Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Bangkok '06 : Day One

"Sawadee kha...." went the petite hotel receptionist with her palms closed together in a prayer-like gesture. We sawadee-khrap'ed back, at once relieved and excited on arriving at the hotel that was to be our home for the next four days. The jasmine scent wafted through the air bestowing us with a strangely calming sensation. Yes, I could already sense that this trip to Bangkok was going to be a pleasant one, not that a trip to Thailand was ever anything less than pleasant.

Our travel company on this trip included Fai, KK, Jes and yours truly, with Jes' mom joining us over the weekend. As soon as Fai was done checking us in, the four of us troopped up to the sixth floor to room 608 or as the thais would say hok-suun-paet. After a short rest and freshening up, we hit the streets of Bangkok en route to our first destination of the trip - Mae Nam Chao Phraya for a river cruise.

The Chao Phraya is the lifeline of Bangkok. People still use it to commute to and from work, partly because it is quite reliable and cheap (about 20 baht to anywhere one way). I can't help but feel that there is a certain romantic value to it despite its perpetual 'kopi susu' colour and run down jetties that dot the river bank.

It can get quite crowded especially during rush hour and the boat conductor seems oblivious to the amount of people he lets into the boat. Yet, no matter how crowded, the passengers will never fail to give up their seat for a monk should he come aboard. In fact, they even put up a sign that says "Seat reserved for monks". That's nice.

As the boat slowly makes its way up (or down) the river, we, the tourists, are given a glimpse into authentic life in Bangkok, warts and all. Yes, there are people still living in makeshift houses on stilts and clothes flap away on the clothesline in the backyards that open out into the river.

Sharing the riverside vista are majestic temples (wat) that are at once awe inspiring and serene in its tranquility. That's what's so magical about Bangkok - a busy cosmopolitan city that is still very much in touch with its own spirituality. I can't help but smile whenever I see ordinary Bangkok folk who, while busily jostle ahead on their way, would pause and say a short prayer whenever they pass by a shrine or temple.

By far the most beautiful sight on the river cruise is the temple complex of Wat Arun. Named after the Indian deity Aruna, this temple is one of the largest in Thailand and truly a magnificent example of Indochinese architecture and civilisation.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great pictures bro :D

More please

ONe day I wanna go to Bangkok and really capture the beauty of the city on camera :D