Sunday, December 7, 2014

Shall we dance?

I took a trip to Myanmar via Bangkok. Although I was off the grid for most of the trip, I wrote notes each day.
September 18-21, 2014

Shall we dance?
It runs through my head and makes me smile. Siam. Anna and the King. Some truth and a lot of fiction. Here in Bangkok the Kings Palace remains a glittering wonder, and the European style to some buildings attest to the truth in part of the tale. The Japanese were here, of course, during WWII and there are day trips to The Bridge over the River Kwai, but our guide is not full of the horrors of their occupation, the way my Chinese friends were. Thailand was not destroyed, it was occupied. They did not fight, and they were just a pathway through to India. This is the hemisphere of the Japanese in WWII. The scope of that conflict has suddenly struck me. It truly touched the small places of the world.

I arrived late at night and out my hotel window I could see lighted boats ferrying across the Chao Phraya river. 
The next morning we took a river tour through the canals, where we fed the catfish and saw Thai daily life.  We stopped at Wat Aran, the Temple of Dawn. I climbed the steep stupa steps and got a view of Bangkok, and a close look at what would be many Buddhist sites.

On my own I took the metro to the grand market, where I got to see a million knock-offs of Western goods. Moving around was good for my jet lag.

The rest of the tour group joined us on my birthday, September 21st, and we went to the Grand Palace. It dates back to the 1700’s with its most recent European style structure added by the King who was the son in the King and I. The song will not leave my head. At least it is a happy one. Gold and gaudy, ornate in every way, the palace was grand, fascinating, and hot, hot, hot. It would be the first of many days spent steaming and stewing in my own juices. The sweat did keep me cooler. The site was teeming with tourists from all over the world.
The contrast between the life in a modern city and the life on the canals was unique. Every manner of boat was used to travel and shopping ranged from supermarkets, to open air markets, to boat/water markets. 

The Thai are a smiling people. They greet you with their hands in a lotus position and a nod. Not a bow. Yes, the son of The King (and I) did change the requirement to be lower than the king. The Buddhist do want you to stay below the level of the Buddha. The emerald Buddha was high up on a stupa, but still the people stayed on the floor.
This feels like an open, free country.  What will it feel like when I get to Burma?

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