1.22.2015

Thailand: Day 8 (Back to Bangkok)

The sleeper train was such a fun experience. The food might have been gross and the accommodations were anything but luxurious, but it saved us a full day of traveling, provided beautiful views of the countryside, and these kids woke up super happy . . . probably from sleeping so well!


Next time we go to Thailand, we are packing lighter . . . 


I love this picture that one of the girls captured on their phones: 


On May 22, 2014, after six months of political crisis, the Royal Thai Armed Forces launched a coup d'etat against the government of Thailand. The military established a National Council for Peace and Order to govern the nation. The NCPO declared martial law and imposed an international curfew, banned political gatherings, detained politicians and activists, imposed internet censorship, and took control of the media. 

In spite of a ban on political gatherings of more than five people, demonstrators expressed their anger about the coup. Protesters were detained in Bangkok and throughout other parts of the country. In response to anti-coup activities on social media, the NCPO ordered the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology to block Facebook and Twitter from "time to time" effective May 28, 2014. 

Thai protesters used the three finger salute from the Hunger Games, symbolizing their opposition. The three fingers represent equality, liberty, and brotherhood. The military announced that it would arrest anyone who used the salute. Protesters then adopted the sandwich as their new anti-coup symbol. They handed out sandwiches shouting, "Sandwiches for Democracy!" On June 22, 2014, a student eating a sandwich was apprehended and placed under detention. The military said he had committed the offense of "possessing a sandwich with ill intent."

In addition to using the three-finger salute and eating sandwiches in public, two other acts were criminalized; reading George Orwell's, 1984 in public and wearing shirts with certain slogans such as "Peace Please" and "Respect My Vote". 

United States Secretary of State, John Kerry, issued a statement condemning the coup, saying that he was "disappointed" by the Army's decision and that it would have negative implications for the US-Thai relationship. $3.5 million in military aid was suspended. The United States urged tourists to cancel trips and halted nonessential visits by its government officers. On May 27, the Ministry of Tourism said that the arrival of foreign tourists had dropped by 20 percent. The coup resulted in the cancellation of Taylor Swift's Bangkok concert, scheduled for June 9, 2014. 

The curfew was lifted in most parts of the country on June 13, 2014, one week before our trip. 

(As a result of the coup, the Senate was dissolved, the Constitution was repealed, and the NCPO established a legislature which later voted General Prayuth Chan-choa as the new prime minister of Thailand.) 

The only evidence of political unrest that we encountered on our trip was blocked internet sites. We felt completely safe throughout the duration of our travels . . . except when riding a tuk-tuk. 


It wasn't very safe to shove five people in the backseat of a car, but we did that a couple of times too: 


Bangkok skyline: 


The Eastin Grand Hotel Sathorn was the most expensive hotel we stayed at and cost $104 a night: 


One of the reasons we picked that hotel was because it has direct access to the BTS Sky Train. Based on our wonderful experience at the Kantary Hotel Ayutthaya, we also considered Kantary House Bangkok. 


We were back in the big city with all of the noises and people: 


Street food at its best: 


Meat on sticks and juice in bags: 


Urban gardens: 


Lines and lines of taxi trucks: 


A couple of dogs hanging around the train station: 


And this too. Yuck. 


The first time we passed this man, he said hi and eagerly tried to start a conversation by asking if we needed help with directions. The second time we passed him, we really did need help. 


It took a while for us to realize he didn't actually know how to use a map, he just really wanted to talk to the Americans. 


Sawasdee Ka! I'm sad I didn't take a picture, but inside this McDonald's was a parfait bar. You could pick the toppings which included M&Ms, chocolate wafers, brownies, Oreo chunks, corn flakes, and corn. Corn?!?


Adam and Kaleigh were still playing with their McDonald's toys from the day before. And yeah . . . eating at McDonald's is the price you have to pay for traveling with kids. 


At the top of our list of things to do in Bangkok was to go to the floating market. Before leaving the hotel, we stopped at the front desk to confirm our directions and were shocked when they told us it would take over two hours to travel there. When we mapped things out at home, Google Maps showed the floating market less than 30 minutes away. (Another reason why we had picked that hotel.) But apparently, that was a "different" floating market . . . So then we had to decide whether we wanted to dedicate our entire day to finding the "real" floating market or if we were okay with the other floating market. The kids were mostly interested in swimming at the pool, so we decided we'd settle for the smaller market so we didn't have to spend our whole day traveling. 

Big mistake. 

And never trust a lady wearing a cat shirt who tells you she's going to take you to see the floating market: 


We saw some cool sites: 


And the kids were all happy: 



But after a super long (overpriced) boat ride that took us down the Chao Phraya River and then winded us all around the ancillary canals . . . 


. . . we finally arrived at the "floating market". 


Nope. 

This was not the floating market we were planning to see. Most of the stuff in this lady's boat were things you can order from Oriental Trading. Steve was so mad he shut down and wouldn't talk. So I had to be the one to refuse her aggressive sales techniques. 

Meanwhile, the lady in the cat shirt just sat there with a smile on her face. When we finally pulled away, she was handed a can of Coke, which we assumed was her payment for bringing potential customers. 


The boat ride continued: 


The river offered a pretty good view of Wat Arun, one of Thailand's best known landmarks. This temple is an architectural representation of Mount Meru, the center of the world in Buddhist cosmology. Thousands of miles in height, Mount Meru is located somewhere beyond the physical plane of reality, in a realm of perfection and transcendence. Wat Arun is also called "Temple of Dawn" because the morning light reflects off the colorful porcelain with pearly iridescence. 


The Grand Palace came into view . . . and we decided we had had enough of the boat ride. 


We got off at Ta Change Pier and walked towards the Grand Palace. Food stands lined the streets. These juices look sooooo good right now: 


Rambutan: 


Roseapple: 


Durian, also known as "stinky fruit": 


I regret not stopping and eating more of the fruit . . . but we were always in a hurry. 


On the other hand, the monks we saw never seemed to be in any sort of hurry at all: 


Ever wondered where all of the old cell phones go? They're all for sale on the streets in Bangkok: 


Looking for some cassette tapes? You can find them in Bangkok too: 


And then there was this . . . 


As we passed this man and his food cart, the smell of roasting vegetables filled the air. If we weren't dripping with sweat, we probably would have bought every single thing he was selling: 


Just before we entered the gates to the Grand Palace compound, we passed this man: 


I actually walked right past him and had to turn around and go back: 


That's a Burmese Python he put on Lucy's neck: 


It took her a second . . . 


But I think we count that as a smile: 


Then it was Adam's turn: 


He started out smiling: 


But then . . . 


. . . he just about got choked!


And then the guy pulls out a piece of paper telling us we owe him 500 baht . . . which is over $16 . . . for taking a picture. I offered him 30 baht, but he was visibly upset and swatted it away as if I was giving him a penny. 

Four kids, inside the gate, safe from the choking python: 


I asked Bradee to jump out so I could get a picture of just my three and shoot . . . she looks so dejected: 


Sorry, Bradee. It was cuter with all four. 


We started out at Wat Pho. The entrance fee was 100 baht per person and we got away with only paying for the adults. 


Wat Pho is one of the largest and oldest wats in Bangkok, with an area of 80,000 square meters. It is home to more than one thousand Buddha images, including the Reclining Buddha. 

The Wat Pho complex consists of two walled compounds. The northern area is where the Reclining Buddha and massage school are found. The southern walled compound, Tukgawee, is a working Buddhist monastery with monks in residence and a school. 

The temple is considered the first public university of Thailand, teaching students in the fields of religion, science, and literature through murals and sculptures. In 1962 a school for traditional medicine and massage was established. The temple is home to one of the earliest Thai massage schools. 


The kids laughed and laughed when they saw this sign. Pickpocket Gangs?!? (That's how safe they felt.) 


The Reclining Buddha is 49 feet tall and an impressive 151 feet long. The building is just large enough to house the statue, which makes photographing it rather difficult. 


You might recognize this picture from the photo wall at Thai Curry Kitchen. It's one of my favorite images from our trip: 


Another funny sign about the gangs: 


This was the best spot to get a picture with the Reclining Buddha. Lucy must have wandered off and there were people waiting, so we had to take it without her: 


Buddha's feet are 10 feet tall and 15 feet wide and are inlaid with mother-of-pearl. They are divided into 108 arranged panels, displaying symbols including flowers, dancers, white elephants, and tigers, all representing a true Buddha. 


Inside Wat Pho are 108 bronze bowls indicating the 108 auspicious characters of Buddha. You walk down the line and drop a copper coin into each of the bowls to bring good fortune. The noises from the coins hitting the bowls are really cool: 


"All gone!" (Shoulders and knees are supposed to be covered inside the wats, but this requirement didn't seem to apply to kids.) 


We had read in a travel book that the Thai people were especially kind to kids and we found that to be true. I feel like an adult in the U.S. would have told Adam not to play with the fan . . . 


But this woman just smiled and laughed at him: 


Here's a good view of the exterior of Wat Pho: 


Or Wat Po . . . 


There were so many good sculptures: 


The entrance fee for the actual Grand Palace is 500 baht and there is no discount for kids. So it would have cost 3000 baht or around $100 for our family. I know that doesn't seem like as much now, but in Thailand, that was a small fortune. We decided we had seen enough around the Grand Palace. Mostly because we were dripping wet with sweat . . . 


And this was starting to happen: 


So we just walked around for a few more minutes: 


And took a few more pictures before we left:  



We had to do some serious haggling to get a decent price back to our hotel. We were hot and exhausted


Then it was back to the BTS Skytrain, which is always entertaining with kids: 


We hurried back to our rooms, changed into our swimming suits, and finally got to go swimming in the infinity pool on the 14th floor: 



But the fun didn't last long . . . because of this boy right here: 


Adam threw three rocks off of the side of the pool . . . from the 14th floor. This picture is probably either Adam collecting the rocks or Adam tossing the rocks. If only I would have known what was going on . . . 


This is one of the bills we received. It was negotiated to 10,000 BHT = $333 USD. So thankful that amount was in baht, not dollars. And so thankful nobody got hurt. 


He cracked the corner of a windshield:  


And dented the hood of another car: 


It could have been much worse. The whole ordeal was super awkward. They printed out the security camera photos of Adam throwing the rocks and they even retrieved the rocks from the road. 


To make matters worse, when we checked in, we reported only three kids instead of four. And they totally busted us at breakfast the next morning. 

I was super embarrassed by the whole thing and felt completely sheepish anytime we were out of our room. I felt like everyone was pointing at us and talking about us . . . and since we were the only Americans staying there with kids . . . they probably were. 

We took the kids back up to the 14th floor to order dinner from the lounge called Luce. This was, quite possibly, the best pizza I've ever eaten. Of course it was for the kids, who didn't appreciate it nearly as much as me. 


The views were so amazing. Such a shame that we barely got to use the pool. (I never even got in.) 

 

We got the kids fed, changed into pajamas, and settled for the evening . . . And then we walked next door to go to dinner. It was rush hour and there was lots of traffic: 


The adults had reservations at the Blue Elephant Restaurant: 


We were super early (translation: we were super eager to escape from our kids . . . and the hotel) so we had to order some drinks while we waited for the dinner service to start. 


Blue Elephant first opened in Brussels by Thai native Khun Nooror and her Belgian husband. The authentic Royal Thai cuisine was a huge success. They later opened Blue Elephant restaurants in London, Paris, Dubai, Jakarta, and a number of other cities throughout Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. 

International success and acclaim ultimately led Nooror to return to her homeland. After securing and restoring the historic building in central Bangkok, the Blue Elephant Cooking School & Restaurant opened in 2002. 

The elegant restaurant attracts dignitaries and celebrities from across the globe: 


We weren't dressed nicely enough. John was in shorts and they gave him some sort of wrap to wear that covered his legs. 


Gold plates, gold silverware, and a special taste from the chef = fancy. 


The extensive menu features dishes categorized under three groupings: Thai Cooking of the Past (featuring culinary traditions), Thai Cooking of Today (representing contemporary dishes), and Thai Cooking of Tomorrow (innovative dishes). 


Lacie appears to be a little frightened by the rice basket: 


Everything was amazing!


And it was just the escape we needed from the afternoon's mortification at the swimming pool . . . 

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