MESSAGE: Bangkok *Videos*
Welcome to Bangkok: Home to world-famous Buddhas, faux Burberry and Lady Boys!
But Thais also have a serious side, especially when it comes to their royalty. Support for royalty in Thailand is very high. Twice a day everyone stops in their tracks to sing the national anthem and every place of business and home has a picture of the King in a place of honor.
Thailand is known for having the longest reigning monarchy. The current king His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej has been ruling the country for 60+ years, assuming the throne at the age of 19. The King’s role is mainly ceremonial. Perhaps this lack of political interference is one reason for his longevity…
MEET (Cool Meet Ups) – Sunset at Arun Residence. The Arun Residence, a combo bar / restaurant / hotel, is down a little alleyway, across from the famous Wat Pho (home of the 40-meter Reclining Buddha). We inadvertently went down the wrong side street and ended up in someone’s river-side home. Oops! But it was worth circling back to find the right place.
The patio restaurant sat directly opposite Wat Arun, overlooking the busy Chao Phraya, the river that winds its way through the center of Bangkok. Wat Arun is named after Aruna, the Indian God of Dawn, supposedly because of its glow from the morning dawn.
We were there at sunset and the wat literally glowed, the pagoda’s gold patina turning rosy along with the sky. Whether you see it at dawn or dusk, it’s really a breath-taking view that can’t be beat. Worth the search and find mission to get there!
EAT (Tasty Eats) – Spicy Prawns. Spicy anything! The Thai food we eat in the States is completely watered down – food here is hot hot hot! I had a yummy spicy prawn and pineapple salad. Or rather, it would have been yummy had I been able to eat it. On the up side, cold beer helps with the chilis!
SEE (Must-see Sights) – Grand Palace. Thailand’s Grand Palace has been the official residents of the Kings of Siam since 1782. And while the current King no longer resides on the palace grounds, it remains the site of royal ceremonies and state functions.
The Grand Palace is a series of structures, including buildings, halls, and pavilions set among gardens and courtyards. It is also a museum. Its most famous artifact is the Emerald Buddha, which is given a place of veneration in the royal chapel. (The chapel has all the features of a temple, except it doesn’t house monks.)
Before visiting the Emerald Buddha , we sprinkled ourselves with lotus flowers dipped in water . This gesture serves as a rite of purification and a blessing. A lovely tradition!
Here I am amidst all the glitter and gild and in the throes of heat stroke at the Grand Palace:
Can’t see this video? Clink on the link: Erin in Bangkok: http://youtu.be/ncQ9FP0Gi-k
SHOP (Gotta Have) – Faux Forever! Need the latest bag from Louis Vuitton or Chanel? It’s right here – for sale on the sidewalk for 1,000 Baht (about $30). Also for sale on the black market – cosmetics and medical supplies, including drugs like Viagra.
The sale of counterfeit goods worldwide is a multi-billion dollar business, with an estimated value of 7-10% of world trade. Thailand used to be a manufacturer of the goods, but now serves as an importer and trade hub for the illegal goods. The contraband is everywhere. And the police seem to be doing very little about it…
ACTIVITY (Gotta Do) – Bridge over the River Kwai. I can’t speak more highly of this expedition to learn about the fate of Allied troop POWs during WWII. We went for 3 days, but even a day trip is worth it! Read all about my experience in the Bridge over the River Kwai post.
GIVE (Greatest Need) – Bangkok Slums. Bangkok slums are thought to house 10% of the capital city’s total population. The Khlong Toei slums, alone, are home to nearly 100,000 people, most who have migrated from the northern hillside regions. While violence in Bangkok’s slums is not high (especially in comparisons to other African shanty towns or Brazil’s infamous favelas), life here is not rosy.
People are poor, squatting in shacks by the railway or under bridges. Being slum ‘squatters’ doesn’t give the dwellers access to facilities such as running water, electricity and garbage collecting. Dengue fever and fire hazards are particular hazards. Typical of the poor, Thais living in the slums are more likely to have HIV, and children are more likely to be raised by one parent and less likely to go to school.
Local NGOs that are working to better life for those living in Bangkok slums are Mercy Center (www.Merceycentre.org) and the Duang Prateep Foundation (http://en.dpf.or.th). Both orgs fight to protect the rights of slum dwellers, including advocating for access to education and healthcare, as well as fostering grassroots community building.
ENJOY (Extra Fun) – Lady Boy Cabaret. I had to beg my mom for us to go see the show. Actually, not really, she’s a pretty good sport. But seeing the famed Thai Lady Boys in action was high up on my list of things I wanted to do while in Bangkok.
We took a long taxi ride out to the middle of nowhere to the show pavilion but it was worth it! The costumes and sets were great (even if the lip syncing was a bit off). Mom actually thought there were some ringers performing — as in REAL women, not boys in drag. My only disappointment – where was the Cher number?! It is not a drag show without Cher!
Check out the ladies for yourself:
Can’t see this video? Click on this link: Mambo Cabaret: http://youtu.be/AL2gmB4yXrI