My rule for jet lag when going this far West: don't go to sleep until 9:30 on the first day. I couldn't make it - crashed at 4:30 (which is like staying up all night) - but no prob - champion sleeper me made it until 6 a.m... I guess it was the cold. Speaking of which, I was a good girl on the 17 hours of flying and wore a face mask the entire time to avoid spreading my germs. It was interesting to see how people stare but act like they are not...
First impressions of Bangkok - it is a very modern city and appears to be all it has advertised: hub of the Orient. It has the usual high rise buildings and is well organized. It also has the traffic, smog, and congestion of a major city. There is more transportation variety than anywhere I've seen! Cartoon taxis in brilliant hues of pink, lime green, red, purple; tuk tuks (3 wheel motorcycles with passenger seats), the skytrain, busses, and a complete river taxi system with many boat varieties. It is all very organized and easy to figure out.
The food ...wow. I've just started on this one and find every kind of yummy treat to suit my vegetarian needs. And HURRAY for strange fruits in tropical lands. So far I've had a white fleshed tasty morsel with small black seeds - kind of kiwi like and other very yummy interesting and unnamed delights.
The service...wow again. When checking in at the (admittedly nice) hotel, I was given a glass of iced tea. In the states when I book through Travelocity I get the worst room but here a great room AND a fruit plate with welcome note.
Now for the shopping center. It is attached to the hotel (right, no accident :-). It is more like a street market in air conditioning - 6 floors a block long of teeny stalls (most 6' by 6' ish) piled with goodies to delight the teens. One whole floor of technology stuff...cool Asian minimalist furniture and more.
A word about the weather and clothes. It is hot and muggy - 38 Celsius yesterday (I don't know what that is, but HOT). They call it hot and steamy Bangkok - they even had to give the tiger in the zoo a block of ice yesterday to relieve stress. OK, so I knew this coming in and packed high tech wicking shirts and gauzy pants (yes, they were right that these are more comfortable than skirts). I feel very cool in my well chosen clothing but I look like a fish out of water -- the locals are wearing jeans and black tight pants and cotton T-shirts. I guess you get used to it.
This is the land of smiles. I'm entirely delighted that I'm here.
I navigated public transportation very easily. Sky train and river taxis - thankfully my guide book is good and there are English translations and Arabic numerals everywhere. What a thrill to learn and figure out new challenges like this.
I went to the Grand Palace and was blown away. It was built by one of the Kings as a residence and is all glittery with gold, mirrors, gems, and ornate beauty. The "Emerald Buddha" is housed there atop a huge golden throne. I tried to smell some lotus flowers and was pushed away by the vendor - "this is for Buddha offering." So I purchased a little package of 3 flowers, a piece of gold leaf to rub on the statue, 3 incense sticks, and a candle. I gave a prayer to Buddha: if you are real, show me my path in life. Agnostic me might as well pray to them all just in case..
And to top it off, I bought a small Buddha from the 3 block long amulet market. Fascinating. And then ate some fried rice with strange vegetables, made by a street vendor. I always do this street eating on my first days and live to regret it a week later, but maybe it is better to see them cooking in a hot oil wok than to wonder about the hygiene in a back room kitchen...well, who cares. I have a self treatment regime if needed. Live the moment.
Speaking of kings, this country has a monarchy and constitutional government as well. Its history is fascinating in that the military, monarchy, and government are constantly vying for power. Seems that the military has come out on top and constantly overthrows the prime minister. There are constant coups, including several started by students - to the tune of several a decade and nearly all have been bloodless. Like, hey, dude, you suck, get out -- and the response is OK. Still, this place is well run and wonderful -- well, except I read in yesterday's paper that 8300 students have no secondary school to attend in Bangkok because the schools are full and that entrepreneurs are afraid to invest in new schools because the government might step in to build a school right after they do.
Oh, and other breaking news: the Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya will be a spokesperson for a cosmetic company on a 100 million Bhat (about 33 mill USD) social responsibility campaign to prevent drug abuse --- oh, and personally choose colors for a new lipstick line as well. What a slick move for the company.
I'd better watch myself here - in other breaking news, the Kingdom of Thailand just banned YouTube access for the entire country because of a video deemed "offensive to the monarchy." I don't want my blog blocked :-).
Next, navigate the huge train station to buy tickets for future travel, and then go to the airport to pick up my baby girl, Malia!
Only thing missing from my life now is baby #1 - Cyndi.