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Published: August 10th 2006
So, I have finally arrived in Krung Thep Maha Nakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Ayutthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udom Ratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Phiman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanu Kamprasit, the city which so many of my fellow Swedes have already discovered. The flight lands in the early afternoon and the heat can be felt through the airport walls, and what is that strange smell? (The Don Muang air has a very special character that I've since come to appreciate more and more). After passing through immigration my friend Kay picks me up on her way back from the office, which is nearby. She's suggested and reserved a room for me at the Karnmanee Palace (a nice hotel which has since become a favourite stay of mine) where I can dump my bags and take a much needed shower.
As there is still some time left of the sunlight Kay asks me where I'd like to go, and looking at my newly acquired city map I suggest the main temples and palaces by the Chao Praya. A taxi drops us off at the big field in front of the Grand Palace but as it is not opened for the moment we
continue south to the smaller but exquisite Wat Po, home to a large reclining Buddha and a heap of masseurs in training. Making use of the last daylight we then take a boat across the Chao Praya to the magnificent Wat Arun and wander around the strange buildings while the sun is setting. There are loads of river boats passing through here and Kay suggests I may want to go for a ride on the smaller canals, which sounds like a nice idea so we hire a boat for a 30 minute circle through the nearby blocks. The boat speeds past houses with docks filled with dirty pans and pots and open doors offering glimpses into households illuminated by irregular blue light from blaring TV:s and the wind carries the noise from people speaking in that wonderfully incomprehensible language.
We seem to be riding on forever and soon the narrow canals between houses shifts to a small river snaking through marshy vegetation and I begin to wonder if we are heading into open country, but Bangkok being the very large city that she is of course continues on seemingly forever. Darkness now falls upon us and we begin hearing
the swoops of bats above our heads. The temperature drops a little and the driver increases the speed and suddenly we find ourselves being escorted by bats flying in formation with the boat. Appearing on the sides they actually keep pace with the boat which is very amusing. One of them makes a faulty course correction and bumps into my head as it speeds off into the night. As we return to the pier we take a taxi over to the commercial district at Siam Centre, where Kay takes me for a sample of real spicy Thai food. The shrimp spring rolls are an easy job, the Tom Kha Kai chicken & coconut soup proves more difficult and the spicy Som Tam papaya salad brings a constant trickle of tears from my eyes. But it is really delicious. After dinner Kay takes me back to the hotel. Starting tomorrow we will go on a trip to the western provinces and so we make some final plans before I can get some much needed rest.
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