Series: Scanning Bangkok
Sawasdee Krab/Ka.! Hello and Welcome to Bangkok!
How do I capture the entirety of my trip to Bangkok, Thailand, share my days with you? I decided to open the journal and cover one experience at a time – a series!
This issue begins my start and at least one temple visit. More to come on the Garden Spices Facebook Page. I will post weekly, to share the many treasures of this magical trip. – Victorine
Flying with the Peacocks
Finally! I make my way to see my brother, Bernie, and his wife and daughter, Sarin and Garnet. Just the mention of Bangkok made eyes shine in wonder, and if folks had visited, I was given the assurance that I would love it. In preparing to travel, I was given two healthy and invaluable hints from frequent world traveler, Dr. Deb: 1) Pack 7 outfits and take one empty suitcase. 2) Your knees deserve a wheelchair. After feeling the indignation of the thought of a wheelchair, I gave in to the choice to preserve my health and reserved one. I also wore the support hose Indria suggested for circulation. (Getting older, but smarter)
I had a long flight ahead of me – 26 hours, not counting the 2-hour drive time from the Shoals to Huntsville. As soon as I boarded the Delta flight, the fun started. I requested aisle seats for the entire flight, no problem there. The middle-seat passenger was one of the last to board, and when he did, he made jokes about how narrow the seats were, I laughed and agreed. We immediately began to talk about destinations and since he was a musician, we talked about music.
I talked about the rich musical heritage of Muscle Shoals. Before I knew it, a female passenger behind me chimed in. Then, a gentleman in front of us added some flavor to the recipe. As it turned out, ‘middle seat’ was from Chicago and had the last name, Delfino. We discussed Chicago session music, and when he told me about his dad, who was a big session musician, I disclosed to him that I had worked for Dick Marx as a Talent Contract Coordinator and that I knew his deceased dad. Delfino’s face was shining, and as we said goodbye, I told him I had a beautiful friend in Florence who was a Delfino. His smile broadened, like a peacock’s feathers.
Traveling through the Atlanta airport, I was so grateful to be wheeled. When I got to the Korean Air terminal, I found I was in a sea of wheelchairs inhabited by young and old. I smiled. Upon boarding Korean Air in Atlanta, I noticed the Flight Attendants were Old School. All 5’7”, slim, and looking like porcelain dolls, they were meticulously in uniformed chignons with the same hair pins. They were gracious and kind, as they rocked crying babies and found endless toys for toddlers. They made sure to comply with the expert service policies of Korean Air – hot towels, tooth brushes, and good food, matched with smiles for every need.
When we landed and disembarked, I noticed a marked difference between the airline workers in Seoul, Korea and the Attendants. While the on-ground staff looked frazzled and seldom smiled, the Attendants were groomed to be…well..peacocks. I captured some shots of the Attendants, but I could not catch them in full stride. They walked through the airport in single file, pulling their carry-ons. Heads and shoulders erect, quietly finding their stations. I could not help but wonder the difference between working the ground and flying the air.
Arrival in Bangkok
Ahh…my niece, Garnet, aka, Gigi, and Booki. My brother and she had big hugs for me, and as Booki and I made our way to find a bathroom, I could feel the confidence of this 6-year-old and knew we would be fast friends. Upon entering our taxi, my brother gave instructions. The driver answered and when communication was muddled, Booki spoke Thai to the driver. He was floored! He couldn’t believe how well she spoke Thai. In the meantime, Booki admitted, “Thai is so hard.” She also speaks Chinese and some Japanese, prefaced by “Actually,” her favorite English word.
Immediately, we hit the largest mall for my Thai sim card, which would enable easy communication. I was amazed by the expanse of this mall and at how Booki’s magic was acknowledged at every store we shopped. The international flavor was by sight and sound, and at one point I closed my eyes to give thanks for the soul food I had craved for so long.
We taxied to their Sukhumvit condo, and I was elevated to my new home on the 9th floor. (Their apartment was on the 12th floor). So lovely, this studio apartment, adorned with the flowers left by my Sis-in-love, who was away at a wedding, a beautiful picture by Booki, and everything I needed for comfort, including a small balcony with a view. Bernie had negotiated a deal with his landlord to house me in an empty condo for my 3-week stay. What a deal! With laughter, as I unpacked, and smiles, as I said good nights, I readied for what would be in duration for at least a week – jet lag. I slept.
The Inside Track: Sarin’s Thailand
Most visitors gather information about Bangkok through pamphlets, concierges and such. My Sister-in-love is Thai, and she taught me so much about her culture. Almost immediately, I was immersed in the spirit of Thailand. I went upstairs to their home for breakfast and upon entering the apartment, I discovered shoes lined against the wall. The Thai believe that shoes worn in a home carry the negative energy from outside. Tradition removed shoes upon entering a home or a temple. Also, almost every home has an altar/shrine, honoring the enlightenment of Buddha and to welcome positive spirits. However, while the home altar is present, the many temples in Thailand were prevalent, but we had to travel to see them and this time, not by taxi.
My Sis had me riding with her on her motor bike almost daily. Me, with knees! Me, with an extra 20 lbs.! Yes, we rode the bike to park and ride the skyway. We parked our bike without the worry of theft. No locks! Bernie told me he once left his wallet in his bike and came back to find everything intact. While there was no worry about bikes being stolen, I was warned to carry my bag to the front of me. Pick pockets were rampant. We made our way to the skyway, up some stairs, escalators and through to the busy trains.
I must say the pace is pretty fast in Bangkok, and since walking the cobblestone was challenging for me, I was always willing to taxi. (The exchange rate is favorable 30 – 1. Most taxi rides are at the most 6 US dollars, 200 Baht’s.) However, it may take 3 times as long to get to a destination. So, the skyway was the easiest way to travel. Leaving the skyway, we made our way to the ferry boat. Along with about 50 other passengers, we made our way to our first Buddhist temple.
About 96 percent of Thais practice Theravada Buddhism. Sarin explained that Buddha lived through 500 incarnations before he reached enlightenment. It is this spirit of enlightenment they pray for, and the adornments are in celebration of the highest enlightenment. She informed me that every young man before the age of 20 must become a monk, even if for a few days. They feel this increases their good fortune and karma. Many of the temples date back to the 1400s.
Let me say that I was raised within the Catholic faith and have seen beautiful churches and cathedrals in the States and abroad. But I have never seen anything to compare to the opulence I witnessed in the architecture and interiors of the Buddhist temples. Many of the steeples were visible from the ferry, and there are few words to describe their brilliance.
By the way, Sarin made sure I was dressed appropriately to visit the temples. If not, I would have to buy clothing at the entrance. I saw this happen to several tourists.
The Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho temple was mesmerizing, and I took part in the tradition of dropping the 108 coins in the pots for wishes and blessings.
…Stay tuned for more of my trip
The beauty of being digitized is that Garden Spices can go with the flow. Stay tuned for the next leg of my visit to Bangkok, and follow us on our Facebook page.
–Laéw-jer-gan, See you later!