Friday, December 20, 2013

A protesting Bangkok was less unstable than feared

Here is our view from our room. That pseudo shanty town is surrounded by modern towers. It is hard to not constantly be struck by the juxtaposition of old with new, and poor with extravagant.

Kerry and I had a lot of fun exploring some areas that were new to us in Bangkok including the area around the old customs house along the river and around Wat Hua Lamphong.

The Wat certainly felt like a locals only sort of place but was still welcoming (no English signs and not swarming with touts and tourists). I found it just about the perfect way to enjoy the peaceful morning back in one of my favorite cities. The smells of incense and charcoal, the sound of chanting and bells, the warm sun cut with a breeze, and the empty Wat felt almost like a hug. Also there were cats. Lots of cute little cats all around the temple (with collars no less). The temple is, interestingly enough, known for being a place for people to donate funeral arrangements for those who cannot afford it.

We stumbled on the old customs house, which was really enchanting in an old ruins sort of way. Now a firehouse, it is set in a bunch of winding allies along the river. Lucky for us it is also next to the most storied hotel in the city, the Mandarin Oriental, which is where we had an absolutely lovely early lunch watching the water roll along.

In dodging a few touts trying to scam us, we inadvertently learned that there were going to be "meetings" for the next week. Meetings being a euphemism for the protests that have begun to spring up as of late. Though, at least from what I saw, it did not look like much more than parading vehicles clad and filled with Thai flag bedecked people blowing whistles and the streets lined with more of the same. Everyone wore a smile and and pleasant demeanor which to me was not what I expected or feared when hearing of political unrest. I hope the warm positive atmosphere continues! If my only complaint is all the constant whistle blowing, it is still far less of an irritant, and far less likely to spark violence than the awful Xmas music that our hotel is continually blaring.

Hearing just now that our visas came through, we are off to Burma (Myanmar) tomorrow morning!


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