We then walked along the outer edge of Chinatown, stopping off to admire all the gold and red ornamentation of a small Chinese temple.
A row of typical shop houses i.e. shops on the ground floor with living accommodation above
It was very, very hot as we walked, endeavouring to keep to the shade where possible. We visited one of the temples within the Wat Suthat) complex with wonderfully decorated wall murals inside and peaceful gardens. Note the beautiful street lamp (top right in the photo)
devout worshippers stick bits of gold leaf on to the Buddha statues
The decoration on this panel is done with a stencil. One single stencil is used for each panel. Once the extraordinarily-complex stencil has been cut it is attached to the edges of the black painted panel. Gold paint is then used to fill in the design. C told me she has seen this being done in northern Thailand.
Unfortunately we were not able to go into the main temple as it was closed due to it being a holiday.
At a small shrine with figures cast in concrete we caught sight of a cat sleeping peacefully on the altar.
We passed another somewhat dilapidated wat (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun) (Wat Thep Daram)
- and then slipped into the shade behind the walls of the Mahakan Fort, one of two surviving citadels that defended the old walled city.
Another world was revealed here of 55 simple wooden houses where naked toddlers played with their siblings along the edge of the klong (small canal). It was better not to look too closely as all rubbish is thrown into the klong whose surface rippled with the activity of the catfish. Caged birds sang. Cats dozed in the heat as did their owners.
On the other side of the road was the magnificent Wat Rachanada with its giant swing (like a Japanese Tori gate). No energy to visit it today, that will have wait for another time.
We emerged into the heat again, passing in front of a rent-a-Buddha shop, where wealthy patrons can rent a Buddha statue and then passed in front of a huge picture of the current Thai King. The Thais are very proud of their king and images of him and the Queen abound.
We then found our way to a confluence of two klongs where we could catch a klong taxi which would take us half way across in the city in half an hour. The locals use these to commute. They are very fast which is why there are plastic tarpaulins which are hauled up to protect travellers from the spray thrown up by passing water taxis. As you look between the gap between the top of the tarpaulin and the roof of the boat you catch sight of a Bangkok in the process of disappearing and one where few tourists venture, of dilapidated buildings huddled cheek by jowl with the new high-rise, package-tourist hotels. It has taken us several visits to Bangkok to discover this mode of transport and now we use it whenever possible.
The water taxis only pause for a few seconds at each stop so you have to be quick getting on or off. Because of this we missed our last stop and ended up having to get off at the next one and then walked back along the edge of the klong.
It was now midday and we were wiped out by heat, in spite of frequent stops for cold drinks and so we retired to the air-conditioned comfort of the hotel to recover.
We did not emerge again until after dark – 7 0’clock or thereabouts – and it was marginally cooler. By then the street food vendors had set up their stalls and were doing brisk business. Most Thai homes do not have a kitchen as westerners know it – they tend to buy ready-prepared food that they take home and eat with some rice or they eat out so these food vendors play a very important role. Some of them will ply their trade until the early hours of the morning. (Note the baby sleeping on the table of this stall under the Miss Kitty cushions) which was still in situ at 1am.
08.05 Another bakingly hot day so we took the air-conditioned sky train two stops further down the line to visit the famous Erawan shrine, one of the most frequented and venerated in modern Bangkok. It is situated on the corner outside the Erawan Hotel. Classical dancers perform here. As far as I could gather you can pay for a dance to accompany your prayers.
On the street outside were ranged a number of stalls selling garlands of flowers and miniature statues of people and elephants. A guardian regularly clears away spent incense sticks, garlands and the little statues otherwise the shrine would disappear under a mound of them.
A couple of hundred metres away there is another much-frequented shrine, honouring Ganesh – judging by the numbers of elephant figurines that had been left here by devout worshippers.
Another street vendor was taking advantage of the presence of worshippers to sell his wares.
Pavement cafés abound in the daytime and provide food for the local office workers, tourists and anyone else who fancies a snack – and very good the food was too!
This sign indicates at what times of the day the food vendors may set up their stalls (just next to our hotel).
Spirit houses in all shapes and forms and in all states of age varying between decrepit and brand-spanking new are visible wherever you go. Indeed each building should have its own spirit house. The larger the building the larger and more decorative the spirit house should be. This first one is outside the J.M. Marriott Hotel.
This one is in the car park opposite our hotel.
This rather stark and sophisticated one belongs to the hotel where we were staying.
That evening we caught a taxi to Bangkok’s new international airport and took this photo of the entrance doors with these images etched on them.
And so back to Europe.