Saturday, May 31, 2014

Thailand 2013: Bangkok--Museum Siam and Loha Prasat

Longtails on the Chao Phraya, Wat Arun in the background
After our fun time in Ayutthaya, we left on a sour note: shortly after boarding the train back to Bangkok, I realized the beloved and essential Ami was missing, fallen off the tuk tuk somewhere between the hotel and the train station. Such a disaster! But there was nothing to be done and no point in going back, as she could be anywhere (and was basically a dirty rag, hardly the sort of thing prompting passerby interest). The only bright point was that R did not initially notice the loss, meaning I could break the bad news to her (and handle the subsequent fallout) in the comfort of our hotel room, rather than in a crowded train car.
R at the Le Meridien

When we were in Bangkok before, we were not paying and thus stayed at the Peninsula. We downgraded a bit this time to the Le Meridien: which was very nice indeed.

I loved the location, right in the thick of things (and within convenient walking distance to the subway, important as Bangkok's traffic is heinous). R mostly liked it for the enormous dog sculpture at the entrance.

Usually when visiting somewhere I feel compelled to check off as many attractions as humanly possible: but since I had already done this in Bangkok, we were free to take a slower pace. We took the public water taxi, which was a great way to see another side of the city (it used to be known as the "Venice of the East": before modernization everything revolved around the river and its connecting canals).

R is entranced by the lively river
Some of the many houses built on stilts over the river
I love it!
It's public transportation for Bangkok, so the people are a good cross-section of the city's population: people on their way to work, school kids, monks and tourists of all stripes and agendas
We visited a new museum, Museum Siam Discovery, which has all kinds of great interactive exhibits, making it extremely child friendly. If you are traveling with kids, this is a must see (especially given the convenient location, right near the Royal Palace and other more famous tourist destinations).
R likes this because she thinks it looks like a "ho ho" (pirate) ship
Driving the tuk tuk on display was a big hit
Cool art installation in the stairwell
Interactive exhibit allowing kids to create "weather" through drumming
We ate lots of delicious food: Thai cuisine is my favorite in Southeast Asia, and like always it did not disappoint.
One of the restaurants we ate at: isn't it cute?
Here's my dinner, the Thai equivalent of fajitas (wrap the condiments--peanut sauce, shreds of coconut, limes, shrimp, onions, peanuts, chilis, and garlic--in lettuce leaves and enjoy). OMG this was amazing!
R loves the pink taxis: why doesn't everywhere have them? So cheery.
Enjoying the breeze in the tuk tuk
My favorite destination was rather unexpected, a temple I had never heard of previously: Loha Prasat. I only went here as the Thai Tourism board was having some sort of promotion where admission to Museum Siam included a free pass to Loha Prasat, but it turned out to be stunningly beautiful and unique.
Loha Prasat (top spire was under renovation)
R collecting informational literature: she LOVES this stuff and will study it for long periods
This is the way up: a good workout!
Peeking around the corner to see...
Simple, beautiful geometrically balanced halls totally empty of tourists or anyone else. It was so peaceful.
It is a 36 meter high building with 37 metal spires, comprised of five concentric square towers: inside, the supporting pillars create a kind of labryrinth, used as meditation chambers. It was constructed according to ancient Buddhist principles and is the only surviving one of its kind. (It is currently under consideration by UNESCO for inclusion on the World Heritage List.)
R pointing out Buddhas to me
All the halls are almost the same: it is very disorienting yet soothing. I felt like I had exited into Alternateland.
Staircase going up 
The floors include interior openings, one reason the building is so full of light

At roof level. Further up is a splendid view of the city (which I forgot to photograph).
R found a broom in the corner and was very sad when I wouldn't let her play with it. 
She also loved this hose. I find it fascinating to see what toddlers are interested in. 
Next to Loha Prasat is a more traditional temple, closed for services during our visit. I was impressed by the exterior decoration however.
R always insists on packing and bringing her own bag. She really does use the stuff in it though, so I encourage the habit (Here she is looking for a brochure). 
Bangkok is a great city to visit: the food and of course nightlife are excellent, the cultural attractions unique and interesting, prices are reasonable (at least by Western standards), service is good...It is also an easier place to travel as a Western tourist than many other destinations, which does have its downsides (hordes of tourists and the places that cater to them, for instance). Overall, though, it is one of my favorite cities in the region.

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