We boarded our flight in Chiang Mai, flew through a lightning storm, and eventually fell into bed at our hostel in the early hours. The next morning we ventured out into the neighborhood, finding mainly highways with piles of garbage under bridges and alleys full of thumb-sized cockroaches... However, after some street food by the road we met up with Ex ("for excellent and expert"), our tour guide for the day, and hopped in a taxi to Wat Pho.
In the complex is the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. I'd seen statues of the Buddha in a sitting or standing pose, but never reclining like this. The scale was quite literally awe-some.
The heat was sweltering and completely solid, unlike Chiang Mai. The sweat rolled off us as we stepped from shade to shade.
Next we visited the Grand Palace, in the same area. I wasn't prepared for the extent of the opulence and grandeur, especially in contrast to the tiny, hot rooms we saw families living in near our hostel. We wandered between terraces, temples, tombs and buildings, all covered in gold and mosaic, glinting in the hazy, dense heat.
I loved experiencing a completely new architectural style and aesthetic and soaking it all in. After a quick lunch we toured the river for a while, spying gold roof tops and ornate tomb tips peeking above dockyards.
With Ex, our lovely tour guide, who referred to us all as "dears".
That evening we visited the Sala Chalermkrung Royal Theatre, to see a performance of a kohn masked dancing. The story is taken from the Ramiken, which is Thailand's national epic and itself derives from the indian Ramayana. 60 dancers with beautiful costumes depicted the monkey god Hanuman becoming Phra Chakri's devotee.
My only point of reference for anything similar was this sequence in The King and I, so I was in awe of the gorgeous clothes, dancing style, elaborate sets and strangely poetic translation on the digital screen above the stage.
|With the cast after the show|
We finished the evening at the infamous Khao San Road, and in search of drinks were accosted by stalls piled high with fried insects, offers of a 'ping pong show' (let your imagination run wild) and a lot of sweaty, sunburned Englishmen. Not ideal.
Our next adventure was in search of the Damnoen Saduak floating market. Ex met us again and drove us out of the city, stopping on the way at river-side villa to show us coconut products being made.
Once there, we hailed a canoe and spent the morning eating spring rolls in chilli sauce, coconut pancakes, mango sticky rice and all manner of fruit smoothies. The warm wood of the boat, the sweet pungency of the fruit, the blunt, earthy smells of soil and foliage - it all felt kind of intoxicating after the delicate, subtle smells and tastes of Japan.
Afterwards Ex bought us sweet, dry coconut wafers and helped us haggle over harem pants and spices. Even writing this is making my mouth water!