Tuesday, January 6, 2009
Bangkok in a day
I was supposed to be in Bangkok for just a few days. And then head south to the beach for a few days before heading back for my flight to Cairo. Arriving on New Years Eve, in a town whose name I can only imagine is literally translated as "Debauchery", put a stop to any plans for sightseeing out of Bangkok. Like so many other holidays, once you drink yourself into a state that keeps you in bed till dark the next night, there's nothing else to do but drink right? And you stay in this vicious cycle until your liver rebels or you end up in jail. Thankfully, my partner in debauchery had a friend coming in, so I moved on. And since I don't usually drink alone , I've been able to come up for air, rank with diesel and sewage though it may be...
Besides, I'm going to have to run myself ragged in Cairo, so I really needed to relax for a bit.
Ok, so lets say hypothetically, you have drank yourself silly and have only a day or two left in Bangkok. Or like so many people, you only planned to be in this city for a day or two (and rightly so from what I've seen). Here's a suggested itinerary that will give you a good idea of what Bangkok is about. It will not give you any idea about Thailand though. If you think you can visit the capital of any country and gather more than a pinch of information on the country as a whole...well...sadly, you're probably the average American I run in to on these trips. I'll move on.
Start out by taking the river taxi/ferry across the Chao Phraya river to Siriraj Hospital. A hospital? Yes. Because enclosed in this hospital is a museum of bodies, well, mostly parts that while terribly gross, I feel it does let you in on some small part of the Bangkok psyche. These pictures are not for the faint of heart. Technically you aren't allowed to take photos in the museum, but I snapped a few. Honestly, the ones I took aren't the worst of what's in there.
Here's an excerpt from my journal this morning:
I feel weak. I've cut my lip and my finger and I don't know how. I'm attempting to kill off a 4 day bender. My throat is sore, I can't swallow properly. I had only coffee and toast for breakfast. Now may not be the best time to see:
Suicide by wrist slashing
Suicide by hand amputation
Multiple stab wounds
Child missing most of his head due to car accident
Man in similar condition but head completely off due to train accident
Many victims of grenades, literally piles of flesh with random appendages
Life size replicas of forensic teams at the site of the Tsunami, with bloated tourists piled up.
Head in a jar, split down the middle to show the brain. Eyes still open.
Two headed baby in a jar
So many babies in jars
Every organ in the human body floating in jars
The really unnerving thing for me was how many photos, etc seemed to be westerners, not Thais. As I'm posting this, I'm wondering if I should. Is it too much? Have I pushed the envelope too far? But I'm leaving it. Keep reading though, the day improves!
Below: Amputated Leg
Below: Mummified murderer
Below: Life size replicas of, you guessed it, Elephantitis. I really can't imagine being the artist who is commisioned to make a statue of a man with 80 lb testicles.
Below: This actually is not the worst "jar baby". I chose to shoot this one because its face was covered. I'm not entirely sure why, but it felt better. I know that most of these babies were not taken unaturally. But it was really sad to see them anyway. Notice the blur in the bottom front. Its a piece of candy. Often people will set up shrines to dead relatives and leave their favorite things in front. All the babies had little pieces of candy in front of them. It was sweet in a very macabre way.
Ok, enough of that.
Next, jump back on the ferry and head to Wat Pho, home of the illustrious 46 meter long reclining Buddha. What's that? Meters? Yes, for those of you that are not metrically inclined (myself included), that's about 150 feet. For those of you true Americans, its just shy of the width of a football field.
These guys just made me chuckle:
Its like a giant Buddha Store!
I think this has something to do with massage, or pressure points. There were several illustrations like this.
I don't know about you, but I see a man with big boobs peeing on a dog fish:
It would seem that Buddha was so vain, he worshipped himself...
Here we have representations of positions used in massage and meditation I believe. Some look like they aren't thoroughly enjoying themselves:
And finally, the Reclining Buddha. Quiz time! How long is he? 46 meters! 150 feet!
Sidebar--I've discovered many things on this journey, some I may have posted already. I'm currently being eaten alive by mosquitoes, so I'm getting sidetracked.
Discovery A--you can apply bugspray to your legs without rubbing it in with your hands. Just liberally spray it and then pretend you are a grasshopper.
Discovery B--when staying in a hotel or hostel, immediately throw your belongings all over the room. That way, if someone tries to break in, they'll think your room has already been ransacked!
Ok, back to the itinerary.
After Wat Pho, move on back to the river and catch the boat up to the central landing, where you can catch the BTS or Skytrain. This takes you through the skyscraper areas of Bangkok. Get off at Siam Square and check out the Mall/s aka "Monument to Exxxcess" There is Siam Discovery, Siam Center and Siam Paragon. Literally three four story malls; connected. Which begs the question, is it even 3 malls? But it definitely is. And definitely ridiculous.
Now if at any time during your journey, you can be approached by a "Wily Stranger" trying to take you to buy gems or cheap clothes, all the better. It will help you to have a more 'authentique' Bangkok experience.
Now I haven't made it out to the sex districts in Bangkok, but I do suggest it, as it is so much a part of the city, that you should probably check it out, and its easy enough to fit in a live sex show at the end of a hard day of touring the city...
So there you have it! Bangkok in a day.
Random shots around town.
Below: Trash bin at the Grand Palace. The King digs Yoda?
Below: I believe these are called Stupas, but since I've been drinking myself stupid (bah dum ch) don't believe me. Either way, they make nice hats.
A bit of the dichotomy of housing conditions:
To get into the Grand Palace, you have to be dressed appropriately. I was not. My dress actually ends just below the picture. I would like to point out the legs on the figures.
These people love their King. I bet you could find a woman with his image tattooed on her boobs. (Sidebar--tried to find a bra at the mall, they were all too small)
Many places in this part of the world use squat toilets, or holes in the ground. This image is to show how to use a western style toilet.
More dried nasty than I ever wanted to smell:
I'll end with a somewhat familiar image: