The conference ended officially last night, but I had a few meetings with people before I could head out to Chiang Mai on Sunday. So, in between, I decided to do a bit of the tourist thing before leaving.
With friends from Australia, the Philippines and the Middle East, we headed on the sky train (metro/subway) to the river to get a ‘water taxi’ that would take us up river. Initially, we were headed for the Grand Palace, but we actually never ended up making it there. More on that.
The river is full of boats, from tourists, to people simply getting from one place to another, and little tugboats pulling HUGE loads of cargo on barges. It’s also not the cleanest water you’ve seen, so best to keep your mouth shut if you are near the edge of the boat.
As we were headed to the Grand Palace, Wat Arun caught our attention, so we decided to stop there along the way. The amount of work and detail in just this one Wat (Temple) is incredible—then you multiply that by the hundreds (maybe thousands) that are in Bangkok…it’s pretty amazing.
We stopped for some coconut water before heading back across the river toward the Grand Palace.
As we were walking toward the Palace, I stopped and asked a policeman how to get to the entrance. He looked at us—some in tank tops, some in capris—and said, “no Grand Palace,” pointing to the lack of appropriate clothing, as well as his watch, which told us we had less than an hour before it closed. “350 Bat, you need all day,” he continued. That’s about $10, which is about 3x what the average dinner costs in Thailand…
He proceeded to take my map and draw on it, telling us to go to the Giant Swing—it’s free!—and then on to a temple with a large Buddha. We figured, why not, so we let him arrange a ride in two tuk tuks, negotiate the price of 60Bat (less than $2) for them to take us to the Giant Swing, wait for us, and then take us to the Buddha temple.
Let’s just say, when we got to the Giant Swing we found out why it was free. But, when we got to the temple, which turned out to be a royal temple, for King Rama IV, and only open on Saturdays, and a knowledgeable guide who took us around and gave us a free tour—that was definitely worth the detoured plan. The guide asked us how we came to find the temple and we explained that it was the policeman who had told us. “You are very lucky, not many people get to see this temple,” he explained.
Our plan had been to go back to the hotel from there, but, as it happened, the ‘jewelry street’ was on the way. “You must just stop there,” said the guide. “It’s on your way. Why not stop there?”
So, we got back in one tuk tuk this time (a bit crowded, for the four of us) and headed to the jewelry street. I was with Stephanie and her daughter Mona.
I had met Stephanie and her husband Greg the last time I was in Thailand, and really enjoyed hanging out with them. Greg passed away last June, from cancer. They had a tradition of buying each of their children a nice piece of jewelry from Bangkok, for their high school graduation. Mona is graduating this year, so it seemed fitting that we go. They also had a tradition that Greg would buy a piece of jewelry for Stephanie each year in Bangkok—an investment, of course—and so it was a poignant time, to be continuing those traditions, and missing the husband/father that had been a part of them. Not wanting them to be lonely, I decided to buy a ring for myself as well. 😉
It’s kind of amazing how you can connect with people in such a short amount of time, but so significantly. I’m so thankful for the opportunity to attend this conference again, and to reconnect with old and new friends.