The King and Us
Trip Start Sep 15, 2012
138Trip End May 01, 2013
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Dressed in our Buddhist yellow shirts, Paula looking especially 'Buddha-like' without her bandana, we moved our gear to an adjacent hotel due to a hasty replan of the itinerary because of the Kings birthday - how disruptive of him!
That minor inconvenience sorted we walked towards Pier 13 and stopped for lunch along the way - we were attracted to one eatery as it contained a fat Asian man dressed as Elvis sitting below a neon flashing karaoke machine and picking his nose with a super long pinky finger nail. We sat down and opened the menu and commented on how expensive the dishes were at 90 Baht (equivalent to £2.00). We guessed everything was relative! We were delighted to see a plastic container in the centre of the table distributing serviettes (otherwise known to most of the modern world as individual pieces of toilet roll...)
Everywhere we looked there was a sea of yellow - and we were part of it! As we crammed onto the boat bound for the city park where the festivities were centred we were surrounded by a yellow crush like banana custard in all directions. Originally headed for Pier 6 we had had enough by Pier 8 and it was becoming impossible not to touch any of the monks stood near us (which women aren't allowed to do) so we squeezed ourselves of the floating cattle truck, avoided the huge gap between boat and dock, and made a beeline for the temple of the Reclining Buddha to see what all the fuss was about...
On entering the site, we spied a monk to our left who was flicking water on people so we thought we would like to have a go! Unsure of monk etiquette, not wanting him to cast a spell on us, and the small issue of us not being Buddhist we decided to watch the behaviour of the locals as they approached him. Protocol rehearsed in our minds we knelt down at the far end of a rug and knee shuffled our way towards his bemused face and hoped he wouldn't notice we weren't Thai (or the smell of Vikki's feet). He turned out to be a very nice monk; he blessed us, splashed water on us and gave us a thin orange bracelet each representing health and happiness on this, the Thai Fathers Day (shared with the Kings Birthday - equally, Mothers day is on the Queens birthday...).
Feeling blessed we went to view the biggest lazy Buddha (Reclining) we had ever seen - so big that we assumed the temple must have been built around it. As we embarked on various photographic opportunities we noticed two girls wearing bathrobes and quickly understood the reason - they were very scantily (inappropriately) clad underneath the robes but this didn't deter the hoochie girls from wapping their baps out in front of Buddha for photos under the guise that their robes had 'slipped' - French floozies
Enough bitching, we moved towards Buddha's feet and were both impressed not only by the scale of his tootsies (and the fact they didn't smell!) but the fact that the soles of his feet were adorned with over one hundred mother-of-pearl inlays depicting scenes from Buddha's teachings - amazing! Wanting a quick picture to capture the scene proved difficult but somehow we managed to fight for a photo without a million faces or accidental tits in it.
Turning a corner we were faced with row of copper pots extending the length of Buddha's backside to receive tributes of a penny in each pot from whoever sought good luck. It was like a charity production line and laden with heavy bowls of coins we traversed the line of pots dropping a coin in each - unfortunately a couple of pennies went flying a left us both short of filling each and every bowl - we hoped this wouldn't dent our chances!
Wandering around the site we were humbled to see that Thai people who had travelled from afar to celebrate the Kings birthday in Bangkok had been allowed to camp in parts of the temple grounds. After a while, we were pretty 'templed out' and had seen more Buddhas than we cared for so we decided it was time to start celebrating the Kings birthday properly over some Thai whisky and ..................
a street trifle that consisted of soggy bread and kidney beans soaked in syrup and topped off with shavings from a block of ice retrieved from a dirty cool box with some raspberry syrup and condensed milk over the whole lot to top it off perfectly - Yuk! We looked forward to the stomach cramping joy of dysentery in hours to come...
We tucked into this delicacy as we walked past men trading sticks and teeth and women selling Bridget Jones' size knickers and sticks with skewered bits of animal you could never hope to recognise. Our favourite sight was a man in his Tuk-Tuk with his Chihuahua dressed in yellow for the King and two squirrels in a cage continuously humping each other...
On our way to the park where the public celebrations were taking place we walked past men wearing red lipstick, lady boys, parades of drummers, and street vendors selling yellow tulip-shaped candles.
After taking in the atmosphere, being surreptitiously photographed by locals wanting a covert memory of some westerners, and watching dangerous semi-lit lanterns crash into the crowd we finished our whisky and decided it was time for a wee before the fireworks started. Big mistake! Lengthy queues and A TOILET that smelled like a cess-pool dripping in unmentionables. As we stood in line with toilet tissue shoved up our nostrils to block out the stench we watched as one lady had a bright idea, why wait for the masses, she crouched down in front of everyone - jeans still firmly up around her waist - and weed through her denim...result
After we had survived the Porta-loo we lit our candles, stood for the Kings anthem and then swiftly left the park before the crowd evacuated. Unfortunately we were soon engulfed in the yellow tide and swept along with it. We managed to direct ourselves towards the Khaosan Road for a spot of people watching on the terrace. Remembering the budget, we grabbed a bottle of Sang Som from the 7-Eleven and sat with the street hawkers watching the circus of revellers.
Finally, with a 6.30 start in the morning and a twelve hour train journey ahead of us we returned to our hotel, made last minute preparations, and hit the sack...