Thonburi, Bangkok

So I left the hotel at about 10 this morning. Most museums & sites were still closed: the Grand Palace, the national museum, the emerald Buddha – all closed.

Seemed like a good idea to head to the river and look for a river tour. So I took the Metro to Saphan Taksin trying to figure out the complicated boat system. It turns out that the water was too high to take one of the Long Boat Tours that would go into the canals. It certainly looked very high. I don’t know what Bangkok will do with sea level rise.

Anyway I wound up taking the orange boat line up the river. I wasn’t sure where I was going to get off but then I saw the striking towers of Wat Arun and decided to disembark there.

Wat Arun

Wat Arun

Before before touring the temple I decided to take a stroll around the neighborhood which was on the other side of the river in the Thonburi section.

Old Bangkok

It was  a revelation; a surprising step into old Bangkok.

I walked up one of the Khlong (canals).

It was quiet and overgrown with plants and trees. All you could hear were birds chattering and roosters crowing. There were a few people outside chatting, repairing bikes, frying dumplings.

 

 

The canal opened on to a much busier street lined with various stores and shops selling sundry goods such as garden supplies, auto parts, household supplies, etc. I stopped for a coke in a local cafe which, blessedly, had AC.

It was along here that I found a gold pendant for my necklace.

I headed back to Wat Arun for a look around.

Wat Arun

I think they were more people than usual because so many other temples were closed, at least the most famous ones. I’ve never seen a temple like this before, completely covered in porcelain.

 

 

It was not possible to go inside but there’s a great deal to examine on the outside, particularly the exquisitely painted porcelain.

The Big Melt

 

 

After this visit which took place around 2pm things slid downhill quickly. I was melting from the heat and kept getting on the wrong boat before I finally found myself in the Chinatown section where I stopped for a very long time in the beautifully air-conditioned Starbucks before heading back.

Once again the hotel swimming pool was a lifesaver and I had a wonderful Egyptian meal down the street at a place called Arabesque.

I’m getting a little burned out on the Atlanta hotel. The pool is glorious and the hotel has history and a lot of personality but the rooms are quite bare and the location is just a little too far from everything.


The Kings cremation in Bangkok

This is the biggest day in Thailand since Anna met the King of Siam. King Bhumibol was kind of like God but less divisive. I don’t know what figure in America, dead or alive, could inspire this kind of unqualified devotion. Maybe George Washington? When I asked at the hotel where would be the best place to participate in this commemoration, I was directed to go to flower park (Pak Klong Talat) which I did. I got at the end of an extremely long line but I didn’t know how long at the time. The goal was to pay respects at a temple that only appeared to be close. Everyone was in black and I appeared to be the only Westerner among about a quarter million mourners. People were incredibly nice, smiling at me and offering signs of encouragement. I think they’ve been working on the organization of this event for about a year. It’s extremely impressive. There are young people offering iced water, offering sticks that seem to be smelling salts, offering even food to eat and all of it free. As it is incredibly hot and humid there are ambulances all over the place just in case people are overcome. Everything is closed so I really had nothing else to do. I took a moto taxi here and found that traffic was in fact very light. Everyone seems to be either home watching the ceremony on TV or in this very very long line. I’m glad I brought a lot of black things to wear and because my allergies are bothering me, my eyes are red and swollen, as though I had been crying. I fit right in.
After about an hour as I saw that the line was snaking through many streets, I decided to leave. It looked like an all day affair. I headed into the grand Siam Plaza Shopping Mall which was aggressively air-conditioned. What a relief! I wandered around for a little while examining the clothes and grabbing a few snacks but most of the stalls were closed. I found myself following the crowd to Wat Ratchaburana Ratchaworawihan (Wat Liap), an extensive Buddhist temple.

What a scene! Tables were laid out with every variety of hot and cold snacks, fruits, salads, fried dumplings, rice topped with spicy chicken, vegetables, and washed down with an astonishing variety of cold drinks. I found a seat at a table underneath the canopy which was fortunate because the monsoon started soon thereafter. It rained and rained. Fortunately a monk opened up the temple and many of us headed inside to pray, listen to the chanting, and stay dry. When the rain let up, I followed the crowd again and wound up on Memorial Bridge.

On the other side there was apparently another temple with another line of people waiting to pay their respects. Crossing over again I noticed that there was a perfunctory security check. Back in the vicinity of flower Park came the highlight and most beautiful part of the whole experience. The flower sellers had set up a tunnel of flowers, beginning with white and ending up in the colors of the flag of Thailand. Called “Flowers for Dad”, it was gorgeous. Getting back to the hotel involved a lengthy negotiation with the motorcycle taxi driver who didn’t know where the hotel was and a security guard who also seemingly could not read the name of the hotel in Thai. Eventually this all straightened out and I arrived back at the hotel and very happy to take a dip in the beautiful swimming pool.


Arrival in Bangkok

Atlanta Hotel

I got to the Atlanta Hotel in about a half an hour from the airport. The weather is cloudy but steamy. The neighborhood is quiet and I had a great meal at a nearby Egyptian restaurant, called Alexandria.

The room is basic but quite large. Really it’s the art deco Lobby that’s the claim to fame.

And the swimming pool

Which is at its best in the evening.

And the turtles!

Change of Plans

In walking through the town I was baffled by the fact that everyone was wearing black. It turns out that this is the biggest commemoration in Thailand’s history. Their beloved King died about a year ago and tomorrow will be the commemoration of his death. In fact he will be cremated near the Grand Palace which I was going to visit tomorrow. Big change of plans! I would like to figure out a way to participate but I’m not sure how I will do it. It should be interesting.


Col de Loubaira-col Boselia from Tende

The hike begins at B55 across from the Spar in Tende.

At first the route is a piste. Climb to B62 on the piste then up to B63.

It’s a steady but not particularly difficult climb. Although there were shady spots the route became progressively sunnier. To avoid in summer!

After reaching the Col de Boselia, the path looks alarmingly steep but only for a very short while. It became the prettiest part of the hike with much more shade, nice views and moutain flowers.

It led to the Col de Loubaira and the TV station.

The descent was easy as it was along a paved road. It was long though with a lot of switchbacks and very exposed.

The hike ended at b52. Then it was between one and two kilometres to walk back up to the village.

Denivilé 360m
Length 8km
Duration: a very relaxed 4 1/2 hours.