Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Last night in Bangkok

What a wonderful journey. Today we have been back to the Hindu shrine to Erawan the Elephant God. We decided to return there because it was such an amazing place. A shrine right slap bang in the middle of Bangkoks fashionable area, flanked by Loius Vuitton and  Stella Macartney stores this shrine is alive and buzzing with the faithful. All families and young people- beautiful Thai girls in short skirts and platform shoes looking the epitome of cool kneeling down, praying and making offerings to Erawan, together with young males all sporting the latest baggy bummed pants and spiky hair. When did you last see people like that in a religious place in the UK ?  We sat on one of the benches and watched. We were the only Europeans there but we were made welcome with smiles. Try getting a smile from one of our church congregations.  It was lovely and peaceful in the middle of one of the most vibrant cities  on the planet ! I would also add that Bangkok is a city of smells, so much street food, vendors line all the streets offering so many different types of food. Some smell lovely, some smell disgusting to us but are very popular with locals. I have no idea whats in them, but fish, fresh or dried seems popular. I have to confess I shied away from trying some, which I am sure I will regret when I get home.  Considering how much living goes on in them, the streets are immaculate, no rubbish anywhere.  Public transport is cheap and easy even for us to follow and we were only potentially tricked once by a Tuk Tuk driver who asked if we could just get off and look at the shops he would stop off at on the way. Needless to say I sent him off with a flea in his ear and complained to the street guy that introduced us, whereby he got a taxi for us for the same money. You do have to be forceful with some of them so that they realise you are not for the taking. Even today as we walked out to the shrine they thought that we were going to the local shopping center and kept stopping to tell us it wasnt open.   Even though it actually was. I took great delight in telling them that we were actually ' enjoying a walk', have you ever tried it?  Apart from the hustlers, of which there aren't many, Bangkok and Thailand is well worth a visit. The hotels are great, the food is wonderful and ordinary Thai people and hotel staff are very friendly and helpful. For me the great part has been once again seeing how ' Buddhism and Hinduism' morphs and fuses yet again to suit the local culture and belief system.  In Bali it was all Durga and Ganeshe with a little Buddha, here its a lot of Buddha with Ganeshe and a little Erawan thrown in. Wonderful, once again a whole melting pot and fusion of Buddhism and Hinduism and no one gives a damn.  Oh and I should also point out that all the shops are decked out for Christmas. We have a lovely photo of a golden sleight with 10 foot high reindeer's that is sitting outside a department store just yards from the Erawan shrine !
Tonight we set off on our last adventure, dinner on a boat sailing past the Royal Palace and the Golden Mount to celebrate Loy Krathong on the full moon. On this night everyone flocks to the river or sea to float an offering or to light a lantern to the sea Goddess,  ( hindu in origin) to give thanks for the end of the monsoon and the supply of water and to also apologise for the pollution that has been caused. We have booked a boat trip because it seems difficult to get to the small piers to float our own, through the crowds. Tonight is the night I had planned to make my offering to the sea Goddess to give thanks for this last year, so I am looking forward to it and will remember my night on the beach in Bali when we held our own ceremony to bid farewell to the big C.

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