I'm writing this one out of order a bit since I haven't written about Melaka, but that one needs a little more time since it is the last one with mom. Also, I have all my Bangkok thoughts on the mind...and I've only been here 24hrs!
But what a 24hrs they've been!
The ridiculous-ness that is Bangkok is only rivaled by such stunning cities as Jakarta and Manila. Bangkok is incredibly big, hot and noisy, and pretty dirty (mom, you would have freaked out), but for some reason, I like it. Maybe it has more to do with me and where I'm at after so much time in SE Asia, but the craziness didn't get to me; I kind of enjoyed it!
My flight to BKK with Malaysian Air was really nice, it only took about 2hrs, but we still got a meal with some wine. It was so short it was easy to forget it was actually an international flight.
I got into the very nice new airport Bangkok has and eventually got a bus into the city center. The bus is just one example of how hard the Thai gov't seems to be trying to make tourism easy and appealing here; I don't know if it has anything with trying to re-image the city after the riots, but I've not seen nor heard mention of those.
Hopping off the bus at the backpacker mecca of Khao San Rd, I was able to walk the 5mins directly to my place where I was happily surprised with a double (though I paid for a single) with windows out over the street and very clean surroundings.
That night I went straight away back to Khao San Rd where, after some bargaining/heckling with a few different shop owners, I walked away with 2 t-shirts of good quality, thick well made 'Diesel' jeans, and a nice, 40-liter 'Deuter' (a German company) day-pack. If all of that had actually been real (i.e. not counterfeit), you're looking at a hefty price tag. the jeans alone would have been more than what I paid for all of them! But I checked the quality pretty carefully and it seems good to me.
With my important purchases done (I needed a day pack since I had sent mine home with mom), I got some noodles at one of the many shops (price tag: $1) and talked to an interesting, dreadlocked Israeli girl. She was traveling for 4years make and selling jewelery as she went to pay the bills. The people watching at Khao San Rd it unbelievable. The only other place I saw anything near that diversity in age, class, sex, appearance, etc was at Mardi Gras and this blew that away!
Today I got off to an early start and did my usual walk everywhere and cover way too much. Though I did cut myself some slack and not do any more temples after I went to the Grand Palace. Before that though I had walked and found some, what I considered at the time, ornate temples and monuments. At that point I didn't realize that pretty much every temple in Bangkok (and there are a lot!) are decked out. I eventually ended up at the Golden Mountain where I walked up the 329 (by my count) stairs to the top for a pretty good view of the city (damn, it's huge).
What I neglected to mention is that I got there only after fighting off 3 different guys running the same scam (though I think the last 2 were in connection). So in less than 12hrs I've had the full Bangkok experience: bought faked clothes and come this close to hopping in a tuk-tuk with a guy who was trying to scam me (the gist was that today was a big special day so the temples were open at different times and he would take me all over the city to time them out right, and as a bonus, the gov't was giving him free gas so he'd do it all for less than $0.70). Maybe there was some truth to it, but it seemed too good too be true and then I found out one of the temples that was supposed to be closed was in fact open. I stuck to myself the rest of the day.
The highlight of the sights was the Grand Palace. 'Amazingly ornate' doesn't even begin to do it justice. I probably took a few hundred pictures because everywhere I turned there was something else gorgeous and amazing. The little museum I passed through housed all the national treasures of Thailand and the delicate gold carvings jam packed on every square millimeter of the pieces was stunning. The entire compound is very well maintained and the colors and 'sparkle-y-ness' of the various buildings is unlike anything I've ever seen; just wait for the pics. Even for a cheapskate like me, the palace is a must see.
Included with the palace grounds, and probably the biggest attraction is the Emerald Buddha. This Buddha figurine (which is actually jade) has a bit of a history passing back and forth between Laos and Thailand. It has been firmly in Thailand for a few hundred years now however, and the temple where it is housed is considered one of the holiest sights in all of Thailand.
After forcing myself through the last of the palace I couldn't take any more temples or walking around so I instead headed off to get my ticket for my next trip. With all of one day in Bangkok I decided I should head out while I still have positive thoughts so I went and bought a train ticket to Kanchanaburi which is the town that includes the Bridge over the River Kwai. I'll kick around there for a while and see the sights before meeting Steph for her B-day celebration back here in Bangkok. Then...who knows?
Getting to and from the train station was a bit of an adventure, but I'm glad I did it today because now it'll be much easier tomorrow morning. I then ended by walking city tour with a hair cut! The guy paid incredible detail for a $2 haircut!
Now it's time for some more noodles and probably some more shopping.
What a city, what a day!