14th June 2007. Late afternoon and we are doing KUL-BKK for a weekend in Bangkok and Ayutthaya, another Unesco World Heritage Site.
Forty minutes on, and we are on finals to land at BKK Suvarnabhumi. A couple of minutes after this (blurry) Bangkok shot, our Airbus A320 hits a wake turbulence from a Boeing 747 ahead of us, causing the plane to instantaneously roll about 45° to the right, before something grabs the plane and gradually levels it. Anyway people are screaming. Never experienced this before in all my life; I wonder what happens if the plane flips over.
Safely on the ground at brand-new Suvarnabhumi. The immigration guy flips my passport, sees my birthplace as ‘Kelantan’, and promply greets me in Kelantanese dialect. Well, Pattani dialect to be exact, which is very similar to Kelantanese, because he hails from southern Thailand, just across the border from Malaysia. That’s just 50km from my village. Great start!
Siriwan, our Bangkok friend puts us up at this delightful B&B in Bangkhen - Baan Tarinee.
We decide on the Pink Room.
In the morning, Aina and Bok await their American breakfast at the reception area. Nice.
We start our day at the Thamassat University campus, on the eastern bank of the legendary Chao Phraya river.
The famous network of canals (or khlong) are on the other (western) side of the river, which gives Bangkok the nick ‘Venice of the East’.
From the university we take a walk along a street chock-a-block with sidewalk vendors, towards the Grand Palace. Missing teeth? No problem, just stop by this lady-in-blue.
And for anything to do with bananas, here’s the spot.
Fried bananas, roasted bananas, banana kebabs, baked bananas, skewered bananas, …
In the hot, unforgiving sun, we walk along the northern wall of the Grand Palace, built on the eastern bank of Chao Phraya. This huge complex was the king’s residence and seat of government from 18th c. to mid-20th c.
Once inside, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha complex is the place to be at. The Buddha, made of green jade, was brought from Vientiane by King Rama I (1782-1809). Origin is not exactly known.
Inside, the corridors along the four walls relate the tedious Ramayana epic as a continuous gallery, also started by King Rama I.
It’s quite a long walk trying to follow this long tale.
Even experienced travellers require periodic rests.
The familiar Hanuman, the white (monkey) deity cum hero, is prominently shown in full action. As a kid in Kelantan, I used to attend the traditional shadow plays, and Ramayana was the staple diet, so Hanuman is really my old friend.
Some portions need careful restoration.
Huge guardians, demons actually.
Mean-looking ones too. I wouldn’t want to bump into this guy in the alley.
Distinctive Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha, where the venerated Buddha is) to the left. To the right, the impressive golden Phra Si Rattana Chedi. In the middle, Phra Mondop, a library of Buddhist literature.
The white Spired Chapel, built by King Rama III (1824-1851). Note the guardians.
The Royal Pantheon, housing the 7 statues of Rama I to Rama VII, who collectively ruled 1782-1935.
Another view of the spectacular buildings.
Roof tiles of one of the temples.
Beautiful pagoda next to the Pantheon.
Supported by some colourful characters. I’m not sure what they are, but they look like the demon guardians above.
Small but very tough.
Looking upwards against the clear blue sky. It has been so hot that I feel slightly ill soon after. Maybe a minor heat stroke. Forgot to take my fluids lah.
Back to the hotel for a well-deserved rest, but not before getting these colourful cakes, made of some type of beans. Dessert actually. Yummy!
> To be continued …