*Full photo gallery below*
Last full day in Thailand today, tomorrow we have an afternoon flight to Cambodia. Sites today included Wat Ratchanadda, Jim Thompson House, Lingam (fertility) Shrine, and Patpong Night Market.
The Wat we saw in the morning is unique in that it’s black and made of metal, the only one of it’s kind. Pretty cool and grabbed a few HDR pics. Jim Thompson House is a little out of the way, and we took some boat rides down a canal to get to it on the other side of town. Basically, it’s the house of an ex-pat American guy that started a Thai silk company and dealt in antiquities. He was also ex-military intelligence, so who knows what all he dabbled in. He disappeared without a trace in 1967 in Malaysia and the story of what happened to him has never been explained. His house was eventually converted to a museum in the 1970′s and mostly houses an extensive collection of Thai and Chinese antiques that he acquired. It was kind of interesting I guess, but I thought they’d talk more about his disappearance and the story around that. We also went to a shrine that is dedicated to fertility…. mostly because to us it seems a little comical that there are hundreds of phallic type offerings all over the place at the shrine. Basically, hundreds of penises crafted from wood, metal, concrete, resin, you name it. Apparently, the story is that there is a female spirit in the Banyan tree there, and it is appeased with offerings of carved penises, or something like that. So, people having fertility issues bring crafted penises there as offerings, and there’s quite a few of them there. After visiting that little spectacle, we grabbed a late lunch, did a little indoor shopping, and eventually went to Patpong Night Market to close out the day. The night market mostly sells loads of counterfeit goods which wasn’t very interesting. There were a few stalls that had fairly comical juxtapositions of goods, such as a stall offering: sex toys, combat knives, and “tobacco” bongs/pipes. The main part of the market is lined on both sides with clubs touting sex shows, specifically “ping pong shows” pretty aggressively. It’s maybe just a little surreal that these are being touted, complete with open doors into clubs with scantily-clad Thai women dancing, while tourist families are shopping and bargaining for silk table runners or souvenir jeweled elephants or whatever.
Anyhow, that’s it for today, and tomorrow we’re just gonna run a few errands before our flight in the afternoon to Cambodia. Might skip an update tomorrow depending on when we arrive.
Had a great, albeit brief, time in Thailand. We enjoyed Bangkok and there are definitely some beautiful sites in the city. The tourist experience is pretty nicely set up here with manned government run tourist assistance booths littered throughout the city. They dispense directions, pretty reasonable advice, and maps freely. Many striking contrasts are woven together on even a brief tour of Bankok: high technology and ancient monuments, impeccably clean areas and pockets of squalor, glitzy high end living and extreme poverty, utter depravity (ie: ping pong shows) and virtue (ie: Buddhist monks are frequently seen all over town). It’s also interesting to be in such a different culture in a region so far from home and yet have so many western tourists and ex-pats. It makes for a very unique experience. All of that being said, Martha and I enjoyed our time in the more rural Kanchanaburi the most. I think that was a more accurate glimpse of life in Thailand. We would definitely come back for a visit. In fact, I’m sure we will.