Sunday, November 30, 2014

Kanchanaburi, Thailand

In Kanchanaburi, 60,000 Allied POWs and 120,000 conscripted laborers from Southeast Asia were used by the Japanese to build a bridge connecting Thailand to Burma as a supply route for Japan to gain access and control other west Asian countries.  Japan occupied Thailand in 1942-1943.  It was estimated that it would take 5 years to link the 2 countries over 415km but it took only 16 months.  

It was only used for 20 months before the Allies bombed it, then it became an escape route for the Japanese.

The Death Railway Bridge, also known as the Bridge over the River Kwai is 300 meters long.  The center part is not original because it was bombed in 1945.  

Mae Nam Khwae Yai river-

The Allied War Cemetery has 6982 POWS interred.  About half were Brits and most others were from Australia and the Netherlands.  They think about 100,000 workers died during the construction of the bridge, most from southeast Asia , however, there isn't one grave to remember them.

The Chinese cemetery is adjacent-

Notice the numbers on the tombstones-

There is an interesting market here selling everything like

 chestnuts roasting in chips of coal-

Larvae, grasshoppers, beetles and who knows what-

A couple cool signs-

Another wat-

Notice the monks sitting in front of the altar, as always, wearing orange-

Today was hot and humid - feeling like 39 degrees.  I've rented a scooter for 24 hours so the breeze is nice!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Bangkok, Thailand

Wat Pho, or the Temple of the Reclining Buddha was the first public university in Thailand, offering courses in science, religion and literature.  

Giant Buddha is 46 meters long and 15 meters high.  He's covered in gold leaf.  

His feet are 5 meters long and decorated with mother of pearl in characteristics of Buddha.

There are 108 bronze bowls running along the wall and one can purchase 108 coins for good luck.  108 refers to the number of positive symbols and actions that helped Buddha to perfection.

There are over 1000 gilded images of Buddha in the complex-

These funny Chinese statues were once used as ballasts on ships coming from China-

There are 91 chedis (stupas)-

 decorated with ceramic pottery flowers and colorful tiles-

An interesting roof-

Wat Arun or the Temple of Dawn is on the Chao Phraya River.  It represents Mount Meru which is the center of the world and the idea of single mindedness in Buddhist cosmology.

It was built between 1809 - 1851 by Kings Rama II and III.  There are steep steps leading up to the middle-

More ceramic pottery decoration-

Chinatown is a bustling place filled with gold shops, wholesalers selling everything from jewelry to stuffed toys to shoes and of course, sidewalk eateries-

Tomorrow we're off to Kanchanaburi!  I am glad to leave Bangkok!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Bangkok, Thailand

The Grand Palace was built in 1782 and is made up of government offices, the royal residence, throne halls and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.  It covers 218,000 square metres!

The Emerald Buddha was carved in 1434 from a block of green jade and was found in a stupa in Chiang Rai.  Initiallly, it was covered in plaster but some plaster had flaked off the nose, revealing the green color.  The abbot who noticed this thought the 'green' was emerald, hence the name.  Today, this temple is one of the most venerated in all of Thailand-

The Buddha is very small and dressed in three diferent outfits throughout the year, depending on the season-

I really like the exterior of the bellfry. It's so ornate and colorful-

The Borom Phiman Mansion was built in western style in 1903.  Today, visiting heads of State and guests of Their Majesties stay here-

Interesting sculptures -

The colored parts are pieces of colored glass that shine in the sun-

They are super cool!

The Prasat Phra Thep Bidon, or Royal Pantheon, was built in 1855 to house the Emerald Buddha but was deemed too small-

More ornate glass stucco-

Phra Asada Maha Chedi (tower) is also known as the Eight Prangs. It's a dark blue which means it's dedicated to the universal monarchs.  A chedi is a pagoda with the base representing hell, the middle humanity and the top of course, nirvana.  Buddhists walk around the structure three times, wishing to be removed from hell via a whirlpool, to reach nirvana.

Interesting architecture and roof lines-

Later I went downtown on a city bus to Siam Center, a huge shopping area.  I came home in a tuk tuk.  The driver thought he was driving in the Grand Prix.  The traffic here is mental!

Everybody tries to rip you off.  They lie about where you want to go - no, it's closed they'll say, when it really isn't.  The taxi drivers won't use their meters because they want to over charge.  They won't take you where you want to go - they'll close their window in your face.  This is the first place on the trip that I've hated!  However, seeing it was my birthday and all....

My birthday cake-

and later.....

Eating scorpion with James, Jill and Matt - deep fried, very crispy and tough!

Later, we wanted to go to PatPong Market to see a sex show.

After negoiating a fair price, we headed off.  The tuktuk driver said the market itself wasn't open, just the pingpong shows.  He kept asking if we'd been there before, and I had, 20 years ago.  Eventually, he stopped at a place and said we'd arrived!  I knew it wasn't PatPong so we refused to get out.  There was some swearing and arguing but then he took us to PatPong and believe it or not, the market was open! At the first bar, it was supposed to be one free drink with the entry fee, however, once Inside, no free drink!  So, we left.  The second place was better.  Women, or maybe some were lady-boys, were dancing on the stage.  One at a time, they would do their tricks - shooting darts to break balloons suspended from the ceiling, writing notes, shooting ping pong balls and water at the clientele, smoking, etc. It was certainly a different kind of birthday!

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