Me and Chairman Mao
  Bangkok: The Grand Palace.
Well, it's been a while since my last post. Possibly a record amount of time, but I'm too lazy to go back and check. Anyone else should feel free to do so, however--but just don't tell me about it. In my defense, since we last spoke (that is, since I last blogged) my wife has had twins, so I've been slightly busy. And yes, that is reverse hyperbole, thank you very much. Some might call it understatement, but I call it reverbole, because that just sounds cooler.

Anyway, after a few days in Cambodia--covered in the last few posts, natch--it was off to Bangkok. Again. But this time we planned to stay and look around for a few days, since Holly and I had never really properly explored Bangkok. For example, on our first trip there, we decided to skip the Grand Palace--the biggest attraction in the city, so sort of like going to London and not bothering to go see Big Ben, or passing on Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower in Paris--because it was really, really hot and we didn't want to wear pants. Not because we don't like pants--I myself am fine with them--but because you HAVE to wear pants to get into he Grand Palace. It's one of those sort of places. So we definitely had stuff to see in Bangkok. Plus, our friends (still with us after 8 days in Samui and 4 in Siem Reap) had mostly never been to a BAMC (Big Asian Mega City), so it was fun to show them around one, since it gave them some idea of what our past year had been like in Shanghai. And it let me--after a friend had commented that a mall we were in (we'd heard good things about the food court) was so crowded it was sort of freaking him out and was this what it was like in Shanghai?--say annoying, I'm-so-cool things like "No, Shanghai is crowded. Bangkok only has 6 million people. Shanghai has, like, 20." Now that I think about it, despite all my tour-guiding during the trip, no one ever offered to buy me a drink. Weird.

But anyway, Bangkok. Despite the song--and its reputation--Bangkok is actually a very cool place, city-wise. In fact, one of our Hong Kong friends said that people from the HK actually fly there as a weekend getaway to eat and shop, since--apparently--furniture shopping is better in the BKK than in the HK. (And trust me, when Hong Kong people are going TO your city to shop, you have some pretty fucking good shopping. Seriously.) Besides the good shopping, it's got cool things to see, cool bars, and a bunch of really, really good restaurants, including one called the Blue Elephant that you should definitely eat at if you go to the BKK. I've had a lot of Thai food in a lot of different places, and, for the most part, I tend to think it all tastes fairly similar: good, but the quality doesn't change that much just because you're IN Thailand. (Unlike, say, with Chinese food.) Anyway, the Blue Elephant was one of the only places I've ever had Thai food where it was noticeably--very noticeably---better than other Thai places.

As for all the other stuff--the One Night in Bangkok aspect--it's still there, but it's not overwhelming. At least, I don't think it is. If you avoid the certain areas where that sort of thing is concentrated, the only real evidence you'll find of it is that, everywhere you look, you see Western men with Thai women. It's actually pretty interesting just watching them, I found. I mean, maybe it was just my imagination, but it always seemed to me that the girls with the old men always looked a bit sad if you caught there eye, maybe a bit embarrassed even. Both of which would make sense, to an extent. At any rate, the girls with the younger guys--that is, guys there age--seemed a bit more pleased with the whole situation. And the girls without guys ... well, let's just say that looks they give you might be best described as direct. Really direct. So direct that there should be some other word to describe it--some word above--direct, although I can't think of one right at the moment. Not even a funny one, which is odd. Must be because I'm hungry. Oh well.

Anyway--again--in addition to cruising around the city eating, we also managed to see some of the sites. Like the Chatuchak Weekend Market, which I recommend if you happen to be in Bangkok on a weekend. Duh. What kind of stuff can you buy there? Everything, I think. Seriously: the market covers 35 acres or so and has about 15,000 shops. So really, you can buy everything. As for us, while we looked at all manner of things, we only came away with one item: an England football jersey for our dog that said "Dogham" on the back. Yes, just the sort of thing you want to pick up when at large, exotic markets in large, exotic foreign cities: kitschy dog clothing. And it didn't even fit. Oh well.

We also--after four or so stops in Bangkok--finally managed to see the Grand Palace, which was definitely very cool. Well, not literally. Literally it was really, really hot, since--as I mentioned early--you can wear shorts. But from a "hey, look at this!" perspective it was cool.

(Speaking of clothing, they are pretty serious about the dress code. We saw some stupid backpacker hippies in shorts and flip-flops get refused entry when we were there, to our great amusement. You can wear sandals, though--I did. And ones where my toes stuck out the front, which is also supposed to be another no-no. I think the difference is that I had on nice man sandals, AKA "mandals," and not some junky Tevas or something.)

What was the Grand Palace like? Grand. Duh. It used to be the home of the King--before becoming a tourist attraction, apparently--so it was slightly fancy. And by slightly, I mean over-the-top rococo, the sort of thing Donald Trump might build in the middle of a particularly bad acid trip. Think gold. LOTS of gold. As you'll see eventually, but not yet. For now, cool elephant pillars! (Hint: elephants are, I believe, the national symbol of Thailand.)

This is actually the side of a trash can--that's how bling the Grand Temple is:

And here we have the Grand Temple itself, from the outside. I'd tell you what all the buildings are, but the Wikipedia entry on it is shockingly short, and I'm too lazy to look up the info. anywhere else. Plus, I have things to do before The Sopranos comes on. I will, however, tell you that one of them holds the Emerald Buddha (no pictures allowed), a 26" high statue of Buddha made out of emerald (who would have guessed) that is apparently the most holy thing in Thailand. Or something. Mostly I just remember that they had different outfits (all gold, natch) that the king himself dresses the old Emerald Buddha in based on the season of the year. I'd say something mocking about that, but given the way America is being run these days, I'm not exactly coming from a position of strength:

The changing of the guard, Grand Palace style. A bit less formal than in London, which is nice:

This is just inside the front door. I'm not sure who that statue is of--some sort of medicine guy / healer, if I'm remembering something I looked at for 30 seconds 10 months ago correctly--but there's a chance, ever so slight, that I might be wrong:

A creepy medicine guy / healer, obviously:

A close-up of his offering bowls. I like this picture so much, it is currently hanging up in our house right at this very moment. Jealous much? No, I didn't really think so:

Assorted temple pictures:

If I had to choose one word to describe the tile work on this building, that word would be "intricate." For the record:

These things are cool. They're yaksha, which is apparently some sort of mythological demon guardian in Buddhism. Or something. At any rate, they are cool. (Again, not heat cool.) And, for those of you who care, they are also featured on the Starbucks Bangkok city mug, which I know because: a) I have it (better than Hard Rock t-shirts, I still say!); and b) I almost didn't buy it because, initially, I didn't know what was on the side of the city mug, and I didn't think I could buy it if I couldn't actually explain what was on the side. Yes, I live in a complicated moral world:

More yaksha:

You just know the Donald has one of the squirreled away in a corner of Trump Plaza somewhere:

More fancy tile-work:

Close up of said tile-work. I'm thinking about doing our guest bathroom like this ....

I'll use this scheme for the master bath. It's classier:

Close-up of some random little meditating guy. This level of detail covers everything the Grand Temple. And it's a big area. Not weekend market big, but big:

More random detail work:

I have no idea what these guys are or what they are supposed to represent, but as I like this picture and this IS, as I have pointed out in the past, my blog .... well, you know:

One more:

Next up, a bit more from Bangkok ...

Previously, on my vacation:

- Siem Reap: Tonle Sap Lake.
- Siem Reap: Angkor at Dawn.
- Siem Reap: The Angkor Temples.
- Ang Thong Marine Park.
- Koh Samui.
- Tay Ninh: The Cao Dai Temple.
- The Cu Chi Tunnels.
- The Mekong Delta.
- Saigon: the Random.
- Saigon: Reunification Hall.
- Saigon: the War Museum.
- Saigon: the Streets.
- Hoi An: The River.
- Hoi An: My Son.
- Hoi An: the People.
- Hoi An: the Streets.
- Hue: Zoom, Zoom.
- Hue: the River.
- Hue: the Imperial Tombs.

- Hue: the Imperial Palace.
- Hue: the Streets.
- Halong Bay: the Videos.
- Halong Bay.
- Hanoi: the Random.
- Hanoi: Water Puppets.
- Hanoi: the "Hilton."
- Hanoi: the People.
- Hanoi: Zoom, Zoom.
- Hanoi: the Streets.
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