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Bangkok was the last of our side trips, taken a week before returning home.  Our hotel was nice, the Indra Regent.  Located in and near several shopping areas, it was convenient for day trips, sightseeing, and eating.  Although we were warned many times of the crime (pickpockets and petty crime type activity), we felt safe walking around day or night.  At least in the areas we strolled!

Shopping was composed primarily of flea market or bazaar type booths, selling everything under the sun.  Especially this one trip we took, to the "largest bazaar in the world", advertised as 8000+ booths, spread over 20 acres or so.  Only operates on the weekends.  Massive crowds,  but still not quite as packed as Greenhills on a good day!  Lots of wonderful foods and major Stuff to buy.  It would take a few days to check out each booth.

We had a couple of organized tours there, mostly to ruins and temples.  Many, many Buddha images, large and small. It was nice to see a culture and religion co-exist, without the feeling that the religion was oppressive or foreign to the society.  I could go on about Catholicism, it just felt like the Philippines were operating under an occupying force, that force being Catholicism and it's representatives.  Never seemed like it was a comfortable fit for them.  In Thailand, or at least the parts we toured, their life and religion seemed more natural partners.  Perhaps that's an aspect of Buddhism itself.  

One drawback, neither page of pictures are organized very well.  The fever dreams, sleep deprivation and maniacal pace have subsided since returning home, and with it the structural context of the environment.  I'm very glad to be home.  So shots that should be side by side are spread all over.  Anyway, enjoy the pictures!

These are a few pictures from the dinner cruise one night.  A large, nicely appointed yacht, with 80-100 people.  Rode along a 10 mile loop or so of downtown Bangkok river, I forget the name.  There may be other pictures of that temple in the daytime.  And definitely a day shot of the bridge.  Very pretty bridge, an asymmetrical construction, elegant and visually arresting.  Unfortunately, I was not up to speed on night time photography in general, and particularly not with a digital camera.  All the night shots were variously underlit, or blurry, or both.  I practiced several with Liz across the table, and the last is one she took of me, catching all the folks gathered around our table.  We had the best seats in the "house", as we were the first table on the top deck in the front of the boat  (I'm sure there's some correct nautical term for "front of the boat", and probably another for "top deck"), and all the folks started gathering around and behind us to see the views as we floated past the lit temples, bridge, etc.  Much later I discovered the wonders of a tripod, which the camera came with, a cute pocket model complete with pen clip for pocket protected nerds. The one of Liz is nice with your screen brightness turned way up.
A shot of my hotel room in the Indra Regent.  Comfortable room, and you can see the results of my Michael Jackson obsession on the table. There's a small fridge under the table.  These rooms had a neat feature I'd not seen before. All the lights and other electrical items were controlled by a console on the bed side table.  It was all activated by putting your room key into a slot beside the door.  When you took the card out, the room "turned off" after 30 seconds.  Neat way of saving electricity.  

My Michael Jackson obsession?  Let me include an excerpt from Liz, gives a general idea of the mental conditions:

November 17th 2003-

I am losing my spirit here.  Ready to come home.  Tired of working with people who don’t know how to communicate.  Tired of feeling like I am chasing my tail trying to get anything done here.  Tired of feeling like I never hear the truth or sifting through words to get the truth.  Tired of seeing mice scurrying across the exposed electrical wiring and the floor.  Tired of restrooms in the office that don’t have toilet paper, soap, or hand dryers.  Tired of packing a bag every time I have to use the un-air-conditioned, filthy restrooms.  Tired of seeing that most people don’t wash their hands after using the restroom.  Tired of a filthy office that has contagious people wandering around.  Tired of being surrounded by environmental and noise pollution.  Tired of long cab rides home in 20 year-old, blown out Toyota Corollas with no shocks or cushions after 10 hours in the filthy office (see previous sentences).  Tired of not having transportation so I can go somewhere, anywhere when I want.  Tired of eating out all the time.  Tired of upset stomachs.  Tired of being tired I guess.


November 21, 2003 –

Just wanted to report that I am back in the game.  It was a rough 4 days, but I have recovered my sense of humor, my spirit, and my normal, cheerful disposition.  “How did this happen?” you may ask.  Well, I have decided that fixating and obsessing are excellent ways to make the time fly by.  Apparently Mark came to this answer as well because he is obsessing over Michael Jackson.  He is finding the most terrifying pictures he can of the porcelain king of pop and using them as wallpaper on his laptop.  Not always the whole picture, sometimes, he has just the forehead and eyes blown up huge and taking up the entire screen.  He changes the picture at least 10 times a day.  When I ask him a question, his response is “let me ask Michael”.  In all fairness, I am borderline obsessing over Mark’s obsession with Michael.  Is that wrong?  I sit at my desk and watch Mark across the office cropping, pasting, enlarging, and shrinking photos of Michael Jackson, all the while giggling to himself.  And if I haven’t been staring, if I have to go to a meeting, I often find myself wondering, ‘has Mark put a new picture of Michael Jackson on his wallpaper yet?’   

One of the day time temple trips.  Did I mention that Thailand is Buddhist?  Just kidding, the place is full of temples and Buddhas.  Or more correctly, images of Buddha.  In several places we saw groups of school children being lectured by monks.  The first pic is a group in front of a tiled tower.  The conical towers were both monuments, and mausoleums, as each typically held the remains of a past king or important historical figure.  The three behind Liz in the second were from the ancient ruins in Ayutthaya.  The last picture is another reclining Buddha.  This is also the place with the bats, pictures elsewhere.  Oh, that third picture is of a different temple, the temple of Singha, makers of Singha beer.  We floated by it on another day time river boat tour.  I was making an offering at the time.
More old ruins.  The first is from a still functioning temple school.  There was a ring of small Buddhas surrounding the main buildings.  There were more than 120 of them, the tour guide tried to get folks to guess how many.  We passed some elephants, fairly unhappy looking, stationed for tourists.  You could feed them, more of them later.  The third was of the golden Buddha.  The Golden Buddha.  This was 5.5 tons of pure gold, too heavy to lift so they don't really guard it or have security for it.  You can't touch it, but that's about it. One of the largest chunks of solid gold in the world, and about 22 carats.  An interesting side note about the four people in the left side of the picture.  Two couples (the other woman is sort of hidden, you can see the top of her head only, she was short) traveling together from Manila, they were on our plane coming and going.  Stayed in the same motel we did.  The women were from New York, the guys from Manila.  We did a few tours together, just from coincidence.  Liz remembers the names, I think the women were freshly divorced and having a "good time".  The guys were both considerably younger.   You might notice them in a couple other shots.  The last picture is some writing, cast into concrete and painted, it just looked cool.
The largest reclining Buddha is stored here.  There are seven basic Buddha positions, none of which is the commonly seen and  tourist recognized, seated and laughing, fat belly Buddha. [That version may come from a different Buddhist sect, hey, what do I know?]  This building held the largest version of a relining one in the world (at least in Thailand's world).  A few more pictures of it are elsewhere.  But I was interested more in the amazing amount of handwork that went into everything.  For instance, the first picture is a close out (about 8 inches away) of a section of column.  It's hand painted, not wallpaper.  If you can, zoom in on the larger version and check out the detailing.  The second picture is a long shot of the aisle, full of these columns.  The columns were painted floor to ceiling, with the same level of detail all the way up.  And up was up to 50 feet to the ceiling, and the ceiling was painted as well.  Incredible!!  The people at the bottom of the second picture gives an idea of the scale of the building.

The third picture is of the feet of RB.  The feet were inlaid with mother of pearl designs.  That is, dozens of pictures, "drawn" by inlaying bits of mother of pearl to achieve the result.  The third shows the bottom of the two feet.  The toes had swirls of mother of pearl.  Sorry for the blurries.  But the people give a idea of the scale.  The fourth is a close up of two of the images. I rotated them upright.  It's about 24 inches away.  Again, try to zoom in on the larger version, the detailing of each little picture with tiny pieces of mother of pearl is amazing.  And each little picture was different.  And each little piece of pearling inlayed. Okay, perhaps I'm easily impressed!!

A small version of the entire Reclining Buddha.  A shot of part of the wall restoration, they were repainting or newly painting a portion of the wall in RB's house.  On one side of the building was a row of pots, maybe 50-60 of them.  You were to take a pile of change, dropping a few coins into each one and saying a bit of verse.  It was for good luck or better health.   Or something.  The last is a shot of some old paintings describing the art of Thai massage.  Shown are various places on the body, and what is going on there, massage and healing wise.  These pictures are hundreds of years old.  And of course, hand painted.  There were buildings that had these little depictions painted around the entire rim, each with a different set of body points explained.
More outside towers, and a close up of the tile work.  And a cute dog.  For perspective and scaling purposes, the blue round tile in the center of the flower of the second picture is about two inches in diameter.  And the first picture has two towers, the nearer one on the left (with our traveling foursome buddies just below it) is the tower, you can see the flowers on the side.  These towers were tall, covered with this tile work all the way up.


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