Ack! I’ve got the De Talak madness. Each and every night, a whole other different slew of fascinatingly super-entertainingly friendly peeps keeping me up ‘til the very wee hours. I love this city and this hostel so very much – but it does tend to limit one’s time available for blogging activities.
In a few hours, I’m off to Penang. The eighteen-hour third-class train-trip has now my very eyeballs in its sights. If my dimpled ass survives, wonders untold – in the form of the Malaysian Durian Season – await.
So, let’s see whether in these few hours we can’t suss out a workable-if-abbreviated accounting of the week’s events?
Well, the train from Chaing Mai to Bangkok was much more scenic that I’d remembered from either of my two northbound trips along the same route.
On Sunday, I visited at Rata’s suggestion a couple of bustling street markets over the west side of the river.
I suppose this may be the authentic Chinese Checkers?
How’s this one for detective work? Could we possibly intuit the gist of a sign completely filled in with gibberish, save for the three recognisable numbers?
Context! We’re living, by Buddhist reckoning, in the year 2555, and this was on the 17th; so presumably the word between the “15” and “2555” is “June”. Having previously puzzled at the charging of 8 Baht fare, rather than the six-and-one-half Baht which had, aboard non-A/C buses, been collected prior to my departure to Chiang Mai, the jigsaw does now magically begin to coalesce.
The sign must reads: “NOTICE: Effective the 15th Day of June in the year of Lord Buddha 2555, the new fare for this route shall have been changed to 8 Baht.” (Or words to this effect.)
Tuesday was the day of visiting many temples in the most ancient area of the city. First up was the Golden Mount.
A semi-vigorous tree-lined stair-climb delivers one to the top o’ the mountain. Some nice shrines inhabit, and the roof-deck provides an expansive view of the city (including of our beloved Wat Arun).
The grounds’ attached Chapel gots some nice murals…
…although the ask here seems rather crass even by typical Bangkok standards.
Across the street, not only is the Loha Prasat’s colour scheme a fun little old change-of-pace…
…but this just so happens to be one of only three structures of its type ever to have been raised – and the only one still standing.
Not only this, however! Would you be interested to learn that its magnificence cannot be bound by terrestrial limits?
The second-floor ring is loaded up with Buddha images and helpful words of wisdom deriving from the Master’s lips.
Each of the five levels gives a different angle from which to view the Prasats – including, at the last, their very tips-top.
Wat Bowon Niwet, one of the city’s eldest and most important temples has got some very beautiful buildings to be sure.
Unfortunately, they were all closed up. The main Chapel, owing to monkly doings, could be viewed only through a couple of open windows. Nice, though!
Though it had not been my intention, I on the following day (and after a series of mishaps, the telling of which is yet to come) ended up back in this part city. May as well check in to see if Bowon Niwet’s doors were open to-day. Good thing, too; as the temple’s murals are perhaps the most O.G. in all of Bangkok.
Wat Indrawihan is famous for its tall-as Standing Buddha image. “Tall” it definitely has proven – though surprisingly underdeveloped in the “length” dimension.
Frankly, I preferred the temple’s murals (going all meta on our ass) and lovely exterior.
Wat Benchamabophit, AKA the “Marble Temple” is a structure of almost incomparable beauty. It is one of the only two temples I’ve to-date visited – Angkor’s Banteay Srei is the other – which completely transfixes the viewer, casting its spell so thoroughly that the mortal is near to incapacitated with delight. Even to the point that one may find that one doth prefer simply sitting (or standing) astride the hall for the duration of all time, basking in its regal aura.
I mean to say, it’s a winner. (Though, as is too often the case, the photos cannot do the subject justice.)
The interior is rather austere; but while the stained-glass windows are a nice touch, it’s factually nothing about which to write home.
The outer courtyard’s gallery offers a wide array of striking Buddha images cast in (I think?) bronze — not to mention more fine advice to be heeded by one and all (hint: stay away from rakes and seducers!).
Across a small moat are some more very nice structures…
…but it’s hopeless in the end; as any which way one will turn, it’s always the Marble Temple, calling you back, to be trapped in its magnetic pull; wanting, ever wanting to lose oneself forever in its embrace…
…until, Holy shit!, it’s almost time for aerobics! And would you know it? May as well have lain put, such was the magnitude of the streets’ jam-packed status: bus arrived at the park too late, aerobics already finished.
Wednesday I thought to visit the Museum Of Imaging Technology, located on the campus of Chulalongkorn University. I figured it’d be easy enough, a big map of the grounds located near the entrance, pointing the way. No such luck! So, I called in to a little sweet-shoppe staffed by two very nice ladies.
Two very nice ladies…who informed me that no such museum existed on campus; indeed no museum of any stripe. I fished for the brochure to give them a look-see, and also in the hopes that they’d phone the joint up and send me off in the general direction. Come to find out, I’d left the brochure back at the hostel. Fucking idjit!
Instead, they drew me a map, pointing the way to a museum in Siam Square which, they thought, would do the trick in the Imaging Museum’s stead (‘cause, y’know, this one had got lots of pictures in it).
Thwarted but unbowed, I returned to the hunt…only to soon realise that I’d been standing there speaking to them all the whole time burdened down with a big bag of Longkongs – but had failed to offer either of them even a one. Idjit squared! I scurried back to the shoppe and, begging their forgiveness, wondered if they wouldn’t enjoy to share? While deuce happy to’ve received the offer, they declined to partake.
By the help of a few different locals in combination with the well-placed signage, I finally managed to gain the Museum’s door. To find, just as I had found after the arduous journey to Chiang Mai’s Tribal Museum, that the place was closed up tight as a drum. Nary a mouse did stir, and stuff like that.
Hell on wheels, mang. Whelp, how if I try the Queen Sirikit Art Gallery? Anyhow, its admission fee is only 30 Baht, compared with the Imaging Museum’s 100 Baht. Hopped the bus back up near to the Golden Mount, and traipsed absent-mindedly in through the open door – to be politely informed that the Gallery is closed on Wednesdays. Dude showed me right there on the sign where it had been Written.
Foiled again? So, this is when I made the return visit to Bowon Niwet; and finding myself still with some time to spare couldn’t resist yet another spellbinding crack at the Marble Temple’s magnificent reverie.
After, on the bus back to Lumphini, an old man bade me turn down my music. (Normally I don’t even indulge, on the chance that there will be some English-speaking locals who would want to engage me in conversation; but this bus-ride was getting long and tedious.) After I’d done, he offered me a swig of his brew! Too much fun.
In a replay, however, of the previous day’s untoward imbroglio I ended up missing aerobics a-fucking-gain! Third time would not be the charm, I vowed, on Thursday; my last in Bangkok.
And a day in which I fell in love with the city yet again and again and again.
What could be more innocent, for starters, than a visit to the Bangkok Dolls Museum? Huhn, well, it almost ended, in tears, before it had even begun. I’d branched off into a small soi, and thought to make a quick check of the map to just make sure I was proceeding directly.
Something told me to look up, and on doing found myself nearly eye-to-eye with two decent-sized dogs racing full speed down a driveway — in my direction, gaining quickly, not making a sound. Crazy Russian dude I’d met in Vientiane had told me that barking dogs don’t bite; while dogs not barking intend to do just that. Somebody else had remarked to me that this is usually the case, though there can be exceptions.
They didn’t really look to be in the mood for fun and games, so I yelled at them to fuck right off (and such-like advice). They stopped dead in their tracks, and I was off on my way. But…damn, if I’d not looked up from the map (possibly I’d subconsciously perceived the sound of their claws striking the pavement as they’d drawn near?), that could have been a ugly one.
The Museum was not only opened for business, but kicked a fairly sizeable quantity of arse to-boot. Even had the chance to witness the doll-making process underway on the small shop floor (the dollmakers were a bit on the surly side, truth be told). The proprietress seemed genuinely shocked at my having opted not to purchase any of her wares. Not that I’d not have liked to have done – but they were pretty far outside my budget.
Here’s a small sample platter. More available over to the Flickr page.
As I was near Siam Square, I figured I could stroll down to the site of the Museum the very nice sweet-shoppe ladies had mapped out for me the day before over at the University. On the way to the location, this fine gentleman (the one on the right, there) engaged me in conversation for a time.
After a while, I turned to take my leave, but he called me back to him, asking, “Do you need a monk?”
“Do I need a monk?”
“Yeah. You need a monk?”
“I don’t…think so?”
And I was away.
The location was another in the neighbourhood’s endless collection of multi-storey mega-malls. No museum inside; but I did done get zapped by a weird-assed coincidence. Earlier the morning, an Ohioenne whom I’d unsuccessfully attempted to send off to Wat Arun had been bitching and moaning about needing to go ahead and purchase some film. I naturally began to pelt her with all manner of questions about shooting film in this day-and-age.
Come to find out, she’s way into composing all sorts of experimental shots; made with this (news to me) all-the-rage retro-camera company’s product. “Lomography”, it’s called. So, there I was in the mall, and what’d I see before me? Yip, a Lomography store. Zing! The cameras looked pretty cool, I’ll admit it.
On the way to the Park, decided to detour into me old Silom stomping grounds; to which I’d not made visit since way back January. Another scene to make you love this city so much the more:
Ah, yes; a grandfather out for an afternoon stroll with his charming young granddaughter…right through the heart of Patpong! Okay, the notorious Patpong Pimps weren’t quite in full throat, it being low season and all. But, still: you’ve gotta love Bangkok.
Aerobics was surprisingly well attended (more so that per usual, I mean); possibly it was because the clouds had cleared, leaving us with a unexpectedly sunny late afternoon. The music seemed just a little better than usual, the goings-on just a little bit more fun. Couldn’t help shedding a tear at the thought that this was to be my last-and-final session.
Or…was it? Not to be letting cats too much out of bags here; but it looks that I may be filling in at the hostel for a few weeks as the receptionist vacations in the US of A.
Surely, however, I have et my last and final Durian of the Thai season. It’s getting more difficult to find ripe fruits now, and the prices are gradually creeping skyward. My two previous visits to the Lumphini Durian Truck had seen me trudge away empty-handed, the husband/wife team having forlornly passed to me the news that there was, “Nothing for you.”
But yesterday, my last chance, I showed up to the Truck, and the owner excitedly proclaimed, “Ah! Nim nim! Nim nim! Nim nim!” It means: we’ve soft, ripe (what Thais consider overripe) fruit to sell you!
“Calm down, brother,” I begged him. “I’m buying what you’re selling.”
I got it back to the hostel, and after sharing some out to willing participants, sat down to have a taste. “Oh, fuck!” I squealed at the first little bite. This one was going to be very good. And so it was.
That’s the thing with this particular Durian Truck, as opposed to the Khlong Toei vendors: it’s a little more expensive, but they never try to pass off underripe fruits as being nim nim. And when there are nim nims available, you can bank on it: cat’s meow, baby.
And, now: on to conquer the Malaysian Durian Market! Or, perhaps, to meet my demise in the thrall of its might?
Time shall tell the tale.