Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Grand Palace, Saranrom Park

My first meal in Bangkok, very appropriately, was a banana pancake. It's appropriate because Khao San Road, where I am staying, is one of the most notorious stops on the backpackers' "Banana Pancake Trail" through southeast Asia. It's not really Thailand, which is part of why I decided to stay here. Tuesday after trekking across the street to the 7-11 to get water, and down the street the pharmacy to get Valerian root so that I could sleep, I went back to my room and slept. I actually slept this time, with real dreams rather than the frustrating daydreams that end with the air conditioner clicking me back into reality.

Wednesday, which is today, I woke up early again (around 6 ish?) but that's okay because I had been in bed for about 18 hours. Seriously. I showered and had breakfast (eggs and toast) and decided to walk to the Grand Palace.

This is the courtyard of my guesthouse where I eat breakfast:

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The morning smelled like car exhaust, street food, incense and decay. I thought that I would get lost, but I made it. Lots of Tuk-Tuk drivers (Tuk-tuks are three-wheeled motorized rickshaws; I don't know if they're made from motorbike parts or golf cart parts or if someone actually manufactures them as-is) tried to tell me it was closed, which is a common scam that I already knew about.

I (surprisingly enough) made my way to the Grand Palace and hired an English-speaking guide. He was amazing. I think his name was Boomsong. Here we are together:

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I think I am like a foot taller than him. He took my picture in front of the various buildings and explained which ones were built during the reign of which king.

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He was very proud of this picture with the flower in front:

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At the end of the tour, he took some time to show me on my map the other things I should see, and told me not to believe anyone telling me that something is closed until I go in the gate and see for myself, and to always take a meter taxi. I knew these things but thought he was awesome for telling me anyway.

Across the street from the Grand Palace is Saranrom Park. I strolled around the park a couple of times and admired the scenery. All of the flora is different here. Even the grass is different. The grass has very wide leaves and is flatter than grass in the USA. The trees were all different, and there were some neat looking birds and interesting bird calls. I did see lots of standard US-issue pigeons and a squirrel that looked a lot like a regular US squirrel.

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Neat looking tree, ungrass.

There were a bunch of guys fighting with wooden swords in the park. They would line up in two lines facing each other, and wave their swords and yell taunts at one another, then another fellow counted "neung, song, sam" (this I recognized from Rosetta Stone) and they would all try to kill each other! Some things are universal.

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There are lots of stray/semi-stray cats in Bangkok. They make me a little homesick because my kitties are staying in a strange place right now too. I thought this was cute:

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He is perched in the wall around the park.

After visiting the park I got very mixed up before making it back to Khao San Road. I ended up at Democracy Monument where I got my bearings.

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I had my first Thai Iced Tea which was served in a plastic cup and not a plastic bag (boo!) and some Pad Thai from a cart. It was good. The lady who made it changed the price from 25b to 30b (still less than a dollar!) right after I got mine.

Someone on the wise, vast expanse of the Internet said that one who visits Thailand can either watch very closely what they eat, and avoid ice and street food and all that and get sick in 2 weeks, or eat whatever they want and get sick in a week and a half. I decided to be part of the second group, but I still cringed a little bit inside while watching the man prepare my iced tea.

And most importantly, since I was completely drenched in sweat by this time, I made it back to Khao San Road:

Now I take refuge in my air-conditioned room during the hottest part of the day (91f according to the Internet.)

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