Thursday, March 01, 2007


After 21 hours on planes from LA to Bangkok we arrived at our very nice hotel at 4:00 am on Monday February 12.

I love big cities so I loved Bangkok. It is a jam packed busting place with over a million motorcycles and a million cars trying to fit on roads designed for 1/3 of that.

Thailand is a Buddhist country. Depending on who you asked, somewhere between 80-95% of the population are practicing Buddhists. Before this trip I didn't know much about Buddhism but after learning about it I now have a healthy respect for it. It is not really a religion because they don't believe in a god, but rather the teachings of Buddha.
Buddha was born as a Hindu prince about 2600 years ago but didn't agree with the class society so instead created a different life view in which everyone is equal and there are certain rules to live by. The normal Buddhist follows 5 rules but a nun follows 10, a Monk novice follows something like 75, and a Monk follows more than 200. I don't agree with all of their beliefs but the lifestyle they live and the moral code they follow are very respectable.

Since so much of the population practices Buddhism there are temples EVERYWHERE. We visited some of the most famous ones in the country while we were in Bangkok. One had a 5 ton Buddha that is solid gold and named the "golden Buddha." The gold alone is worth about $100,000,000!
The "Reclining Buddha" was covered in gold, 150 feet long and 50 feet tall. The big Buddha statues are basically just for show and there is usually a separate building for the meditations and ceremonies.
Wat Arun (Wat means Temple) is right on the main river and is the symbol of Thailand. It is a very ornate 300 year old temple and was beautiful.

The Grand Palace houses the Emerald Buddha (which you can't take pictures of) and was extremely lavish. The Grand Palace used to house the King but is now mainly for show.
We took a canal tour through a couple of the many canals in Bangkok. Bangkok used to be referred to as the Venice of the east. It was neat seeing all the houses built along the canal and imagining what life was like before cars when the primary transportation was the canals.

Jason and I went for a 10 mile run through Bangkok early one morning to beat the oppressive heat. It wasn't too exciting at first besides having to dodge more traffic than normal (which drives on the opposite side of the road, making it more interesting) but during the second half of the run we decided to ditch the main roads and get lost in the alleyways. The alleyways were much cooler and they ended up spitting us out on an old railroad with a lot of shanty houses that we ran down for half a mile.

I was told that Thai boxing was a sight to see. One night we made our way to a Thai boxing stadium to see a few matches. It was pretty cool to see. For the most part it is regular kick boxing but the Thai give it some extra flavor. There is a band that plays some cultural music all night long and changes its speed and volume as the intensity of the fight increases. Also, the fans have certain phrases they yell in unison for particular boxing moves.

We also went to the weekend market in Bangkok which is huge. Apparently 200,000-300,000 people visit it every weekend and I don't doubt it. It is an endless maze of tightly packed shops.

While the traffic was ridiculous, the public transportation was awesome. They have a subway, a skyway, canal boats, and buses. The subway and skyway are brand new, fast, clean, and cheap. One of my favorite parts of exploring a big city is getting around on public transportation. One day we hit 3 land marks in this fashion: walk to subway, take subway, transfer to skyway, transfer to another skyway, walk to canal boat, take canal boat, visit landmarks.


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