Thailand and Cambodia - Part 1 - Bangkok

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Donald was invited to be a keynote speaker in Phuket, Thailand.  How can we make the most of this 13-hour flight?  Visit Bangkok, Cambodia, and Phuket!


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In order to get a good price on our flight we took the train to Paris, then took a flight to Singapore, and then a 2-hour flight to Bangkok.  The extra bonus of flying out of Paris was we got to fly on the new A380 Airbus - the largest plane in the world.  It can seat up to 550 people! 


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Bangkok, home to 9 million people, became the capital of Thailand in 1782.  Thais refer to Bangkok as Krung Thep, the City of Angels.


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We arrived in Bangkok mid-afternoon.  After a little nap, we explored our neighborhood located in the heart of the city.  We were baffled by the number of street vendors selling food - who really are "in the streets".


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Most of the carts were pushed by hand and they moved along with the flow of traffic.  Talk about a crazy commute!


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A popular and cheap mode of transportation is the tuk tuks.  They are open-air three-wheeled vehicles. Basically a motorized rickshaw.  Look how many people are in this one.


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They are also used for deliveries.


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Are they safe?  Probably not!  But of course we rode in several of them anyway.

 

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Mopeds are also very popular, especially among the young women.  I had read that these are very dangerous so I refused to take any of them.  Check out those GREAT shoes!


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Because it is so warm all year long, many businesses were set up outside, like sewing shops.


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The Thai women are petite and very beautiful.  D obviously agrees!


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The other thing that struck us was the number of shrines in the city; pretty much one on every corner.


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Most Thais are Buddhists but there are also many Hindu shrines.  While worshippers go to the shrines with different objectives in mind, most have a protective function.  It is way too complicated to go into more detail - I would have to do a post on this alone.


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When Thai visit the temples they will normally make an offering such as flowers, incense, food and or drink. 


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I was particularly intrigued with the offerings left.


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What's up with this?  The Barbie doll shrine?

 

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The Erawan Shrine is one of the most popular ones where visitors wish for dreams to come true, good luck, or love.  Built in 1956, is in the middle of a very busy intersection.  It is a shrine that houses a statue of the Hindu God Brahma.  As you walk up, the incense hits you full force.

 

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I purchased the traditional flowers, incense, and gold leafing and followed the instructions to make an offering to the Gods. 

 In a clockwise direction starting at the entrance:

1) Light the incense and or candles and place them on the alter.

 

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2) Make an offering of flowers by hanging them on the gate.

 

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3) Placing the small square of gold leafing on the Buddha,

 

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or in this case part of the gate for good luck.

 

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You could also make a donation and have the ladies do a special dance for you. 


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Every day has a corresponding color in Thailand.  We saw a lot of yellow flowers at the shrines, which shows respect for the king who is celebrating his 80th birthday this year and was born on a yellow-themed Monday.


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People love the king of Thailand and portraits of him are hung in most shops, businesses and in their homes.


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Another interesting thing we have not seen in any other county is the traditional greeting done by pressing your hands together and bowing.   This act is known as the Wai and a way to say hello, thank you, and goodbye.  In all the stores, our hotel, the markets, every time we gave a tip – pretty much every time we interacted with Thais, they used this gesture.

 

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Our first full day, Saturday, was the big day for the Jatujak Market. 


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This is known as one of THE BEST outdoor markets in the world covering 1,600 square meters and made up of 27 sections and only open on the weekend.


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It has 10,000 shops and 300 vendors.  It is packed with colors, sights and sounds!  They have a wide variety of “stuff” including Thai products, wholesale items, handmade crafts, beads, jewelry and lots of food vendors. 

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But D and I committed to NOT eat any street foods in Bangkok as we had read/heard so many stories of people getting really ill from the street food in Bangkok.  This was going to be especially hard for D as we all know how he LOVES his street food.


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We were there approximately 20 minutes when D decided to try the street food...."but we promised", I said.  He said this pork was fried so much that no germs could grow on it.  Look how happy he is!


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We continue with our shopping and we turn the corner.  What's that?  Homemade coconut ice cream.  Humm, can I pass this up?  It's ice cream!  But what about getting sick? 


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Okay - this promise lasted long.....look how happy I am!


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Look at those yummy coffee drinks.  Let's have one.  


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Wait - it is made with ice.  We really are NOT supposed to drink the water.....


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Even though this qualified as shopping, D enjoyed the colorful, busy atmosphere of the market.  I bought lots of stuff; jewelry for me and presents for everyone.  D even bought a pair of flip-flops.


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We were feeling fine (i.e. no tummy problems) after our market food so we ventured into our first street vendor for dinner.  You have to check out this kitchen....


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and the street seating....


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and the beautiful delicious food!  Let's throw in a running egg to really test us!


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Grand total for the entire meal including two bottles of water? $3.00 (USD).

 

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We had so much fun at the Jatujak Market we went back again on Sunday.  We started the day off with ice coffee from the same shop and sugar toast, a local breakfast item.


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We ate lunch at a little restaurant in the market, check out this outdoor kitchen:


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 We sat at communal tables.

 

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Food was very local and very fresh.  Total for the entire bill with drinks - $4.00 (USD). 


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They even had D's favorite - chicken wings!


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That afternoon was our couple's massage.  No photos here, but quite an interesting story.  First, let me say that massages are very popular in Thailand and very cheap.  We had ours at the hotel, which was a very nice hotel and the total for the two of us for 90 minutes was $70 (USD).


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Being massage amateurs, we both left our underwear on, but I took off my bra (this will be important to know in a few minutes).  Part way in, D's lady says - you need to take off your underwear.  So poor D stands up and drops his drawers in front of two little Thai women, me peaking out from the cloth over my face and there he is stark naked in the room.


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The massage is going well and all the sudden my girl gets up to my breasts.   Wait a minute, I have had several massages in the US and they have never massaged "the girls".  Yep!  Full breast massage!  You ask.....What was I thinking??  My first thought was, wow I can't wait to tell this story in my blog, and my second thought was - is D seeing this?  My third thought, this feel like a gynecological exam  :  )  I'll pass on this part during my next Thai massage!


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That evening we ate at a somewhat street vendor who only sold seafood.  Here is one of the omelets we had.  Total cost for two large fresh seafood (shrimp, clams, mussels, etc...) omelets with drinks - $4 (USD).


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For dessert we walked to another street vendor for the famous Thai Mango with sticky rice - WOW was this GREAT.  And we were in the peak of mango season.


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When we tell people that we visited Bangkok, their first response it - did you visit the Patong district.  YES we did visit the area and NO we did not go into the sex shows.  We did sit on the main street, had a drink and watched people. 


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This was a show in itself.  This area, known for very raunchy sex shows is also very famous for the ladyboys or kathoeys - which are young Thai men, transvestites, who are dressed like women.  It is an accepted way of life here almost like a third gender. Oh yeah - there is a really good night market on this street - the main reason we went. 


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On Monday we took the riverboat to the Grand Palace, which was established in 1782, the year Bangkok was founded.  It consists of the royal residence, the throne halls, and a number of offices. 


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When we got off the boat we were in a sea of street vendors.  D purchased grilled mystery meat on a stick and gobbled it up.  We walked the wrong way so we had to pass back by the street vendor and D was so excited as he wanted more street meat.  Where was the little lady he bought it from?  Where were all the street vendors?  It had only been 5 minutes since we passed by.  They were all gone, stands and all....but the police were there!  It was a raid.  Humm, wonder what that meat really was he ate?  He did not care - said it was excellent!

 

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The Grand Palace has been the official residence of the Kings of Thailand from the 18th Century until now.

 

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However, the present King of Thailand, Rama IX, lives elsewhere allowing the Grand Palace to be opened for tourists.  Yak - the mythological giant, which guards the complex from intruders.


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Next we visited Wat Po (the official name is Wat Phra Chettuphon Wimon Mangkhalaram Ratchaworamahawihan) is the oldest and the largest of the temples in Bangkok; it also houses the famous reclining Buddha.

 

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The temple was established in the 16th century but was not made public until the 1800's.


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The Reclining Buddha, one of the largest images of the Buddha anywhere measures in at 150 feet long and 50 feet high. The statue is gilded from head to toe.   This temple is famous for the invention and teaching of traditional Thai massages.


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There are over one thousand Buddhas housed here.
 

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We took the local boat back to the hotel via the Chao Phraya River - this was a CRAZY experience!  Talk about dangerous. 


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Locals primarily use it.  When the boat pulls up to your stop you have to jump onto the side...it never really stops. 


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It holds about 60 people with seats that are just wood planks, similar to a rowboat's seats. The people who collect the money hang on to the outside as they reach in to get your money.  


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The boats are long tail skiffs, and fit about 60 people.  You only have one or two minutes to get aboard the boat. The boat driver will start moving the boat quickly, and the deck hand will pull a rope to raise a tarp on both sides. This will protect you from the spray of water, as these boats go very fast.


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That evening we went back to the outdoor stand where we had the mango sticky rice and had dinner AND sticky rice again. 


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For dinner we ate two duck plates and drinks for $3 (USD).  The sticky mango rice was actually quite expensive compared to all the meals we were eating.  For two plates it was $4 (USD) and we enjoyed it so much we bought two plates to go for breakfast! 


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Our last day we explored the streets and ventured into a fascinating area, Pak Klong Talat, the flower market which is open 24 hours a day, everyday.  It is mainly wholesale, but any one can purchase flowers here.


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Thousands of flowers everywhere!


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Most of them were made into little bouquets to sell at the shrines for devotion.


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Two women just outside of the main market making flower bouquets to sell.  


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This area is also a very busy area for fresh veggies and fruits. 


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The tuk tuks pack as many sacs in as they can for delivery.


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But the big event of the day was eating at the local "restaurant"  inside the clothing market.  I am not sure how D got me to actually eat there.  We could not have gotten further on the scale from day one where we promised that we were not going to eat any street food to THIS!


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Okay so the food does look really nice and they were so excited that we were eating there.  I am pretty certain few tourists eat there.


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The food was good, and very local and cost us $3.00 (USD) for two dishes each and tea.  I did not drink the tea.  I was convinced this food would  do me in.  NOPE!  Neither of us got sick.


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We took a video to help you experience this with us!


  

This photo is a little blurry, but it captures so much of the experience we had eating there.


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Just a quick note about shopping and shopping malls in Bangkok - OH MY GOSH!  More than you could ever imagine and so large...a shopper's paradise.  I found it to be overwhelming and expensive.  The markets were where the bargains could be found.

D had a hard time passing up any of the street vendors without buying meat on a stick!


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This photo truly captures Bangkok - modern day (Louis Vuitton and young kids) juxtaposed with the woman balancing baskets on her shoulder to sell her goods on the streets.

 

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WE LOVED BANGKOK! 

As always, I have a few more photos!  It takes just a minute for it to start once you click on the triangle.


 

Next stop.......Cambodia - one of our most favorite countries!  Keep an eye out for this post in the next two-week.  We took 4000 photos there!  I promise not to post all of them.