Saturday, March 28, 2009

breezin' thru bangkok 2

Bangkok teems with Buddhist temples. I would have wanted a visit to each and every nook and cranny but our itinerary only stipulates a visit to the famous Recombitant Buddha. The reclining buddha is huge, the whole thing is made of gold-plated metals. We had to take-off our shoes to get inside. Those in shorts and sleeveless tops are not allowed in. There are many caucasian tourists, most of them very tanned, most probably coming from the famous beaches of Pattaya or Phuket. Bangkok is their last stop for some cultural immersion.

Inside the temple, you can make a donation, and they'll give you a bunch of prayer coins that you can drop one-by-one in the little containers on the way out of the hall. To accumulate good karma or for some prayer petitions?

The buddha is located inside a huge compound with several pagodas and shrines. The pagodas are made of cement but coated with decorative tiles and gold-plated sheets. The designs are vibrant. In the evenings, the temples were lighted in such a way that the gold leaves shine and twinkle. We saw this impressive display during the Chao Phraya River cruise the night before.

We were told that temples in thailand are mostly "gifts" to important persons. For instance, the King would usually "gift" a mother or father with a temple which is not like any other temple. There's one, whose marbles come from Italy. Every commercial establishment also has a small temple. This is similar to the practice in Bali, indonesia.

The Thai King is very well-respected in the country. Most establishments would have a signage with the photo of the King or Queen, or would display a yellow flag, which is the color of the King. I was told that every monday, many Thais would wear yellow, as show of respect for the king.

Our next stop was the Gems Galllery. It's a typical places where tour guides bring guests to purchase something, where they will of course, get a certain percentage of the sales. Thailand is famous for gemstones, so we didn't offer any resistance.

After watching a audio-visual presentation about the gemstone industry in thailand, we were led to the craftmen's area. They showed us how they fashion the gems into jewelries. The persistent salesgirl will then lead you to the display area where you can buy beautiful jewelry. I've never seen such beautiful and extensive choices. unfotunately, they do not allow cameras inside. I would love to have any of those in display. The cheapest ones are those set in silver, whether rings, earings or bracelets, around 1500 pesos. The most expensive and intricate ones would are set in white gold, gold or even platinum. I saw some tiaras that go as high as 2M Baht.

My colleagues took a long time choosing and haggling for the best price. I got a set of earings and necklace of my birthstone topaz. It’s must be fate, because I love the color aqua blue. I have so many aqua blue shades of clothing. The topaz is a brilliant aqua blue, that really stands out on my skin. Kitang-kita. I would have wanted the blue sapphire because it’s what Thailand is famous for. But the color doesn’t stand out on my skin, as observed by the sales lady Helena, and I agree.

Ted bought some funky jade bracelet for himself and for nanay. Then waited for me at the coffee shop where there’s free flowing coffee and drinks.

We proceeded to Bangkok’s Siam Niramit Village & Theater. Siam Niramit is actually like our former Nayon Filipino. A small village inside the city which encapsulates all the culture, and places of the country in one single place. But unlike our Nayon Filipino, they don’t have reproductions of all the historical places, what they have were tableau of pastoral life, like people cooking the tradtional way, sewing, puppet and instruments-making, garland making, planting rice, etc.

After that, we proceeded to the pre-show dinner. We had international buffet throughout the tour,and tonight was no exception. The food was yummy! The Thai soup staple Tom Yum was present every where we go, but the best tom yum I tasted was at the Baiyoke Sky Hotel buffet. Really yummy, until now I can still taste the perfect combination of coconut milk, shrimps and chillies.

The show Siam Niramit is the most beautiful and colourful production I’ve seen. If Bangkok is a haven for the creative and talented 3rd sex, I think Siam Niramit is their greatest artistic tribute for Thailand. It’s basically a musical production, with extravagant and flamboyant costumes and set designs. Beautifully-made up actors and actresses, mime and dance to ethnic music. There are so many totally unexpected twists in the sets. There was rain, boat rides and swimming in lakes that appeared out of nowhere, there was ripening of the planted rice, appearance of trade galleons, and at the end, a cocaphony of animals, including a huge elephant which tamely roamed the house and the stage! Truly amazing! You can miss all the bargain hunts in Thailand, but Siam NIramit is surely not to be missed!

Friday, March 27, 2009

breezin' thru bangkok

Our company's summer outing this year 2009 was in a neighboring country in South East Asia, Thailand. I heard so much about Thailand especially about the fantastic shopping, the yummy Thai food and the fascinating Thai culture.

All 20 of us took the sunday PAL flight to Bangkok. A first batch (11pax) left the day before. Everyone's excited, most- for the anticipated shopping; while for the first-time flyers- the experience alone is enough to make their day. I took dear hubby along since both of us have never been to Thailand.

What's nice about flying with one's national carrier, you don't immediately get assaulted with the smell of foreign nationals and taste of their local food. Think Malaysian Airlines or Emirates. Ewww! With Philippine Airlines, I can still speak Tagalog with the FAs and the food is still comfortably Pinoy.

Almost all countries in SouthEast Asia have new spanking huge airports. Philippines, I think, is not an exception, However, our new airports are still crowded! In Bangkok, their new airport is relatively big, with the requisite Travellators (horizontal elevators), which for me, is a mark of a big airport. There are also huge statues of one of their Hindu gods. i love airports that showcases their local culture, not like our bland new Centennial 2 and 3.

We were greeted by our local travel agent, Jitti; and a costumed-Thai lady who placed on our necks, a garland of purple orchids, a Thai symbol much like our sampaguita. There are several busloads of tourists in the airport. Thailand is really a major tourist destination worldwide.

Since it was a sunday, we did not get a welcome dose of the infamous Bangkok traffic. Also, because the airport is connected to the city with a winding Skyway, you don't get bothered by commuters. I wish our airport in Manila has that Skyway!

Our hotel is located at the heart of the shopping district in Bangkok, much like downtown Manila. It's called Centre Point Apartment along Petchburi Road. The famous bargain malls like Platinum Fashion Malls, Pratunam Center, and ITC, an electronics haven, are just a block-away from our hotel.

Our room is quite big, with 2 double beds, a small galley with utensils for eating, and a full-bath. There's plenty of room to maneuver around, luggages relegated to the closets. There's no significant view, but the cable tv will make up for it.

I was feeling famished (could be due to the state i was in, 7 weeks pregnant!) so i asked Ted that we get some of those famous Thai street foods. I'm often amazed at the variety of street foods in other countries, but i'm proud to say, that the most weird ones can only be found in our country. Hmm... sounds like a good article in the future!

In Thailand, the street foods are much like Indonesia's... fruits (guavas, strawberries, mangoes) that can be dipped in sugar with powdered chili; fish, pork, beef balls in chili sauces. The food. looks clean and the places have no flies flying about. I like Indonesian street food better!! Well, generally yes, I love the variety of Indonesian food compared with Thai food. While both are flaming hot. Indonesian are much more similar to ours, only hotter.

Our first night dinner in Thailand was held on a Cruise along the Chao Phraya River.
At 370 km, the Chao Phraya River is the longest river in Thailand. We start the cruise at a River Terminal, which also has nice shops for tourists.

Our reservations were at the upper deck near the dancefloor and void of any roof. We can see the beautiful Bangkok skyline. As soon as the boat leaves, the singer, who is incidentally, a Filipina, starts the grove. She was very versatile, greetings guests in their native languages, and singing their country's contemporary songs.

A river cruise in Bangkok on the Chao Phraya River gives the visitor an overview of the the history of Thailand. The historical monuments, grand palaces, temples and various communities on the riverbanks are sights to behold. At night, these are all well-lighted showing-off the glamour of Thai culture. In contrast also, we see the modern new structures like the Shangrila hotel. We passed under the huge suspension bridge named after King Rama VIII. The facade of the temples at night are so impressive.

The table is also loaded with an international buffet spread. As usual, we pinoys were the first in line. Good thing! It's hard to be sandwiched between Indians and Iranians. We enjoyed drinking and dancing until the cruise ended.

What a Perfect way to cap the evening on our 1st day in Bangkok!