Tag Archives: Bangkok

The Post Where My Son Channels Sid Caesar

March 13, 2015 – Day 530

It is one kettle of cod to read about a thing and quite another bin of fish to actually experience it.

When doing research before our trip to downtown Bangkok to visit the complex of buildings collectively known as the Grand Palace, I had read several times (such as here) about how enterprising entrepreneurs (aka scammers) patrol the streets outside the Grand Palace and attempt to convince tourists that the complex is closed, but that they can show you around for a fee.

So, sure enough, after our gaggle of family members approached the walls of the Palace and waited to cross a busy intersection, we were approached by a Thai man who spoke passable English.

“Excuse me, hello,” he started. He had approached me on my right and was trying to grab my attention.

“Hello, hello,” he continued, “Palace is closed today.”

I have not even turned to face him. I am staring straight ahead willing the traffic buzz-full of tuk-tuks, pink taxis, and motorcycles to part like the Red Sea so that I and my family may continue our journey to the Promised Attraction.

“I take you to open part of Palace,” the man says again.

It is here that my middle child (and youngest son) displays his genius. He is standing to my left and he too has been hearing the Thai gentleman attempting to gain our attention.

He turns to me and says loud enough over the din of vehicles so that the Thai man can hear, “Sie verwendet einen √úbersetzer, nicht wahr?

Actually, the words my son used were complete gibberish, but his German accent and cadence was so spot-on, that the Thai man vanished back into the crowd to look for another victim…ahem, customer.

As for the title, ladies and gentlemen, here is five-plus minutes of the great Sid Caesar. Seriously, if you can make Carl Reiner laugh this hard (at 3:35), you are in the pantheon of great comedians.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Street Life

October 6, 2013 – Day 067

After we visited the Bangkok version of Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum, we boarded the fine system of public transportation known as the BTS (aka Skytrain).

In addition to being aware that the capital of Thailand has a fine way method of moving people from one place to another, you should also be cognizant of the fact (in case you ever visit) that in the month of October, it can rain heavily, quickly, and with little warning. ‘Tis a fact I have not yet fully embraced that I should never leave the house without an umbrella while it is the rainy season.

While departing the BTS and on our way down to the street to grab a taxi, the sky opened up. While on the walkway waiting out the precipitation, I took the picture below which I offer up as the response to the weekly photo challenge from WordPress, which is street life.

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To the right, you are looking at one of the entrances to the Chatuchuk Weekend Market. This is a large outdoor shopping area where all sorts of clothes, furniture, and even pets can be bought. The line of colored umbrellas are all individual merchants hawking their wares outside of the official Chatuchuk market. Here you can buy sunglasses, DVDs of dubious origin, and all manner of varieties of meat on a stick. The umbrellas do double duty as they ward off the rain and the sun. On the street, you can see buses and yellow and pink taxis all looking for fares. The line of white vans is a mystery to me, but that style of van is ubiquitous on the streets of Bangkok.

To finish our story, we decided to take our chances and I ran down the stairs to hail a cab. All went well as I was able to flag down a taxi with ease and explain where we wanted to go. The rest of family leapt (carefully) from their dry sanctuary and we were all home in under forty minutes.

The Signs of Wat Pho

January 20, 2014 – Day 167

Earlier, I posted a picture of a statue of a horse from our visit to Wat Pho.

Wat Pho is a temple in Bangkok that is a stone’s throw (and throwing a stone in this area is not advisable) from the Grand Palace and the east bank of the Chao Phraya River (as previously seen in 963ThaiDays) that runs through the city.

Wat Pho is famous not only for being a large temple complex, but for housing a large reclining Buddha…which will not be shown in this blog. Instead, today’s offering are of some the of the signs that adorn Wat Pho.

We’ll start here with a sign that would also be appropriate in the halls of some high schools…

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I read the words first so at the start I thought this sign was warning against personal digital assistants like iPods and BlackBerrys. This made sense because this location is a religious place and so people should be respectful and not yakking away on their mobile devices.

No, instead this sign is asking tourists to respect the sanctity of this venue by not smooching. Just in case you ever find yourself in Bangkok and care to visit Wat Pho (or any other Buddhist temple for that matter), please be aware that there is a dress code. No shorts, no sleeveless shirts, and no offensive words on shirts (just to name a few).

What else should you not do in Wat Pho?

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Don’t touch the monks. This rule is only for the ladies, though. Apparently, it’s enough of an issue that they need signs.

What should you watch out for?

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Not just people, but whole gangs. ‘Tis best to always keep your purse in front of you or your wallet in your front pocket.

To finish off, here is one last non-sign photo from Wat Pho showing off the beautiful architecture.

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Wat Arun, Temple of Dawn

February 17, 2014 – Day 195

In previous postings on this blog, I have shown you this structure as composed of Lego bricks and I have shown you the real thing from across the river (and all from the same post).

Today’s post is where I am able to show some details from our day visit to Wat Arun, the Temple of Dawn.

DSCN6534Situated on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River (the main waterway that winds its way through Bangkok), Wat Arun is accessible to those of on the east bank by taking a ferry. For a simple fee of 3 Thai bhat (equivalent to a dime), a boat takes you over in under five minutes.

DSCN6572The majestic spire (or prang if you want to get all architecture-technical) that comprises the focus of the location is only one structure in a much larger complex. Wat Arun is a working Buddhist temple and there are other buildings around this site for monks to live, spaces for folk to pray and meditate, and areas of statuary.

The central prang (whose height Wikipedia puts down at either 219 feet (66.8 meters) or 282 (86 meters) feet…or 259 feet (79 meters) according to this site…really, how tough is it to ascertain the vertical measure of something that has been around for a few centuries?) is decorated with many figures.

DSCN6568Just in case you were thinking that the picture above makes it look like those are porcelain plates that decorate Wat Arun…you are correct.

DSCN6551An aspect of Wat Arun that is lost when looking at the structure as a whole (other than the fact that it is decorated with porcelain dining sets) is how steeps the steps are. Tourists are allowed to climb up Wat Arun and ascend to a second level. Be warned that the stairs are quite steep as I hope the picture below can testify to.

DSCN6564As I mentioned above, there are statues scattered around the complex. As a final snapshot, here is but one example.

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I know it just my Western TV-influenced mind, but when I look at the statue above, I can’t help but think he is saying to me, “Y’all come back now, y’hear.”

Playing Charades in the 7-Eleven

December 31, 2013 – Day 152

In Thailand, the last day of the year is a holiday. That explains why the family and I were able to skip school and work and travel out to one of the premier landmarks in Bangkok, the Grand Palace.

This post will contain no pictures of this majestic structure because we never made it into the heart of the Thai capital.

We had planned to take a river ferry from our neck of the woods north of Bangkok to the Grand Palace. We had maps from Google. We had directions from neighbors. It was all for naught as we could never find the right off-ramp from the main road that would take us to correct ferry.

While I was unsuccessful in finding the correct water-borne method of transportation that would have taken us to the official home of the Thai monarchy, I was finally successful in discovering the Thai word for “bathroom”.

Yes, the deficiency of which I wrote about earlier did finally come back to bite me and I paid the price by sacrificing a sliver of my pride.

While making our fourth crossing over the Chao Phraya River to find the elusive water taxi, we spotted a pier and boats that looked suspiciously akin to ferries. One craft even had a green flag flying from its mast and since we were looking for something called the “Green Flag Line”, we thought we had finally found our watery Shangri-La.

We parked by the pier and that is when the call of nature rang me up.

No problem, I thought to myself, as there surely must be a public restroom in this public location as there was a ferry stop, some eateries, a temple, and even a 7-Eleven.

Here’s a fun fact about this area of Thailand (this fact may be true of all of Bangkok proper, but I have few data points to measure against so this tiny pocket of land will have to do for all of Thailand): Visible public restrooms are nowhere to be found.

With pressure building (my apologies for being blunt), I went for broke and entered the 7-Eleven. I saw no sign for the toilet, but I was hoping that there would be an employee facility that I could use. I was, in the words of Blanche DuBois, relying on the kindness of strangers.

Now I knew from talking to others that the word for “bathroom” in Thai literally translates to “water house”. I also happened to know the word for “water”, which is “nahm” (a tip of the hat to my daughter for this word). Sadly, I did not know the word for “house” so I could not put 1 plus 1 together to make 2.

With my linguistic deficiency, I approached the cashier and asked from “nahm”. He helpfully took me over to the shelves housing bottled water. This was not the location I was hoping to be at, but then again, he had taken me to exactly where I had asked.

With pressure even more building, I dropped ninety percent of my pride and (Disclaimer: it become even more blunt here so you have been warned) pantomined the male pose on The Go Sign and made a hissing sound.

There was absolutely no reaction or hint of recognition from the cashier.

Dropping the remaining ten percent of my pride, I next pantomined…well, I’ll let you use your imagination because anything you can dream up will be infinitely funnier than what I actually did (plus, it keeps me from utterly embarrassing myself by telling you how I did manage to convey what my immediate needs were).

His eyes lit up with the scent of understanding and he said, “Hoag nahm”, and then directed me through a door and up some stairs where the employee washroom was.

I have vowed never to forget to “Hoag nahm” is Thai for “water house” aka “bathroom”.

In turns out we were at the wrong ferry and we never saw the Grand Palace, but I learned something far more important. No, not what the word for “bathroom” is. Instead I learned how far I’ll go when I have to go.

Quiet Riot

December 1, 2013 – Day 123

A semi-surreal day today.

We had plans this Sunday to attend a Hannukah celebration in downtown Bangkok. The event, to be held in a hotel about six blocks away from a major mega-mall, is still scheduled to go on. However, we will not be attending. As you may or may not have heard, the capital city of Thailand is in the midst of a heated protest movement (more and better information regarding the protests can be found here, here, and here).

While we – courtesy of the magic of Google Maps – ascertained that the center of all the brouhaha was not in the vicinity of the Hannukah Hotel, my lovely wife and I decided to listen to the better side of valour (that would be “discretion” in the words of Falstaff in Shakespeare’s Henry V, Part I) and we opted to light our menorah at home.

While we were disappointed at the loss of the opportunity to enjoy the Festival of Lights with other people, we have to be honest and acknowledge that the situation is so fluid and dynamic. We could not guarantee that just because the kerfuffle was not in the hotel’s immediate vicinity that it could not move to that downtown area quicker than the crow flies. As an aside, the mega-mall near the hotel actually closed down today due to concerns over the growing protests.

Where we currently live, in our semi-porous mesh trapezoid (SPMT) north of the city, we have been unaffected by any of the protests, demonstrations, marches, and scuffles that have mainly taken part in the downtown area. I say “mainly” because there is a block of government offices on the main road that skirts past our SPMT. It is a fairly long road so the action that took place a few days ago at the government office complex had no impact on the residents of the SPMT at all.

Later in the day, after reading the latest news about the protest, I turned on the television to the all news station. It is a unique situation in my life to watch a breaking news event, to have that event possible have an effect on me and my family, and to have absolutely no freaking clue as to what is going on. The words the anchors and reporters are using are completely incomprehensible to me. The words scrolling along the bottom of the screen are meaningless strings of characters. The only thing I have to go on are the pictures being broadcast. All I see are Thai military personnel giving press conferences, people in the streets with bandanas around their mouths throwing Molotov cocktails, and police lobbing cannisters of tear gas back at the protesters.

I take that back about what I heard on the television. There was one word that I heard a few times that I could recognize. The anchors kept saying the name of the long road that skirts our SPMT. Again, I had no idea whether the anchors were saying that the road was safe, blocked by protesters, or suffering through a sharknado. Such is the joy in living in a land where one does not comprehend the local language.

The takeaway from this blog post is that this family is safe and all are fine. We did not venture out and press our luck. We will enjoy the fifth night of Hannukah as a family. The main impact of the protests only appears on our television and computer screens.

It is a semi-surreal day. We shall see what tomorrow brings.