Trip Start Jan 07, 2012
73Trip End May 09, 2012
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Upon leaving Phu My, we maneuvered back out past Vung Tau on the river and into the South China Sea along the Vietnamese coast in a westerly course and turning north-westerly towards Laem Chabang.
Prior to a light breakfast, we watched the port talk, "Bangkok – The Golden Capital" which was information for our next port of call. Even though we will be taking a ship tour, these lectures are quite useful providing lots of tips about the areas and cultures. Once again, we were given Arrival & Departure Cards that we needed to fill out and turn into the purser's desk prior to our arrival in Thailand. This time, the boarding immigration officers will stamp an entry and exit stamp on our passports and we do not have to carry Landing Permit Cards or passports.
We spent some walking around the ship, saw some people, did some reading, and composed some blog information. Rick went to a rather quick choir practice and then attended the brunch for a light late lunch. The rest of the day was easy and then to dinner. We got back to the stateroom and prepared for tomorrow as we have an early start.
March 26, 2012 – Laem Chabang, ThailandDuring the night, we navigated across the Gulf of Thailand, past the many oil rigs in the area. It was truly amazing how many we noticed! While approaching Laem Chabang on a northerly heading, we passed between the islands of Ko Phai and Ko Lan before making our way into the harbor and to our berth. This is a very large container port with lots of activity going on and thousands of cars waiting to be shipped out. We had an early arrival while having our breakfast on the balcony as we docked at our berth at about 7:00 am.
Laem Chabang Port is our gateway to Bangkok, though the drive is about 2 ½ hours each way depending on traffic. The capital of Thailand is Bangkok, which has a population of about 12 million. Thailand has a total population of about 67 million of which about 70% are considered poor, about 28% considered average or medium class and about 2% considered rich or wealthy. The average salary is about $450 USD. Thai is the main language, but many also know how to speak English. The currency is Baht (THB), though US dollars are widely accepted. The old name for Thailand is Siam; changed to Thailand with Thai meaning freedom. Thailand is known for being the number one exporter of rice in the world. They are also a very large manufacturer & exporter of cars, mostly Nissan, Yamaha motorcycles and Caterpillar machinery. There are an estimated 15 million motorcycles driven daily in Thailand. The driving in Thailand is English style (right hand drive on left side of roadway). The symbol of Thailand is the elephant.
Thailand offers the visitor an escape to a world of exotic enchantment and excitement, a land of golden temples and spirit houses. It boasts some of the world’s most magnificent hotels. It is known as a nation of smiling people, happy children, saffron-robed monks, and without a doubt, the world’s most congested streets. There are about 40,000 Buddha Temples in Thailand, with about 500 temples just in Bangkok. 95% of the population practice Buddhism.
Thailand is crisscrossed with canals and Bangkok is known as the Venice of the East. Rice barges, massive rifts of teak logs, ferry boats and river buses all glide along while presenting a kaleidoscope of changing colors. Thailand is known as a mecca for shoppers looking for the exotic; superlative silks, gemstones (rubies & sapphires), teakwood & carved boxes, Thai dolls made in the shape of dancers and mythological dancers, intricately decorated & colorful objects. Thailand is said to be more than a place; it is a mood. Thailand is known with having 3 seasons; hot, hotter & hottest! Bangkok has a hot, tropical climate with daytime temperature reaching the mid 80 degree range throughout the year. November to February is the driest time of the year and March to May are the hottest being 100-105 degrees with a very high humidity.
After arriving & disembarking in Laem Chabang, a name that everyone seemed to like saying, we boarded our tour bus. This was a most beautiful vehicle with blue pleated and ruffled valances with bright multicolored seats and adornments. Even the head rests had white eyelet coverings. We had signed up for a tour that promised we would “experience the splendors of Bangkok by land and water.”
We had quite a long (a bit over 2 ½ hours) scenic drive to Bangkok observing the many temples & villages along the way as well as much of the countryside. Most of the roads there were more modern than Vietnam. Our first stop once when we finally reached the city of Bangkok was Wat Trimitr to marvel at its massive gold Buddha statue, which is solid 18k gold. It measures 12 feet 5 inches in diameter and has a height of 15 feet 9 inches, weighing approximately 5 ½ tons, making it the world’s largest statue of the Buddha. It is a valuable treasure of Thailand and of Buddhism. After the king moved the capital of Thailand to Bangkok, the builders of the temple needed to find one of the statues of the Buddha that were being moved around so that they could not be stolen. The Buddha chosen was completely covered in plaster to conceal it from the enemy then invading Thailand and was installed as the principal Buddha image in the main temple of another district. The Golden Buddha Image was moved to its present location, Traimit Witthayaram Temple, in 1955. While preparations were being made to move it, story is that the crane operator dropped it and the covering plaster was partly broken. Only then did the people realize that under the cement was the solid gold Buddha, carved in Sukothai style, with black sapphire eyes.
Our next stop was the Grand palace, which is more than one square mile and was constructed in 1782 by King Rama 1 after the establishment of Rattanokosin City or Bangkok. This is considered the city’s most spectacular landmark. Here we saw the famed Wat Phra Kaeo, also known as the Royal Chapel of the Emerald Buddha. The temple is all mosaic with the gate being mother-of-pearl mosaic inlay. People who do not have money to donate to the temple can work on its upkeep. This place glitters, gleams, glistens and glimmers like no other place that we have ever seen. Everywhere we looked, there was another fantastic photo opportunity as we took a walking tour of the Grand Palace grounds through its ornate and elaborate courtyards. The Emerald Buddha was carved from a block of green jade that was first discovered in 1434 in a stupa in Chiang Rai. At that time it was covered in plaster and thought to be an ordinary Buddha image. Later, the abbot who found the Buddha noticed that the plaster was peeling off the nose, revealing what he thought was emerald underneath. The abbot initially thought that the stone was emerald, thus the legend of the Emerald Buddha image began. After several moves that included 226 years in Laos before a Thai army captured the Laotian capital in 1778 and brought the Buddha back to Thailand, it was placed within the Royal Monastery with great pomp and ceremony. The costumes of the Emerald Buddha are changed three times a year with the seasons.
After our tour at the Royal Palace, we walked a few blocks in the blazing heat to the Chao Phraya River. Here we were treated to a refreshing cruise for water views of the palace, Temple of Dawn (Wat Arun), which is considered the most beautiful temple in Bangkok, and Phra Prang, a pagoda decorated with ceramic tiles and pieces of colored porcelain. We also saw many homes on stilts, some of which looked like dilapidated shacks. We saw every color imaginable with the houses, businesses and boats along the disgustingly dirty river. We were given large rolls to feed the fish, which swarmed the sides of the boat & very happy to be fed. The boat took us to our lunch place, the Ramada Hotel. Here we were treated to a delicious Thai buffet lunch. Just about the time we were to leave, there was a massive thunder & lightening and rain storm. Per Chris, haven’t heard thunder that loud and long duration since Zion Park days. The amount of rain was unbelievable, but it only lasted about 45 minutes. Then, it was a long drive through some heavy traffic back to the port.
After getting back to the ship we went on deck for the sail away. There was not much to see however, the breeze was welcomed after the warm day we had. Later went to the buffet for dinner, as we did not feel like getting dressed for dinner. After the long hot day we went back to the room, showered, and relaxed.