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Mon 10 Nov 2014

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The biggest tourist attraction in Bangkok was still on my to-do list. I alloted a full day to see the Grand Palace and the Wat Phra Kaew, where the so-called Emerald Buddha resided.

I again took the Skytrain to the tourist boat on the Chao Phraya, this time getting off one stop further up the river than when I had gone to Wat Pho on Saturday.

The compound was immense, encompassing more than 100 buildings (most of which are not open to the public). I passed through the entrance gates and joined the throngs of tourists. The admission price was steep: 500 baht (over US$15).

Wat Phra Kaew is surrounded by a shaded walkway with walls covered by murals depicting the Hindu epic The Ramayana. Most of the tourists (many of whom were on organized tours in big groups) were crowded around and inside the wat, taking photos of the building and each other. Therefore the area with the murals was virtually empty, except for a few stragglers like myself.

Scene from The Ramayana

Scene from The Ramayana

Scene from The Ramayana

Scene from The Ramayana

Scene from The Ramayana

Scene from The Ramayana

Scene from The Ramayana

Scene from The Ramayana

Eventually I made my way inside the wat to see the Emerald Buddha, which I learned was not made of emerald but of a greenish mineral called jasper, somewhat similar in appearance to jade. Photography of the Buddha was prohibited, and in any case, the diminutive Buddha was on such a high pedestal that it would have been difficult to get a good shot without a strong telephoto lens.

After viewing the Buddha I strolled around to see some of the other nearby buildings. The entire complex exuded opulence.

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Sun 9 Nov 2014

Prior to arriving in Thailand I contacted my friend Toi, a Thai native I had met in New York City who was now residing in Bangkok. She offered to be my guide for a day in Bangkok, and I happily accepted.

We took "Bus 166" from this thing called the Victory Monument.

We took “Bus 166” from this thing called the Victory Monument.

We used “intermodal transport” — Skytrain, taxi, bus — to reach Ko Kret, an island north of Bangkok that was created by dredging a canal in a bend in the Chao Phraya River. After having a peek at a Buddhist wat, we walked the path on the periphery of the island, a route of several kilometers. A portion of the path was lined with vendors selling souvenirs and food. Other than the wat and the market, it seemed the island was mostly a rustic village.

We stopped to have lunch at a small restaurant situated in a wooden structure perched off the canal. As the menu was entirely in Thai and the staff did not speak much English, I relied on Toi to order for both of us.

Ko Kret has a large settlement of Mon people, who have been in Thailand for over a millennium. The Mon create a kind of unglazed pottery known as “kwan arman” and there are many kilns on the island.

Artisan In Action!

Artisan In Action!

I was grateful to Toi for guiding me on an excursion I would not have been able to manage on my own, due to the language barrier and my general unfamiliarity with the geography of Bangkok and its surrounding area.

With Toi, my Friend & Tourguide!

On the bus with Toi: My Friend & Tour Guide!

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Sat 8 Nov 2014

The Reclining Buddha's Toes! At Wat Pho, Bangkok

The Reclining Buddha’s Toes! At Wat Pho, Bangkok

In addition to visiting the Jim Thompson House Museum yesterday, I also hopped on a boat traveling on the Khlong Saen Saeb, one of the old canals in Bangkok. My goal was to get to the old part of Bangkok called Banglamphu. I got off at an earlier stop than the one I should have taken, so I had to walk a few kilometers to get to my destination. I took a cab back to my hotel since I was not quite sure where to pick up the canal boat on the way back.

Today my plan was to get to the area around the Grand Palace and the nearby temples, and from my travels yesterday I realized I would have difficulty figuring out the local canal boats without being able to read or speak Thai. A woman at my hotel’s reception desk recommended I take the Sky Train to the stop at the Chao Phraya River. There I could catch a “tourist boat” with an English-speaking guide that would stop at all the key tourist spots.

I got off the boat at Wat Pho and spent some time there exploring the complex and taking photos. Then I took a small ferry-boat across the river to get to Wat Arun, “The Temple of Dawn,” where I was able to climb up the tower to take some photos of the Bangkok skyline (see Thurs 6 Nov post).

Reclining Buddha

Reclining Buddha

Reclining Buddha - Back View

Reclining Buddha – Back View

Detail of Toe!

Detail of Toe!

Wat Pho

Wat Pho

Wat Pho

Wat Pho

Wat Pho

Wat Pho

Wat Pho

Wat Pho

Wat Arun

Wat Arun

Wat Arun

Wat Arun

Wat Arun

Wat Arun

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Fri 7 Nov 2014

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Today I visited the home of Jim Thompson, an American silk entrepreneur who settled in Thailand after WWII. An architect by training, he developed a great interest in Thai silk textiles and was instrumental in the development of the export market for Thai silk. After he mysteriously disappeared in Malaysia in 1967, his home was turned into a museum.

Unfortunately photography inside of the home was not allowed, so I was only able to take some photos of the garden.

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Garden at Jim Thompson House

Garden at Jim Thompson House


Garden at Jim Thompson House

Garden at Jim Thompson House


Garden at Jim Thompson House

Garden at Jim Thompson House


Garden at Jim Thompson House

Garden at Jim Thompson House

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Thu 6 Nov 2014

Bangkok Skyline as seen from Wat Arun

Bangkok Skyline as seen from Wat Arun

I took a 1:00 a.m. nonstop flight from Bengaluru and arrived in Bangkok around 6:00 a.m. today. The Bangkok airport was not as visually appealing as Bengaluru’s, but it was very convenient in some practical ways. In short order I had withdrawn some Thai Baht from an ATM, purchased a local SIM card for my mobile phone, and boarded the shiny airport train going in the direction of my hotel, Wendy House.

Bangkok SkyTrain

Bangkok SkyTrain

Still recovering from a recent bout with the Common Cold, I had little energy to do any sightseeing. I checked into my hotel, then spent some time wandering around the Bangkok Art & Culture Centre near my hotel, where I saw an exhibit of the work of Japanese artist Chihiro Iwasaki.

Below are some views of Bangkok from the Chao Phraya River (photos taken by me on a boat).

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Wed 5 Nov 2014

My Aunt Holding Flowers From Her Garden

My Aunt Holding Flowers From Her Garden

Lalbagh Botanical Garden, Bengaluru

Lalbagh Botanical Garden, Bengaluru

Lalbagh Botanical Garden, Bengaluru

Lalbagh Botanical Garden, Bengaluru

Lalbagh Botanical Garden, Bengaluru

Lalbagh Botanical Garden, Bengaluru

Lalbagh Botanical Garden, Bengaluru

Lalbagh Botanical Garden, Bengaluru

Lalbagh Botanical Garden, Bengaluru

Lalbagh Botanical Garden, Bengaluru

Lalbagh Botanical Garden, Bengaluru

Lalbagh Botanical Garden, Bengaluru

Lalbagh Botanical Garden, Bengaluru

Lalbagh Botanical Garden, Bengaluru

As I had been busy visiting family and doing no sightseeing per se, I posted no new items on my blog. However I had taken a few random photos here and there during my ramblings in Bengaluru. A few weeks back I went to Lalbagh Gardens with my cousin Raji, her husband Naveen and daughter Siri. I had also accompanied some family members to a few of the upscale malls. I didn’t buy anything but it was interesting to see the Starbucks sign in Kannada.

Bengaluru Shopping Mall

Bengaluru Shopping Mall

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Apparently this says “Starbucks Coffee” in Kannada.

I had fun with my cousin’s son, Vishal. I learned about a product called Butt Paste, apparently very useful for keeping a baby’s bottom Soft as a Baby’s Bottom.

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My cousin Sharan, who is a neurosurgeon, gave me a tour of the new rehab center, NewRo, that he and his wife started. I was impressed with their setup and the work they were doing — it was truly a “joint” (pun intended!) effort, with various family members in India and North America contributing (no worries — Sharan managed to noninvasively tap the knowledge in their brains).

It was also a treat to celebrate a number of special events with my family: Diwali; my grandma Jaka Pati’s 91st birthday; and my grandma Venku Ajji’s death anniversary, coincidentally 100 years after her birth.

My Tribal Marking!

My Tribal Marking!

A Real South Indian Meal!

A Real South Indian Meal!

During my last few days in Bengaluru, I finally saw a few of the sights I had not seen in previous visits. I went to the National Gallery of Modern Art, the Freedom Park, and the Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath.

Guard Tower at the former Bangalore Central Jail, where Freedom Fighters were held, now part of the Freedom Park.

Guard Tower at the former Bangalore Central Jail, where Freedom Fighters were held, now part of the Freedom Park.

Outside the National Gallery of Modern Art, Bengaluru.

Outside the National Gallery of Modern Art, Bengaluru.

Garden at the National Gallery of Modern Art, Bengaluru.

Garden at the National Gallery of Modern Art, Bengaluru.

Unfortunately I did not have a chance to test out the new Namma Metro train system. Traffic in Bengaluru is worse than ever, and of all the places I have traveled, traffic in India’s large cities is worse than anywhere else in the world. Indian traffic consists of the most modern automobiles and sleek new buses as well as modes of transport in use prior to the invention of the wheel — and everything in between.

It is not clear when Namma Metro will be completed. But Bengaluru will always have auto rickshaws and cows!

It is not clear when Namma Metro will be completed. But Bengaluru will always have auto rickshaws and cows!

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