When I woke up and came down stairs, My's mother Ratana greeted me. She had been in India for work and arrived while I was sleeping. She was really nice and outgoing and made me feel at home. She was the only one I'd e-mailed with about my visit and it was nice to finally meet her.
We were going to go see Wat Arun, the Emerald Buddha and The Reclining Buddha. It was My, Max, Ratana, Ratana's sister Jit and I. We got breakfast at the usual and then headed off down the tollway.
The tollway reminded me of the new I-25 through Denver. Wide tarmac, smooth, and the scattered tall buildings were similar to those by the DTC. The city is also very sprawled out like Denver is but more so. What's different is that the skyscrapers are scattered around as far as you can see instead of mostly grouped together. Traffic was different too. Everywhere I go in Asia it seems like the lines on the street are just suggestions of one way to do things. When traffic got heavy on the tollway people turned the shoulder into a lane.
There were a lot of tall buildings near the tollway, but there were also a lot of shacks cobbled together, some with tin roofs and no glass in the windows. Igor had mentioned that there were a lot of run down, poor areas like this and I hadn't seen many yet, but here they were next to the highway on the way to downtown. This was more like the SE Asia I knew for the first few weeks I was here.
We passed through the edge of downtown and I got a quick glance at it. It seemed like a normal big city with people playing sports in lots underneath the highway, people waiting for busses, people doing this and that in public places. I thought about how I'd go crazy here with a camera between the people and the expansive urban landscape.
Traffic surrounding downtown was terrible in some places and I thought it was normal until Ratana said that it was because the Red Shirts were protesting today near The Palace, which is where we were headed. We would be taking a boat though and would miss the streets where they were protesting.
We got lost and I instinctually pulled out my iPhone to look at the map, and for the first time since leaving San Francisco it actually worked. The GPS function in my iPhone found us in Bangkok. This further validated my suspicion that it was at least somewhat dependent on the mobile network and not entirely dependent on the actual global positioning system run by the US government as most GPS units are. I used it to find geocaches nearby, one of which was exactly where My and I had gotten lost near the King's museum the other evening.
We found our way to Wat Arun. We had a look around the complex and went up as high as you could go on the temple. This provided great views of the surrounding complex, the river, the temples across the river where the Emerald Buddha and Reclining Buddha were, and far off sights like downtown and other skyscrapers scattered around the city.
Afterwards we went down to the river and caught a boat to the other side of the river. River taxis are common here like busses are in some cities. We went through a little market area and walked along next to the palace complex until we got to the front where all of the rest of the tourists were. We went in and saw our way through the sites. I'd love to have something to say here, but most of what was inside were historically significant things specifically related to Buddhism, and I've never been good at history and Buddhist history seems really complex. It was all very beautiful though and I took many photos that I'm happy with.
Ratana bought a book for me about the history of the Emerald Buddha. It was discovered when lightning struck a building. It is made out of Jade, emerald is just the translated word for the color of jade. It's been moved around a lot. It's been owned by several different SE Asian countries.
We left and went to a mall to get some dinner and so some shopping. The parking lot was really full. So full that aside from the normal american H style parking where cars park end to end two at a time, there was a third row of cars perpendicular to those cars, boxing in the middle cars. I wondered how the hell the boxed in cars would get out.
Here's how. The perpendicular cars are left in neutral. People who need to get to their cars find a parking lot attendant to help them or by their self roll the car out of the way. This is what we did to get to a parking spot.
We went inside and found a sukiyaki restaurant. Mint joined us and we had dinner, then went shopping. The mall was great, the stores were a lot different than American malls. There were market areas similar to the market I saw in Hanoi. There was a Dell shop, a Fujitsu shop, camera boutiques, phone boutiques, and then the usual things like clothes and shoes.
I looked for a replacement GPS for my camera, which was still mostly dysfunctional, but found nothing. I got a messenger bag that I should've got a month ago, some swimming trunks that I also should've gotten several weeks ago, and was unable to find a hat that fit. My head is just too big...
Home again. Geeking out again. Slept.