Flame shoes, Public transit Thai-style, Big. Golden. Reclining. Buddha., the Bobae Pier, Life under the Overpass, and Thai massage.
Three more days, and there’s no end to discoveries made in Bangkok. It’s a city of wildly varying socio-economic circumstances, and the spectrum of choice is mind-boggling—where to walk, what to eat, what to wear, what to see, where to live. People’s lives unfold in an array of simple wooden structures with a few sheets of tin to keep rain out, to ultra modern homes sparing no expense. Almost everyone wears flip flops—likely because footwear is customarily removed when entering homes or even businesses. Flip flops can be found for as little as $2, or you can head to the MBK mall and blow $100 for a flashy pair. Or, you can pickup a real practical pair of funky designer shoes with 4” heels and appear to be shooting flames out the back! There are styles and price tags to remind you that Bangkok is a world class city.
Bangkok is a labyrinth of waterways. Rivers weave around historic ancient structures, and narrow canals transport citizens to and fro. Hop on, hop off, and you’ll make your way across parts of the city faster than any other transportation method. We noticed a long boat pull up at a pier, and a bunch of locals casually hopped on board. Nearby a larger boat sported English words “200 baht! Hop on Hop off, all day pass!” Same canal, same stops. So what’s the difference? Turns out, not much. We watched. We studied. No locals hopping on that boat. So, our observational powers led us to conclude that the bigger one was designed for farangs with the moolah. (Farangs are foreigners). Well! We made like locals and hopped on the “real” public transit, paid 9 (not 200) baht and made our way happily. Cruising down the canal we grinned big silly smiles, enjoying the economical commute.
Randy’s son flew in from Kyoto for our final few days. We decided on a “tourist” day, seeing The Grand Palace, Wat Pho and the Reclining Buddha. We expected Reclining Buddha to be big, but it’s enormity was astounding and like witnessing the Grand Canyon, it can’t really be captured in a single camera lens. You need to be there in person—standing in front, moving down it’s length and changing viewpoints taking mental snapshots to stitch together in your minds eye to see it in its entirety. There’s a lot of gold happening inside the building housing that reclining Buddha! Pretty sure we’ll never see that much gold on anything that size ever again! Did we mention it was BIG?!
The Bobae Market is for wholesale (and retail) clothing. Like other markets, stalls are cramped and squished into a tightly packed neighbourhood of merchants selling copious quantities of shirts, skirts, shorts, bras, underwear, dresses, etc. Proprietors are buried knee deep in inventory, counting, sorting, and arranging. Despite being a wholesale market, there’s also a tourist component, and you can buy individual items from the mind-boggling selection. Room to manoeuvre inside the maze is limited at best, and it’s hot sticky and steamy but motorcycles still zip down passageways dropping off massive bundles of clothing here and there and places in between.
After Bobae we canal-boated our way two stops back to our home base pier. A few steps away is a concrete overpass of the busy street above. Even there, under that grey dark overpass, even there families are living lives—doing laundry, repairing motorbikes, sleeping, reading, chopping fresh fruit and veggies. Even there where the sun can’t even shine, you can get a plate of homemade food served fresh and delicious by happy smiling Thais! There’s vibrant life everywhere in the city.
The morning of our departure came. We were a little sad to load the bikes into the airport transfer vehicle, our journey officially ending. Ironically it rained all of the way to the airport and all morning while we waited for our flight. On the runway we looked outside the little airplane porthole then at each other. We smiled big Thai smiles at each other, knowing that we have lucked out immensely these past six weeks. We had six glorious weeks of sunshine, raining only as we are leaving. It seems a fitting conclusion!