Archive for June, 2008



One Night in Bangkok

It was a long flight from Tokyo, and I arrived tired and late at night. So instead of going into the heart of town after midnight to look for a place to stay (none of the flea pit places I tried would let me reserve since I was coming in so late). So I took a recommendation from some fellow travelers and stayed at a place by the airport. When I woke up I was surprised to find this out my window: 

 

Not exactly teh non-descript airport location I was expecting. Ok, I am definitely not in Kansas anymore – not even Japan for that matter. Instead of the efficient politeness I came to expect in Japan, now I had to fight the sweltering heat (even at midnight) and the many taxi drivers hounding me allong with plain old scam artists.

So I am still suffering a little culture shock. On the other hand things are cheap! As soon as I got settled into my new (and cheaper) digs in what I call the backpacker’s ghetto, I went out on the street and got me some Pad Thai from this lady.

 

So for 25 bhat (85 cents) I had lunch. Of course I could have tried the octopus.

 

But I didn’t.

This place is big – some 6 million fry here – and even if I stayed a full week, I would only be scratching the surface. So suffice it to say, what you see here is nothing. This was a slow day for me, an adjust to a new culture and a new city. Now I must be on my guard. People are out for my money in a big way. In Japan, they didn’t care, they already had plenty of money. But in a place like this, my money is big money to them.

The first place to start is the Grand Palace and Wat Po, not too far a walk from where I am staying.

 

These are Buddhist temples of distinctly Thai design. Things always seem weird on the other side of the planet.

 

And if you think the Brits take their royalty seriously, you should see this place. The king and queen are everywhere.

 

And of course so are street vendors. And speaking of streets, where the Japanese would not cross a street even if there wasn’t a car for miles without a green light, here you just walk into traffic and pray to Buddha!

 

And what better way to end the night than with an anti-government protest Thai style. We should have more of these in the US!

 

And for those of you who were hoping I could get a glimpse of mount Fuji in Japan, this is the best I could do in the few seconds the mountain was visible through the clouds.

 

That was two days ago – it seems like last year. And it’s only been one night in Bangkok.

 

 

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They Should Call THIS Place Phoenix

 Ok, take a look at this:

 

Just your average city in Japan, busy and modern (and an average picture as well). The only thing really striking about this city is this:

 

Of course this is Hiroshima. After the bomb was dropped, this dome was one of the only things standing as far as the eye could see. Now it is a very modern, pleasant and peace loving city. This building was preserved in it’s bombed out condition as a memorial to the 200,000 who lost their lives in the bombing and it’s aftermath. This is the original Ground Zero!

Amazingly, the city has come back from unspeakable tragedy. And now they enjoy things like baseball (which is very popular in Japan). I was walking around the center of Hiroshima when I heard all this noise coming from the stadium. Well I had to take a look, so I walked around the stadium and noticed the cheap seats were $15.  So after walking around the whole stadium I was resigned to pay the 15 bucks and check it out – and I’m not even a baseball fan. But there was a picture I was looking for…

So when I got to the entrance point that would give me the right view I asked where the ticket booth for that gate was. He said ‘No, for special guests’. So I said, ‘Can I be a special guest?’ – he said yes and let me in. Cool I was in to see the Hiroshima Carp. Yes, that’s right – the Carp. Not very glamorous or intimidating.

They do like to make noise at their baseball games. But I wanted to see the game and the A-bomb dome (as it is known locally) in the background. And look, I found it!

 

But now it’s time to leave Japan. I am now in Hakone, a mountain park area where I had the good fortune to get a momentaryglimpse of Mt. Fuji before it was obscured by the clouds. Sorry no picture available yet.

Tomorrow it’s back to Tokyo and the airport to catch my flight to Bangkok. So it’s out of the frying pan and into the fire – it will be hot and crazy in Thailand and Cambodia.

But before I say sayonara to Japan, a few more pictures from the last few days.

Yes, they really wear shorts like that in Kyoto (and all of Japan). 

 

A statue keeps guard at the entrance to Todai-ji temple in Nara (outside Kyoto).

 

The Todai-ji temple is the largest wooden building in the world. And for good reason, it houses this huge bronze Buddha. It’s hard to see the scale from this picture, but they say six people could fit in his hand.

 

I have noticed that in all these temples and elsewhere, superstition is an important part of the lives of many Japanese. There were always specific wishes and lucky charms one could buy and hang at various shrines that went along with specific rituals to perform to receive the good fortune. And the lonely fortune teller quietly sitting on the street or subway station, with a small lantern and flashlight at dusk, is an image I will not forget.

There was this one temple in Kyoto that seemed to be dedicated to this kind of thing. Eerie music filled the air, and folks were going from one shrine to another looking, I think, for this:

 

Sometimes you have to go all around the world to find it, sometimes it’s right beneath your nose. 

Ok, now I am dying for some Pad Thai, see you in Bangkok!