December 21, 2018

A portion of the royal palace

Dateline: Bangkok, Thailand-

Up this morning to sample the breakfast buffet at the new hotel. Like Chiang Mai, a mix of Thai and western cuisine. The Thai is definitely better. They must have a number of British guests here as there were baked beans on the buffet which is a London breakfast staple. Pete, my guide, arrived promptly and I once again found myself on a private tour. I don’t know if I paid a premium for this or it’s just the way it worked out. Either way, it’s sort of fun. Pete’s English is pretty good so we ended up having quite the conversation about various things while the driver navigated the craziness of Bangkok traffic.

Demon guard at the royal palace

The first stop was the Grand Palace and the temple of the Emerald Buddha. Good thing we were up and at em early as it was still relatively cool and not overly crowded as we wandered over the 160 acres of temples, ceremonial buildings, and grand residences that make up the ceremonial home of the king. (The king actually lives a couple of miles away is a more modern complex that likely has better air conditioning but this is the one with all the fantastic decoration and architecture.) Most of it dates from the late 1700s (the city was founded then by King Rama I) but much of it was added on to in the mid 19th century by the westernizing kings Rama V and VI (Mongut and Chulalongkorn of The King and I fame) so there’s a number of very European looking sections which have had Thai ceremonial roof architecture added on. It was all gorgeous and very impressive.

The reclining Buddha

Then it was off to several more temples (there are hundreds in Bangkok so I only scratched the surface), the one that sticks with me is the one with the reclining Buddha half the length of a football field entirely covered with gold leaf. This took us up until late morning and we were ahead of schedule so I decided on my Christmas present to myself and Pete took me to a tailor recommended by his tour company. (I’m sure it involves someone’s brother in law and a kick back but I’ve learned not to ask too many questions.) I’ve always wanted a tailor made suit and, while looking through their gorgeous fabrics, it didn’t take them much effort to upsell me to a package that includes two suits, a sportcoat, six shirts, and accessories, all made to measure. It was a bit pricey but still less than what one single tailor made suit would cost at home. I’m going to look very dapper for the next few years when I have to dress up. (Alyn C Duxbury, my father, will be very happy. He’s been wanting me to get some tailored clothes for years.) Tommy would also be pleased. If he were with me, he would have gone hog wild at the tailors and likely emerged with two suits, a half dozen coats, two dozen shirts and a tuxedo. Tommy was very difficult to fit due to his odd body. He was built like a linebacker above the waist and like a midget below the waist. Fitting him in anything was always a challenge. We did have some shirts made for him but it’s so expensive at home that we weren’t adding to the collection very quickly.

Seven story bazaar – downtown Bangkok

Tailor appointment being done, I went off to explore downtown Bangkok a little, ending up at a seven story bazaar/shopping mall where I bought a few things and had a nice lunch of green Thai curry. Then it was time to explore the public transportation system, taking the skytrain (think the Chicago El) back to the river and then transferring to one of the river ferries for a ride back up toward my hotel. I got off the ferry early when it stopped at an interesting looking temple and did a bit of exploring on the opposite side of the river (think Jersey to Manhattan) before hailing a tuktuk – a sort of motorized open air tricycle cab thing unique to Thailand – and headed back to the hotel for some pool time and a lie down. I don’t have the stamina for more than about eight hours on my feet in tropical heat before I need a break.

The tailors popped in to my hotel, just eight hours after measuring me, with the rough cuts of a suit coat, trousers and shirt to make some final adjustments. They’re obviously quite skilled and very efficient. The final products are being shipped directly to the house so I don’t have to haul them around. One thing I’ve learned from this trip, I tend to overpack. Some of that is from growing up in Seattle where every trip can present from frosty to blazing, often in the same week so I always pack for any eventuality. Next time I come back to southeast Asia, I pack less and I’ll buy some new things as I need them.

Ventured out for dinner and drinks at one of the night markets but decided tonight was not the night to stay out too late as I have to be up quite early so Pete can come pick me up and take me off to the floating markets. Again, early is better in terms of both crowds and temperature.

Instead of a story, I’m going to go off on a bit of a rant here about the various ‘outrages’ making the rounds about Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg. I keep reading posts about how people are going to delete their accounts due to privacy concerns etc. I started to use email nearly 40 years ago. I used BBs services through dial up before AOL became a thing. The world wide web didn’t exist until after I finished residency and I was an early adopter of Mosaic and later Netscape. One thing I figured out right at the beginning was anything you turn into electrons and send out into the interweb ether leaves your control the minute you press send. It’s always been that way and, with the ease of data transfer and copying in the digital world, there’s no way to call anything back. Facebook is a tool and, like all tools, it can be used for good or ill. I like to think I use it for good: for connection, for entertainment, for information. I don’t belive half the stuff I see posted and, if I get taken in by something (which doesn’t happen often), I immediately delete it. I’ve been here since 2006, back in the days when you had to have a .edu email address to join. If you scroll back, you’ll see quite a record of my life. The good, the bad. I try to think before I post. An attorney once told me never write anything in an email or online that you wouldn’t want to have read out in a court of law. I think that’s a good rule to follow.

I’m getting used to being alone again. That leads to a lot of time for introspection. When I do something like travel, I’m a normal human. I want to sit at dinner and share my impressions of the things I’ve seen and experienced but I no longer have that person in my life. Between Steve and Tommy, I was partnered for nearly thirty years. I did some traveling in the interregnum but a lot of that was with friends and not solo. The last time I did major international travel by myself, I was 22 years old and a completely different person. I journaled about that trip through Europe (and I still have my notebook where I kept my travel diary) but no one has ever read it. Facebook allows others to share my thoughts and experiences and respond and gives me the ability to feel that there’s someone on the other side of the dinner table with whom I can share. I guess I’m here for the duration.

And so, to bed…

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