Bangkok is also known as the City of Angels. Its full, ceremonial name is (brace yourself -it's listed in the Guiness Book of World Records as the longest city name) Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Yuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Phiman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit (in Thai that's written out as: กรุงเทพมหานคร อมรรัตนโกสินทร์ มหินทรายุธยา มหาดิลกภพ นพรัตน์ราชธานีบุรีรมย์ อุดมราชนิเวศน์มหาสถาน อมรพิมานอวตารสถิต สัขขะทขัตติยะวิษณุกรรมประสิทธิ์). Kids in Bangkok schools have to learn that one for tests. Sheesh.
Mike asked me, "How do you know they are going to the right place, again?"
Young monks riding the ferry
This outing is when the kids decided they had had enough buddhas to last them through eternity. I can't help but sympathise: it was completely and utterly overwhelming. So much gold, so many details, everything huge, elaborate, intricate, dazzling, and it went on and on and on.
There were numerous tiny mirrors on the surfaces of many of the buildings to confuse or frighten evil spirits with their own reflections and keep them out. I can't speak for the evil spirits, but I was blinded by the bling to the nth factor. Impressed, but also somewhat dumbfounded and definitely dazed.
I can almost sympathise with the evil spirits. They haven't a chance.
Yes, I was stalking them, but, I hope, with discretion.
And tourists. Lots and lots of tourists. Too many tourists. Of course, we were adding to the overall count, what can I say?
As you would at Buckingham Palace, we watched the traditional taunting of the guards to try and evoke a reaction and the groups posing by them when the attempts inevitably failed:
as well as the changing of the Guard, with the expected pomp and circumstance.
We joined a tour given in English and, between necessary ministrations to the kids, got to hear bits and pieces about the Grand Palace, and the stories depicted in elaborate murals on seemingly endless corridors. The epic of Ramayana tells the legend of King Rama, his abducted but faithful Queen Sita, and Hanuman, his clever friend. It was far too complicated a story to understand in fits and starts, but facinating nevertheless; humorous, bloody, and triumphant. I am hoping to find a good English version to sit down and enjoy. Any recommendations from my friends in India or Cambodia, or maybe some Buddhist friends out there?
The Emerald Buddha, whose garments are changed once a season by the king, is actually suprisingly small for all the fuss surounding it. 45 centimeters tall. It is carved from a single piece of jade, and housed in the busiest Wat of all...but we weren't allowed to take photos in there. Even though we had gone relatively early in the day, there was such a crush of people massing to go in, in their bare feet or socks, as required, that I did a sort of duck in, duck back out, people-watch thing. I was also pleased we were all reunited with our shoes...apparently it is not unheard-of for someone to drop off their flip-flops and leave with some nice leather shoes.
Which would really be a bummer because you' never be able to figure out which flip flops were now rightfully yours if that happened to you.
I wish we could have spent more time there with guidebooks open, patiently matching up the styles from the different eras with the numerous buildings in a sort of architectural history lesson, but once again I found that, while the place became something of a visual treasure hunt, (Mike asking "Did you get a photo of that? And this? And how about those buildings over there? Did you see that one?!") my favorite subjects were simpler, more whimsical things, interesting faces and simple beauty:
After all that, the kids were pooped. I bribed them with ice cream to make up for the crowds and humid conditions. Mike rewarded himself with a beer, and though there were still plenty of museums and even more places to explore on the grounds, we called it a day.
One amazing place in Bangkok, Buddhist Temples and gods galore, check.