Grand Palace

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Nov. 28, 2015

We left the hotel in Mandalay at 11 am for the 1 hour drive to the airport and our flight to Bangkok. We had to wait a long time in the airport check-in line as there were people ahead of us checking in 19 big cardboard boxes of goods! I Wonder what their luggage overcharge fee was. It was only a 1 hour flight to Bangkok but by the time we got our luggage, went through customs and drove to the hotel it was 7 pm. We stayed at the At Ease Saladaeng Hotel. This is like a Residence Inn as the rooms are suites, complete with kitchen and living room. Very nice. The only problem is it did not have a restaurant (except for breakfast) so we had to go down the street to the 7/11 to pick up something to eat!

We were met at the airport by our guide for the rest of our trip. Joe has been a guide for 35 years and spoke very good English. Our first impressions of Bangkok while driving in: very tall, modern skyscrapers everywhere, lots of traffic. They drive on the left side of the road with right side drive cars (unlike Myanmar which is right side driving but right side drive cars!). We were told that the city has 9 million cars per day on the highways and 12 million scooters, on a system designed to hold only 1.8 million vehicles. So traffic is often at a gridlock.

Thailand is about the size of Wyoming but with 67 million people. Bangkok has 11 million and has been the capital of Thailand for the last 233 years. 97% of the people are Buddhist. But all religions are tolerated and supported. Thailand is a constitutional monarchy. It has a king, Rama IX, who is very beloved by the people. His picture is displayed everywhere, but he is only a figurehead. The power normally rests with an elected prime minister. But currently Thailand is under rule by the military as they try to keep the two majority political parties from fighting and killing each other.




Nov. 29, 2015

This morning we visited the Grand Palace of the old Kingdom of Siam. This is a sprawling compound of ceremonial halls, gilded spires and ornate buildings dating from 1782. It was King Rama IV who ruled from this palace, expanded trade with the West, and was romanticized in the musical "The King and I".

Within the temple of Wat Phra Kaew is the 26 inch Emerald Buddha. Carved out of a solid piece of jade, the figurine is so beloved that the king himself changes its robes each season - hot, rainy, and cool. BTW, we were in the cool season but it was in the 90's!

In the evening we boarded a traditional wooden rice barge for dinner and cruise on the Chao Phraya River. We cruised past the high rise luxury hotels in downtown Bangkok and viewed the Grand Palace and temples lit at night.






Nov. 30, 2015

This morning we visited the ancient city of Ayutthaya. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was home to 33 kings from many different dynasties and the capital of Siam from 1353 to 1767. The city was once a place of such wealth that it was described as 2,000 spires clad in gold. We first stopped at Wat (which means temple) Yai Chai Mongkol.The temple is flanked by a row of saffron-draped Buddha statues.







We also explored the ruins at Wat Phra Sri Sanphet, a temple complex situated within the former Royal Palace grounds. This was burned down by the Burmese when they invaded Siam in 1767. All that was left were the brick foundations. After that, the palace and Siam kingdom was moved to Bangkok. Some of the temples are being restored as they contain remains of former kings. A new temple has been built on the site and houses a large sitting Golden Buddha.



After lunch we boarded a motorized long-tail boat for an afternoon cruise down the canal and river. We stopped at a Muslim village and went into the mosque to learn about their lives. There are about 600 families in the village. 60% work in factories, 10% in government, and 30% own their own businesses. The people originally came from the southern part of Vietnam. An Imam is elected by the community and is responsible for the mosque and people. They said their biggest problem is the young boys getting into drugs. We asked if they felt any discrimination because of their faith and they said not at all. The children go to school with everyone else. In fact there is a Catholic Church and a Buddist temple just down the road. Women do not wear traditional clothing while in the village - only when they leave the village.



Dec. 1, 2015

Today was a free day to explore on our own or to take an optional tour to a Floating Market and a Mangrove Forest. We opted for the tour but Barbara came down with a cold and decided to stay in the suite and rest. Fred joined the group on the tour which started west of Bangkok in the riverside town of Ratchaburi. The group boarded a paddle boat to explore the colorful Damnoen Saduak floating market where all types of goods are sold from boats and shore side stalls.


Next stop was a palm sugar workshop and coconut farm to learn the process of making products from these trees.

After lunch he traveled by bus to Khlong Khon district of Samutsongkram province where they boarded a fisherman's boat to explore the mangrove forest area, feed the wild monkeys and visit a local fisherman's home. The group was given the opportunity to help plant some mangrove seedlings but only one person (Jerry) volunteered. Looks like a very muddy job!


To view more photos from our trip to Thailand, please go to Thailand Photo Gallery. To read about the next location visited, go to Laos.

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