Sunday, January 1, 2017

Day 3: Waking Up in Bangkok

Day 3 and we were ready to start our adventure. Step one: Open up the curtains and get a look outside.

This is the view from our room. A little hard to tell, but that is a long line of monks in their saffron (orange) robes, collecting their morning alms.

Next we grabbed a quick breakfast before meeting our tour.  I didn't take any photos of the breakfast spread, but let me say that it was quite a spread: American breakfast foods, Chinese, Thai, even Indian foods.  We were allowed to go into the executive lounge for breakfast, but, honestly, we never made it there in the morning.  

Time to tour! We met our tour group down in the lobby. This first day there was a little bit of chaos - people couldn't remember which tour guide they were with (P.A., Kitty, or Audi), and people arrived late. I guess that's to be expected on the first morning, on only a few hours of sleep. 

Either way, we were off! 

There were 3 tour groups (each with their own guide) with about 30 guests in each group, so we were 3 buses and 90 tourists total.

Our itinerary (received before the trip) for the day read: 
Bangkok is a city of gleaming modernity firmly rooted in ancient Buddhist tradition and beliefs. After breakfast, we visit the Temple of Golden Buddha which is home to the world’s largest solid gold Buddha statue. A magnificent piece of history not to be missed, the seated Buddha measures 10 feet high, weighs over 5 tons, and is worth an estimated $14m. Stroll through one of Bangkok's largest Flower Markets at Paklong Talat. Continue on to visit the oldest temple, the Temple of Reclining Buddha (Wat Pho). After enjoying a local Thai buffet lunch, we have the chance to visit the Gem's Factory & Thai silk. Spend the evening free at leisure or join our optional "Thai Classical Dance Show with Dinner".
This bus ride was our first look at Thailand in the daylight. 

First tuk-tuk sighting! I also loved the bright pink cabs!

Many buildings had large billboards commemorating the King.

Look at this crazy truck! The Thais may still be wearing dark colors to show their respect to the King, but this truck shows that Thais love color! 

First stop, Temple of Golden Buddha!

The outside of the temple.

A memorial to the late King on the outside of the temple.

First look at the Golden Buddha!

Selfie with the Golden Buddha. It was a little hard to get one without people in the background!

Our tour guide pointed out that this is the area where the monks for this temple live.
Then we had a really cool experience, which I believe could only come from having a really awesome guide. P.A. directed us to an area where the monks were giving blessings. This isn't us, because we couldn't get a picture while we were getting blessed, but these are the people who were blessed before us. People bring gifts of food (those are food baskets next to the monks) or money and receive a short chant from the monks, holy water splashed from a small bundle of reeds, and if you're really patient at kneeling in a hot room for a long time, you can receive a prayer and a small string bracelet.  

Jon got the prayer and the bracelet, I had to bail from the hot room after a little while.  But I thought it was really cool how P.A. showed us where and how to sit, how to make the donations, etc. It was a much more personal moment than taking our photo in front of statue. 

If I remember right, I don't think we went to the Flower Market that day, and our next stop was Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha).

Again, P.A. was great about giving us tips about where there were less crowds and better photo opportunities. For example, he said, don't get stuck right at the door where it's crowded and the view isn't that great. Instead, there are little areas where the railing is inset, go to the first and fourth one for a better photo.  

The entrance for foreigners. There were signs like this at most of the places we visited.
The grounds around the temple were beautiful. I loved the little statutes hidden among the trees.

Here's our guide, P.A., telling us about chedis and stupas. 

I love all of the Buddhas in a row.

Hey! My shirt is the color of the Buddha's robes! Must be very auspicious!

One of the many temples on the grounds. 

Another homage to the late King. They were everywhere. The King was very well respected.

Finally, the reclining Buddha! It was huge! Almost impossible to get a picture of the whole thing, but we tried!

When I look at this picture, I'm reminded of how HOT it was in there. And outside. But even moreso in the temple. 

As I wrote, it was super hot. One little boy in our group vomited, I think because of the heat. When we came out of the temple and regrouped, P.A. had bottles of cold water for us which was very appreciated! 

Sunshine on the temple's gilded ornamentation. 

From there we went to lunch, and had the rest of the day on our own. Luckily, we did not go to the "Gem factory and Thai silk" on this day either, but I'll talk more about the gem factory in a future post. We skipped the dinner cruise. I think we ended up sleeping most of the evening, only waking up for happy hour in the executive lounge. 

It was a fabulous (and tiring) first day in Thailand! 

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