Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Seeing Bangkok Again, Two Years Later

A couple of days after our trip to Hong Kong, we finally had our first and only visitors, the adventurous souls that they are -- a good friend of mine and her son, who's been best buds with my son since they met as three-year-old preschoolers. They'll be here for about three weeks, during which time we will show them around Bangkok, travel to northern Thailand with them, and get some R&R on a small island close by. They will head home late on July 1, and we will follow shortly on July 6. And thus our own adventures will come to an end for now.

We have kept their first few days here more low-key, given the long flights they just took and their jet lag. The first day they were here, we hung out at our house, treated them to their first real Thai meal, played at the playground down the street, fed the fish in the lake by the playground, and went out for homemade ice cream at our favorite ice cream shop down the street.

The next few days were spent downtown showing them some of our favorite sites: Wat Phothe snake farm, and the Grand Palace. I felt like a completely different person visiting those places again after two years of living here. The first time we visited these attractions, everything was so new, different, and novel. Everywhere we looked, there was something amazing and fascinating to see. We seemed to stick out like sore thumbs, gawking at our surroundings and feeling so clueless. Now, two years later, the novelty has worn off, even if these sites are still breathtaking. They are now a normal part of our lives in Bangkok. It seems as if we've always lived here, and everything is familiar. While showing my friend around, I tried hard to remember what it was like for me to see these places for the first time so I wouldn't rush her through and she could take in everything as a first-time visitor, but it was hard to remember. It's funny how much things can change in just two years.

One thing that we got to do for the first time was go to a floating market. The Damnoen Suduak floating market, one of the more well-known floating markets, is about 1 1/2 hours of drive southwest of Bangkok. The name originally referred to the canal, which King Rama IV had ordered to be built in 1866 to facilitate water travel. It was opened to the public in 1868. Today, the market consists mostly of floating souvenir stands for tourists.

Floating down the canals, the atmosphere felt a bit like the bayous of Louisiana, pretty in a rustic sort of way and serene. There were many stalls selling pretty much the same or similar things. In the busy part of the market, there were at times four boats right next to one another trying to pass each other. Food vendors would row by selling their foods, but we didn't buy anything because the dirty canal water sometimes splashed onto the boats. The vendors were pretty aggressive in their attempts to sell their trinkets, but we managed to haggle the price down by as much as 50 percent with the few things we bought. It was a fun and unique experience.

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