Saturday, February 28, 2015

Bangkok behind the scenes


Having returned to the dock, we set out on foot for the Flower Market. First we visited a large veggie market with huge trays of red and green chillies, trays of ginger and big baskets full of vegetables and fruits. Out in the busy laneway trucks were loading and unloading while a large man wandered up and down the street with a megaphone offering free haircuts. Along the street were all kinds of food stalls, some with sitting areas.

By now flowers were everywhere. There were huge amounts of marigolds being strung into garlands or made into arrangements. These were for offerings to Buddha. Beautifully colored orchids were everywhere. At little stalls men and women would patiently make arrangements of flowers. Some shops were full of cut flowers while in others there were huge plastic bags of marigolds waiting for their turn in a display. We were told not to smell the flowers as they were intended for offerings and hadn't been blessed by a monk.

Our convoy of tuk tuks delivered us to the oldest part of this bustling city, Chinatown. First we visited a Chinese temple that was very busy since it was the day after the New Year. Here we saw the huge gift baskets of food people brought to the temple as well as individual offerings of food and flowers, especially marigolds. We passed several monks yesterday and saw more today walking on the streets or at the temple. Every time we saw one the women were warned not to touch the monk as he would have to undergo a long purification ritual. Some men become monks for life while others are monks for shorter periods of time. The monks collect their food in the mornings as alms, and eat only two meals a day, breakfast and lunch.

We left the temple and emerged onto a narrow side street packed with market stalls, restaurants, tea houses, herbal stalls and a dense concentration of gold shops. Chinatown during Chinese New Year is an experience not to be missed. There were lots of red lanterns decorating the streets as well as stalls selling items of red clothing and golden decorative goats. At one end of Chinatown by the huge entrance gate, a stage was being set up, and just at that moment a Chinese dragon made its noisy appearance. In the evening the streets would be closed to traffic; vendors were already moving their stalls further out into the street.

By now it was late afternoon and we were heading to a cinema to see Kingsmen. But this was no ordinary cinema. There were five rows with five double seating areas in each row, much like business class seats on a plane -- leather, fully reclinable and separated by a console for drinks and snacks. Our tickets also entitled us to free drinks and snacks in a fancy lounge prior to the show. There were even blankets, a good thing because they really like their air conditioning in Bangkok. It is always a treat for us to see a movie in English and tonight we were really spoiled in such a setting watching Colin Firth in a funny action movie.

Once again it was time to eat and this would be our last dinner in Bangkok. I must confess I had soft shelled crab again but this time with rice in a tamarind sauce. We see soft shells so seldom it is always a treat. Seamus refrained and had some pad thai prawns. It was a lovely ending to a lovely holiday. Tomorrow, home.



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