deep thought. They expect you to smile a lot too in return. Smiling is equated with patience, and Thais greatly admire those who are patient. Thais avoid violence, conflict and confrontation. Losing your composure means losing respect in Thailand. Do not be surprised to encounter situations where an obvious injustice or abuse is tolerated with an outwardly submissive attitude, for the sake of not losing face.
This is a collection of diptychs that showcases what we did along the beaten tracks in the city.
The gilded temple complex of Wat Benjabophit (I think). Wat is for temple in Thai.
Wat sized happiness at Wat Benjabophit
The reclining bronze Buddha of Wat Po. Done to death but then I have my own picture postcard!
Frescoes and the tourists: The floral paintings on the walls inside are beautiful, not to mention the intricate woodwork.
Buddha bliss and the miniature fresco.
Gilded detail from head to toe.
The straw hat & the bridge on river Chao Phraya.
Thai gondola and temples galore.
Our guide was quick to tell us that Bangkok is the Venice of Asia! I was intrigued by this decorative figure on the stern of another gondola parked by the bay.
Walking to the night market through a 140 acre park with a man-made lake right in the middle! The park is named after Buddha's birthplace Lumbini except that the Thai's call it Lumphini!
The shower in our swanky hotel room, "psycho" style!
On the tube, we stood in a neatly arranged queue of commuters, marked on the floor at every doorway of the station.