Friday, January 30, 2015


Given that 95% of the population of Thailand is Buddhist, it's no surprise that there are an estimated 40,000 temples in Thailand.  Thai temple complexes usually include a temple or wat, feature a tall bell-shaped stupa which is a place for relics and the ashes of monks, ordination and sermon halls, a space for shrines and Buddha images and a residence for the monks.

The public is welcome at most temples.  When visiting the temples, please show respect by observing the following guidelines:

Take your shoes off before entering the temple.

Make sure shoulders are covered and wear long pants (or long skirts for women).

Remove hats and sunglasses, don't chew gum or smoke and speak quietly.

After entering the temple, sit on the floor with your feet under you and try not to put yourself in a position where you are higher than any Buddha statues or Buddhist monks.

It's ok to take photographs unless there are signs forbidding it, but don't use a flash.

With their ornate appearance, the temples are easily recognizable.

These are peaceful places, and even if not Buddhist, one may feel the urge to reflect or meditate while visiting.

Beautiful arrangements of fresh flowers adorn the interior of the temples and they are spectacular:

The interior of the temples are dominated by Buddha statues.  Buddha statues are made out of many different materials from gold plate to stone to wood to clay.  One famous statue, the Golden Buddha (not pictured below), was thought to be made of plaster until it was being moved to a new location in 1954.  Ropes supporting the statue snapped causing the statue to fall to the floor.  The fall resulted in some of the plaster chipping off allowing the gold surface underneath to be seen.  After carefully removing the plaster it was discovered that the statue was solid gold.  It is believed that it was covered over with plaster in the 1700's to prevent theft, although at 5.5 tons stealing it would be a daunting task!

The interior of the temples include beautifully embellished shutters and ceilings.

Detailed murals cover the walls:

Buddhist monks live a simple life with few material possessions.  They rise early in order to go out and collect alm which is the giving of food to the monks by lay people.  Monks are not allowed to have contact with women, therefore, any food offered by a woman must be handed to a man and then passed to the monk or put in a bowl left on the ground.  Monks are allowed to eat each day between sunrise and noon.

A walk through the temple grounds is a visual treat:

Many of the temples are surrounded by park like areas making them a quiet oasis in the middle of the city:

Bangkok is a very large, very busy, very noisy place and an afternoon spent at a temple is a nice way to have a few hours of restorative quiet time before heading back into the hustle and bustle that makes the city so exciting.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Food Courts

Food courts are popular in Bangkok and it's no wonder.  They offer an incredible variety of foods from Vietnamese to Indian to Chinese to Indonesian to Thai to Japanese and much, much more.  They are also inexpensive with a typical meal ranging from 55 to 100 baht.  Keep in mind 100 baht equals $3 U.S.

The large food courts are usually located in shopping malls, but it's not uncommon to see smaller neighborhood versions.  A feature I haven't seen before at American food courts is the method of payment.  First one goes to a cashier's station to purchase a debit card in an amount specified by the customer.  The amount can be whatever the customer wishes but should be enough to cover all food court purchases.  As purchases are made at various food stations, the card is run through a scanner and the cost of the item is deducted from the card.  At the end of the meal, the customer returns the card to the cashier's station and if there is any credit left on the card receives a refund for the full amount.

So many choices.   Decisions, decisions.


Time for dessert:

These fruit juices remind me of precious gem stones:

The ambiance is great too - love this crab sculpture:

The downside of the food courts is not being able to sample everything - we gave it our best shot!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Taste Sensations

To say that the food in Thailand is delicious would be an understatement of epic proportions.  The food is not only delicious, it is fresh and bright and exciting and much of it is exotic to this Westerner.  Fried bugs, anyone?

We ate at food courts, restaurants and from street vendors and I'm happy to report that we never had any food related issues or illnesses.  There are street vendors who keep their carts meticulously clean and others not so much.  To be on the safe side, we opted to purchase and eat food from those who had clean carts, fresh fish and seafood well packed in ice, vegetables that were still in their prime and who had a lot of customers.

Our running joke was that the woks were so hot that nothing would survive that experience anyway!

A favorite snack was chicken, pork or beef skewers.  Small pieces of marinated meat are placed on skewers along with a piece of pineapple and chili pepper and grilled over coals while you wait.  Yum.

Containers full of hot coals glow eerily in the night:

Examples of some of the street food we devoured - a wonderful meal can be had for less than 100 baht or $3.  Pad Thai soon became one of my favorite go to meals.

Chinese Kale with Crispy Pork:

Catfish Laab - laab or larb consists of well seasoned cooked ground meat that is usually served at room temperature.  It is often accompanied by fresh herbs such as mint:

Cashew Chicken tends to be on the sweet side:

I don't remember what this dish was called but I do remember that it was tasty!

Tom Yum Soup was also a favorite dish of mine.  Spicy with a hint of lime, it definitely lives up to the "yum" in it's name:

Another spicy dish is this Green Chicken Curry"

Morning Glory or Water Spinach is a popular green.  Crisp and light, not only is it healthy, but it tastes great too:

Grilled squid - we usually like squid, but found it to be rather dry and tasteless when grilled.  Maybe it was just us, because it was a very popular item and often sold out before the evening was over:

We meant to try the grilled fish, but our time in Thailand ran out before we had a chance:

This vendor sold many different varieties of grilled mushrooms on skewers:

The waitresses at Mulligan's warned us that this fresh shrimp salad was spicy.  We assured them that we like spicy which seemed to please them.  It was indeed spicy and we ate every bite!

I'm not sure what this dish was, but I imagine it was hot.  Look at all those chiles - there's fish in there too:

Remember earlier when I mentioned exotic?  I wasn't brave enough to try the chicken feet, but they are a popular dish.  Most often they were deep fried but sometimes they show up in soup:

When it comes to exotic, the chicken feet are actually quite tame.  I'm not sure that there will ever come a time that we're ready to try lung soup or intestines or some of the other things served here.  While we consider ourselves to be fairly adventurous when it comes to food, there are some things that are difficult to get past.  Of course, much of this has to do with what people grow up eating; I'm sure we eat things that others wouldn't want to eat due to their upbringing.  Still hoping to work up the courage to try the fried bugs someday though!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Getting Around Bangkok

Despite being a huge city, it's amazingly easy to get around in Bangkok.  Traffic can be very heavy, but there are many different modes of transportation to choose from that will get one where they want to be.

During our stay, if our destination was within a mile we walked.  We estimate that we averaged 2 - 3 miles walking per day.  It was a great way to see the neighborhood, run errands and get in daily exercise.

Besides walking, there are many other options such as bicycling:

These green bicycles are available for rent as part of the city's program to encourage cycling as a way to reduce traffic congestion and pollution.  The bikes are found at stations where they are locked in racks.  To be able to use the bikes, registering for an RFID smart card is required.  This program was launched in 2012:

Scooters and motorcycles are very popular ways to get around in Bangkok.  It is not uncommon to see three or even four people riding one motorcycle.  Motorcycles and scooters are also used to transport all kinds of things.  I saw loads of wicker baskets, furniture, televisions, construction materials, big bags of ice and propane tanks strapped on the backs of motorcycles and scooters.  

A popular and inexpensive way to get around is by Moto Taxi.  The drivers of Moto Taxis can be found on most street corners and are identified by the orange vests they wear.  There are over 49,000 licensed Moto Taxis drivers and it is estimated that they carry 2-3 million passengers per day.

Male passengers are expected to straddle the seat behind the driver while females prefer the more precarious side-saddle position. Although Thai law requires both driver and passenger to wear helmets, this is rarely enforced and most motorcycle taxi passengers decline to wear helmets when they are offered.

A ride on a Moto Taxi is not for the timid as the drivers take pride in finding creative ways to navigate clogged streets and will often perform death defying maneuvers in order to reach their destinations.   Safety statistics are not kept for the Moto Taxis, but with 38 highway fatalities per every 100,000 in population, Thailand ranks second only to the Dominican Republic as the most dangerous place in the world to drive.

The tuk tuk is a whimsical cross between car and motorcycle and a ride in one of these is great fun.  However, even after negotiating the fare and agreeing on terms before the ride, the drivers will often try to pressure their passengers into visiting jewelry stores or tailors because they get commissions/gas coupons for bringing in potential customers.   If one is in no hurry and doesn't mind playing the game, hiring a tuk tuk can be a fun and inexpensive way to get around.  Otherwise, it's probably best to avoid the tuk tuks.


 We did not ride any buses while in Bangkok, but they are definitely an option.  There are air conditioned buses which cater mostly to tourists and the open air buses which are ridden mostly by the local people.

Taxis are everywhere and very easy to flag down.  While the cabs are metered, many of the drivers refuse to turn the meters on.  Before getting into a cab ask that the meter be turned on; if the driver won't do it, find another cab driver who will.  It's a funny way of thinking, but apparently many of the drivers would rather have no fare than have a metered fare. 

The BTS Sky Train is a safe, quick and efficient way to travel  in Bangkok.  We rode it all over the place.  The signage at the train stations are in both English and Thai making it easy to figure out how the system works.  In addition, there are maps at the stations which show the stops along the train routes.  The trains stop at Chatachak Market, MBK Mall, Siam Center and Siam Paragon, the Nana district, Lumpini Park and Central Pier near China Town among many other stops.  It also connects to the line that runs to and from the airport.

If one is planning to ride the train often, purchasing a smart pass makes sense as it saves both time and money.  When the card runs out, the card holder can put additional money on the card in order to add more rides to the card.  The 50 baht purchase fee is refundable at the time the card holder turns their pass back in to the ticket office.

After we rode the train a few times, I grew confident enough to ride it alone and never had any problems finding my way.   It's a good thing because husband had no interest in the malls so if I wanted to go shopping, I had to be able to manage this on my own.  It didn't take long before I shopped until I dropped!