Actually, it was four nights in Bangkok. And it could have been many, many more. But four nights was what we had for our first stop in the City of Angels, and thanks to the good advice of a very dear friend (Hi Eric!) we had a pretty fantastic time there.
I keep thinking that Bangkok is a city of juxtaposition. It is the spirituality of Jerusalem alongside the hustle of New York City. And not just alongside, as in "next to" but alongside as in all mixed up with, thrown together, a jumble of faith and fun smooshed together. Because of Eric's advice, we were able to create a strong affection for this city. Having someone to tell you where you might like to go and how to get there helps make a place feel manageable. We seriously can't thank him enough. He's blushing now, so I'll stop, but really, Eric, please know that we think that you're a rockstar.
Here are some of my favorite things about Bangkok, in no particular order:
1) The Reclining Buddha. I loved him. Just loved him. I could have spent hours and days in his presence, staring up at his relaxed and omniscient face. He made me feel like I was a part of something bigger at the same time he made me feel content just to be myself. He alone is worth a visit to Thailand.
2) Lumphini Park. The Lonely Planet describes it as an oasis within the city. It couldn't have been a more apt description. It was a place to sit and hear...none of the city noises, as well as a place to watch kids feed fish in the midddle of the afternoon.
3) The Erawan Shrine. I love this shrine because of WHY and WHERE it is. It's outside the Erawan Hyatt, and it's there because the place of the original shrine was deemed inauspicious. So a new shrine was built and it has been bringing good luck for over 50 years. People come to the shrine in the middle of the day to pray, and they make offerings for good luck. Sometimes those offerings even include McDonald's. Also, there are dancers that you can hire, on the spot, priced per length of dancing time and how many dancers. You hire them if you really really really want Buddha to know that you're serious about your offering and your heart's desire.
4) The food. And the food courts. Eric advised us to go to MBK's food court with the caveat that we shouldn't think he was crazy for suggesting that we go to a mall to eat lunch. We didn't think he was even the least bit crazy before we headed over to the MBK, but after we got there, we knew that he was a genius. The MBK food court is like a wonderful, fabulous maze of food. You buy coupons then use the coupons to pay for the food you want. Each food stall basically sells what you see on the street, but best of all, it has a picture and brief description of what you're going to eat. So we went crazy and ate about 3 main courses plus 2 desserts. Remember how we were worried that I was going to come back from this trip all skinny? Worry no more.
5) The skytrain. It's easy-peasy to get around town on this thing. Plus, Matt loves the fact that this sign COULD be mistaken as implying "no lawyers" even though it CLEARLY says "no hawking." Whatever.
6) The Chao Phraya Express. This boat takes you up and down the river and calls out the places to stop where you can go and see the famous sights of Bangkok, including the Reclining Buddha, the Grand Palace, the Flower Market, the Emerald Buddha, Wat Arun (a really old, really cool temple), and Chinatown. It was so easy to use, and so inexpensive, that we took it twice in two days.
7) The gourmet food market inside the Siam Paragon. They had blue and green rice! And white and pink eggs! It was like Whole Foods but BETTER, SO MUCH BETTER. If they had grocery stores like this at home, I WOULD quit my job and cook all day.
8) The technicolor taxis. I don't know why they warmed my heart, but they did. I think it's partly because I knew that my sister-in-law Amanda would love them as much as I did, and every time I saw a hot pink taxi, I thought about her. But I also think it's because they kind of reminded me a little bit of the extremely nice people we've met in Thailand. It seems like people here take something that could be mundane, and they turn it into something a little better, a little more special, just a bit more beautiful. I love that in a country.
One more note about Bangkok before I sign off and let Matt tell you about our experience on the night train to Chaing Mai: the people in Bangkok are unabashed about showing their love for their king. All over Thailand, actually, people express their love for the king in every way possible. There are pictures and larger-than-life-sized posters of him everywhere, and people wear yellow to show support for their king of over 60 years. Something about that kind of national pride really strikes a chord with me.
Our days and nights in Bangkok have been some of the most interesting days and nights of our trip, so far. We can't wait to go back there in a few weeks to revisit some of our most favorite sights, and catch up on things we missed.