A continuation from Part 1. :)
The next day, we woke up early, eagle-eyed for our visit to the Thai Grand Palace. Getting around in Bangkok was a breeze because there are strategically-placed information booths for the convenience of tourists. Maps are freely given, and the booths are open early in the morning. It is no wonder that tourism makes up a big part of Thailand's economy as the locals are warm and helpful with their ever-ready smile, and are more than willing to point you to your destination. Being young and thrifty, we took a bus to the Grand Palace, which only cost us less than 10 baht each.
Tourist Information Booth
You can view the bus schedule here
Taking the bus is good - you feel like a Thai, and you can view the city from the routes that Thai people usually take. And there are chun university chicks hopping on too! ^_^
Bin and I at the entrance to the Grand Palace.
Smiling goblin at the front of the Grand Palace
From the moment we stepped past the royal gates, our eyes glazed over in gold as we stared in bewilderment at the majestic monuments inside. Really, only 4 Chinese words to describe the whole place - 金碧辉煌!
Phra Mondhop (Library) - I'm guessing they store Buddhist scriptures in here
Even the drawings are plated in gold - we saw Thai art students restoring the drawings by painting on gold flakes
Emerald Buddha in Wat Phra Kaew
According to legend, when the Emerald Buddha was unearthed, it was coated in clay, so nobody knew that there was actually jade inside. The Emerald Buddha, like a doll, has three sets (hot, rainy, winter season) of gold clothing to wear and the clothes are changed by the King of Thailand himself every year. Just like fashion houses' Spring/Summer, Fall/Winter collection...
Us with the figurines:
Bin and a bronze Kinari
Ferocious, gigantic statue and I
Prasart Phra Debidorn (Royal Pantheon)
Chakri Maha Prasat Hall - Siamese rooftops with Western style building architecture
The Royal Guard and I
Wei Xuan, safe and sound at the Royal Gardens
Chen Jie, I, Xuan and Wei Jiang
"Don't trust strangers"
My dad had reminded me to MUST try the baby coconut juice. The three of us were so tired after walking in the hot sun that the baby coconut seemed like a gift sent from heaven. Slurpeelicious!
Wat Arun in the distance
Next, we went to Chinatown by bus. I had to buy some Chinese delicacies for my mom that she said were cheaply sold in Thailand. I bought cashew nuts, shark's fin, dried cuttlefish and a handbag for myself.
It was already dusk when we hopped off our bus outside our hotel. After a quick bath, we met up with Chen Jie and Wei Jiang at Siam Paragon for dinner. The carpark of the Siam Paragon had only been bombed a few days before. So, our feeling was that of a risk-taking "they-won't-bomb-the-same-place-twice" as we sat in the modern, swanky foodcourt. Chen Jie sms-ed us "We're sitting near the aquarium." But which aquarium?! There were dozens of fish-tanks in the foodcourt, with happy little colourful tropical fish swimming around, oblivious to the bombings. Actually not just the fish were oblivious, bunches of tourists and locals were bustling all over the city like nothing had happened.
Chen Jie introduced us to his friend, Lee Siew Hwa, who was working for the Committee for Asian Women (CAW), an NGO in Bangkok. We sat there discussing local places of interest, people, social culture, politics, and the bombings. It was a very enlightening and interesting chat with a fellow Malaysian who had actually lived and did research in Bangkok. Later that night, she brought us to Patpong district for some "continued research". :-)
Patpong - Bangkok's infamous red-light district, consists of rows and rows of back-end alleys and streets filled with the hottest stuff; there, just barely-after-school-age SYTs (sweet young things) winding and grinding on table-top poles in colorful bikinis, and men, mostly foreigners, prowl the streets looking for girls. I wondered, why are so many young and pretty girls willing to shamelessly bare themselves for the pleasure of men? The answer is money. The streets of Bangkok in the daytime are filled with fashionable young girls. University students and Office Ladies walk around carrying expensive bags (might be fake, I dunno..) and nice makeup and pretty heels. Heck, I can't even afford to change my wardrobe that often with my pay! My guess is that many of them moonlight as gogo-dancers for the money.
Many pimps came forward to ask the guys to go in to watch the gogo-shows. They held a slip of paper, on top of it was written "Pussy Ping-pong, Pussy Coke Bottle, Pussy this-and-that". All the variations of what the girls can do with their pussies. I was so disgusted I shook my head and refused to enter even though the cover charge was only 100 baht (RM10). Wei Xuan wondered at the sight of such immoral decadance in a pious Buddhist society. And Siew Hwa had an answer to that. Long time ago, the Thais cleverly learnt how to adapt themselves to avoid being colonized by the British. Brothels were opened up along the border and Thai women learnt the skills of "pleasing" the officers on duty. For decades onwards, this - the women - has become one of the reasons foreigners come again and again to Thailand. Today, tourism holds much importance and forms the basis of the Thai economy. And the Thais are not doing less to further strengthen their stronghold as the must-visit destination of Asia. Their smiles, their facilities, their many efforts to accomodate the whims and requests of each tourist - all learned to perfection.
The next day, the 3 guys took off to visit the Bridge on the River Kwai. I had had too much of dead people in Phnom Penh I decided to forgo it and go for some cheap shopping at Chatuchak market instead. Chatuchak is the biggest open-air market place in the world. It is open only on weekends, and is situated near the old airport, to the north of Bangkok. We arrived there by SkyTrain and got down at Mo Chit station. There is all you can find at Chatuchak - handicraft, clothes, accessories, animals, furniture, food... you name it, you got it! One piece of advice is - if you see anything you like, grab it, bargain for it, and BUY it! Because the moment you leave the stall, there is hardly a chance you'll ever find it again in that huge sea of stalls.
We spent the whole morning at Chatuchak and bought quite a number of items. :) On our way back to the hotel, we were so lucky to pass by Victory Monument on the SkyTrain, thus saving our little cash left. It was also one of the bombsites of the Bangkok bombing.