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Saturday, May 7, 2011

Realities of Bangkok

April 18-30. Bangkok. Our last stop was in Bangkok, where we spent 3 nights and 4 days. It was quite an environment and culture shock to go from the sunny beaches and blissfully peaceful atmosphere of Krabi to one of the world’s largest bustling cities. We stayed at the Lebua hotel in the State Tower, which failed to break the continuous luxury vacation I found myself in.

I have no doubt had my fill of Buddhist temples by now. Our tour guide, Sunny, brought us to the most famous temples of Bangkok, but there seems to be an endless number of these famous temples. Sunny, who is one of the nicest people and tour guides I have had the pleasure of meeting, insisted on describing and giving the history every aspect of each temple. I was only too happy to listen to her, but it did become a little tedious when you’re trudging around Bangkok during the hottest time of the day.

The temples we visited that, I believe, are worthy of highlight are as follows: the Emerald Buddha in the Grand Palace and the temple of the Reclining Buddha. Each was amazing, but each had their own peculiar features. The Reclining Buddha, for example, was a massive 25 meters and painted in gold leaf. The Grand Palace had decorations of monkey demons slaughtering humans, which I thought were incredibly interesting.

Yet, the Emerald Buddha stumped me the most. When I heard that this Buddha was made of nothing but Jade, I thought it would be amazing to see. Don’t get me wrong, it was amazing, but it was a bit misleading. I expected a massive jade Buddha, but when I stepped inside the temple, I had to look hard to find where the Buddha was. There were so many decorative gold pieces that it took a full minute for me to spot the jade Buddha. It stood no taller than a foot at the top of the golden hill. Everyone around me stood in awe, staring up at the Buddha. I didn’t find a foot tall, jade Buddha that impressive, but maybe that’s just my opinion, because it does seem to attract plenty of viewers.

I can describe Bangkok as a mix between New York City, Chiang Mai, and Venice. The aspect that it holds of New York is that it is just as crowded and just as cluttered. The aspect of Chiang Mai that it holds is that it’s genuinely Thai, which I found surprising because it attracts so many foreigners. The canals of Bangkok are where Venice comes in.

Sunny rented us a longboat one day, and we spent that afternoon zipping through the canals. I’ve been to Venice and I felt as if there was a distinct similarity. The hoses were located directly on the water and instead of cars; the people had boats parked right outside their doors. Vendors floated around on their rowboats trying to sell souvenirs or food to us foreigners, while 4 foot lizards swam past us. Poverty was abundant in this area as well, but it brought out the true nature and beauty of Bangkok. That journey was unforgettable.

Our nights were spent in the hotel, swimming in the pool, and sitting atop the State Tower at the Skybar. The Skybar provided a breathtaking sight of Bangkok, but also brought the reality out of the city. The effect of sitting atop one of the highest points of Bangkok, sipping on your 25 dollar drink, and being surrounded by a bunch of rich westerners brings a smug feeling of overwhelming self-importance. I didn’t really need that.

Before I knew it, it was time to part ways from my brother and parents. They were going back home, while I was going back to the orphanage. I was half glad to say goodbye to my parents because it seemed that I had lost some of what I had gained. I noticed that I was no longer making decisions for myself as often as I had done in the past 3 months. I had lost some of the independence that made me who I was now and I needed to gain that back. I had also noticed that I had become accustomed to having everything handed to me on a silver platter, and I needed to get back to reality. The other half of me was slightly down. Only after 3 months did I notice how much I missed my brother and I didn’t want to say goodbye to the kid who is my best friend. Yet, while I sat on the plane to Chiang Mai, I noticed something peculiar. While my parents were heading home, so was I.

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