18 June 2007

Travel: Bangkok, Part 3

On Saturday, I took a longboat up the Chao Phraya River to Nonthaburi, a neighborhood north of Bangkok. The longboat was the same kind James Bond commandeered in the river chase in The Man With the Golden Gun. Mine, thank goodness, had a roof, which was good in the brutally hot sun.

One can see a lot of Bangkok during this trip, floating by skyscrapers, under a modern Calatrava bridge, past a burned out high-rise, with shanty houses on stilts and beautiful wats (temples) lining both sides of the river. Nonthaburi is a cool little area, with a market selling all kinds of goods and food, including yummy fried bananas. I found a food stand that served an amazing pork and noodles dish, with little Vienna sausage balls.

During the ride back, I stopped at Wat Arun, the Temple of the Rising Sun (or Temple of Dawn). It is a beautiful structure in the style of Khmer (Cambodian) architecture. It has a main prang (tower) with four minor prangs at the corners. The artwork is beautiful - very intricate - and from the top, one gets a spectacular view of the river and back into Bangkok. The only issue is that the steps leading up are very, very steep. I have included a couple of pictures here.

Saturday night, I headed to an area called Khao San (I had visited a couple of other areas on Friday, one crowded with mainly expats, the other with young Thais out having a good time). Khao San is the backpacker destination in Bangkok, with its markets and cheap hotels and restaurants. And every backpacker who comes to Asia comes through Bangkok. It was packed with all kinds of adventurers from around the world, hanging out, buying cheap stuff, eating Thai food, and generally soaking in Asia. One of the street vendors was a dead ringer for Captain Jack Sparrow, down to his clothes, long hair, and eye shadow. Unfortunately, my camera battery had gone out by that time, and I couldn't get a picture.

One last thing about Bangkok - it is a city of dogs. There are dogs everywhere! Strays that just hang around and sleep on sidewalks. Often, you will see locals give them rice or some other food, and they do not look malnourished or mangy. But, there literally are thousands of dogs living in the streets - it really was wild!

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