Check another off the bucket list!

Trip Start Jun 26, 2013
Trip End Jul 24, 2013

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Flag of Thailand  , Bangkok,
Sunday, June 30, 2013

Today ended in an amazing way as we witnessed an incredible event, one, that for me, has been on my " bucket list" for as long as I can remember. Along the lines of seeing the monarch migration in Mexico, it awed and inspired me, making me thrilled to be here and thrilled even more that Joe is here to share it with me...

But let me start where Joe left off...yesterday we spent the morning at the largest market in Thailand, and the largest in the world. Called Chatuchat, it consists of 5,000 stalls in 35 acres. After a yummy breakfast of fresh fruit, bread pudding, an omelette and some home fries, we set off on the sky train to the northern edge of Bangkok. We arrived early enough to beat much of the crowds and spent a little time birding in the park before entering.

The market consists of stall after stall of everything and anything you can imagine from clothing to art work to live animals and food. There are row after row of goods and wall to wall people milling around, looking for bargains. Deep in the middle, the temperature is stifling, with all kinds of smells wafting on still air, most of them bad.

We had our fill fairly early on, finding the market much like those in Mexico. After a while, things start to look alike and you begin to see things are the same, only in a different place. Having only bought one hat, we made our way out into the park and headed home, then spent the afternoon at the Siam Center, which is exactly the opposite of Chatuchat-- that is, it is indoors, air conditioned and very modern. The contrast was remarkable.

We had plans to get a drink at one of the famous Bangkok sky bars, but learned early on that many require a dress code that we could not meet. Close toed shoes and dress clothes are not things we included in our backpack. We will find one that allows us to come as we are, but another night. Exhausted from our day, we retired early needing to catch up on some sleep.

Today we took the sky train back to the river and then the ferry up the river, getting off to wander through China town before arriving at Wat Pho, a Buddist temple that houses an immense reclining Buddha along with 1000 other smaller Buddha images. The whole place was amazing, with more elaborate murals and shining gold buddhas and ornate towers reaching into the sky around every turn. We enjoyed 30 minute massages at the massage school, then made our way to the room with the reclining Buddha. This is 146 meters long, stretching the entire length of the room. The coolest part of it all was that as we moved along the front of the Buddha we could hear these pinging sounds, like marbles being dropped in metal cups. But we could not identify the source of these until we rounded the head of the Buddha and saw people dropping coins into bronze bowls set along the wall. There were 108 of these, representing 108 auspicious characters of Buddha. Dropping coins in them is believed to bring good fortune and monetary help to the monks.

After that it was a mad dash to the sky train, a brisk walk to the train station, and then a crazy hour and a half van ride east to the city of Chachoengsao. Our van driver practiced his racing skills, perhaps desiring to be in the Indy 500 one day. Thankfully the road was mostly flat and in good condition and i was sitting in the first row so as to not get car sick. At the bus station, with sunset fast approaching, we hailed a Tuk Tuk driver and set off to Wat Pho Bang Khla -- a Buddist temple where thousands of fruit bats roost in the trees.

Seeing fruit bats has been on my bucket list forever. Thailand has the smallest bat in the world-- the bumble bee bat with a wingspan of just three inches. This bat weighs only 1.7 grams, which is about what a dime weighs. Thailand also has some of the world's largest bats-- the flying foxes, some of which have a wingspan of six feet!

Sadly in Thailand, bats are hunted and not protected, except by monks at the temples. Wat Pho has one of 11 colonies of fruit bats in Thailand, with numbers in the thousands. When we arrived, just minutes before sunset, we could see them hanging in all of the trees and making all kinds of raspy noises.

As a group of monks sat at tables nearby and our Tuk Tuk driver had a smoke, we climbed the stairs to the top of the stone tower, suddenly finding ourselves eye to eye with handfuls of hanging bats. It was fascinating to watch as they slowly woke, moving about in the treetops with all kinds of noise.

Then, as the clouds turned a lovely shade of peach,the bats began flying, taking short trips at first, flying only from one tree to another, as if they were wanting to visit friends. The noise grew louder, the sky grew darker and soon, was filled with bats. It was amazing to watch them come to life, soon filling the sky with dark shapes. Joe and I snapped picture after picture, entranced by this very ordinary, yet extraordinary event.

Called Lyle' s fruit bats, this species of flying fox has a wingspan of 2-3 feet, though this didn't make them any less impressive to me. When the sky is filled with their dark shapes, and noise surrounds you, it seems impossible not to be in awe. With large eyes in a dark brown face and reddish fur, they looked at us, upside down, studying us as we studied them.

Unlike the bats that we have at home in NC that eat insects, Lyle's bats eat ripe fruit, nectar, pollen and blossoms. They are super important pollinators and a single flying fox can disperse up to 60,000 seeds in a single night! Like our bats they sleep during the day and wake each evening, heading off from their roosts to search for food. We stayed until dark, watching them disappear into the darkness.

Wow. Amazing. A fabulous end to a wonderful day. Am wondering how this can be topped...perhaps visiting a place called Bat Island where 100 million bats call home. This we will explore on Tuesday.

But today is Monday...
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Deborah Snyder Redmond on

OMG.....those bats are amazing and I am so glad you and Joe got to experience the sight and sounds!!!! Not sure I would get "face to face" but then again you both are truly adventurous nature people :) Keep having fun and Steve and I are really enjoying your photo journal. Happy Exploring, Deb & Steve

Rachel S. on

I look forward each morning to reading your blog.
The bats sound amazing! I look forward to seeing your pictures!
I love how you both are such great story teller, you take us on the adventure right with you. Can't wait to hear about the next one!

Rachel on

Ok So I looked at your pictures and watched the video- amazing! You two got wonderful pictures and the video was so cool. Though, I am not sure I could have been as brave as you were when the bats were flying overhead.

Aunt Karen on

This has been totally amazing. You both have a great skill of writing and making your journey a special gift to me. I can't thank you enough. I cannot stop reading and enjoying your experiences. Closest I will ever get to such beauty. I am so very excited for the two of you experiencing your honeymoon. WOW!

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