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Published: October 30th 2007
I thought that title belonged only to L.A., but that's how the Thai call BKK, shortening it's official 64 syllables-name.
Since I started to read about the chaos of the congested, unplanned capital of 10 million, I decided it would be just a quick pit-stop to get over jet-lag and visit the less urban part of town.
I found Shanti Lodge on Lonely lanet, appointed as a quiet choice with good atmosphere. Arriving at 2am, my room wasn't available and I ended up at the questhouse next door. The room was okay, but no towel and in the morning, a black roach crowled my foot... I kicked the bug and run back to Shanti Lodge, where my room was ready ($15). I threw myself on the bed, and almost freaked out as I see the Dalai Lama (okay, his picture) stearing at me, "requesting silence" (see pic).
Well, determined to spend only 2 days in BKK, I waisted no time and headed to the streets, thru the flower market, into the boat with monks and all, and getting off at KORATANAKOSIN. This is the less urban, holliest and older part of Bangkok, filled with culture. For the concentration
of temples it has, it's nicknamed the "Vatican City of Thai Buddhism".
I embarqued on my very own walking tour of the spiritual heart of BKK, Lonely Planet in hand. I had a hard time enjoying the beautiful sites at times as there were way too many tourists, tons of groups, not to mention some with no respect for the pilgrims who are there to actually pray, not to take pictures. But what to do, if not try to still enjoy the grounds of the laveshing Royal Palace and ostentatious Wat (temple) Phra Kaew, and the not so shinning Wat Pho, the oldest temple in BKK and home to the massive reclining Buddha.
I passed the smelling street food stalls, the ammulet and healing herbs sellers on my way to Wat Mahathat. I had read about short meditation courses and ventured in. The old monk who helped me didn't fall to noticed my Tibetan shirt and asked if I practiced Hymayana Buddhism. The Thai practice the Theravara line. Well, he said that it would not be good to switch meditation practices but still gave me a quick instruction on "walking meditation". It was interesting walking floating style!
The Thai absolutely adore their king. There are pictures of him everwhere, and people pray at the wats with his picture on their hands. His birthday is next month, and the rehersal for the boat procession is already happening every afternoon. Therefore, on my way back to the lodge, I had to take the infamous tuk-tuk, since there were no boats, and the taxis wouldn't take me because the ride wasn't long enough. Despite a warning from a lady that my lungs would never be the same after I rode on a tuk-tuk, it was actually an enjoyable experience. The wind gave some relief to the unbearable heat and I got to experience a very popular way to move in the congested BKK. The driver overcharged me big time, but again, 70 T Baht is only 2 bucks and my feet appreciated the rest.
Enough, right? For me too, as I am now heading for a 1 hour foot massage ($7).
Til next time.
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