Monday, July 21, 2014

Not just the day that was full

A day that begins with waking at 4.30am is always going to be long, but this one was remarkably busy, too. Mainly, it seemed, spent eating. There was breakfast, with a temptingly wide selection at the Sukosol hotel's breakfast buffet (though I was faithful, as ever, to my old love Bircher muesli). Then there was lunch, at Sala, a sleek, shiny modern place directly across the river from the Wat Arun, with glorious fresh and tasty Thai food and an even better sticky rice dessert with coconut cream and fabulously ripe, delicate, yellow mango.

Later there was sampling of mangosteens and rambutans at a market, and guava and rose apple which was neither rose nor apple but tasted just like both together, and then chestnuts. That was all on our way to having dinner in Chinatown, walking past stall after stall cooking and selling bananas, fish, skewers, rice dishes, chicken, duck... We had a Lazy Susan full of different things - pork, chicken, cashew nuts and peanuts, Chinese kale and other greenery, a whole fish, still sizzling, dim sum, several sorts of rice, and Singha beer. Then we had to attend a reception with the hotel owner, a lovely little intense lady (Thai and lively), and management (German and serious) which was canap├ęs then dinner with special dishes beautifully presented, and an international buffet. Augh. They were happy to see the 22 of us, mostly Aussies, since their occupancy rate should be 80% but is currently only 30% because of the coup and the curfew. Neither applies any more, but the media have omitted to do the follow-up to their stories of riots and containment, and government advisories are still in place meaning that travel insurance won't apply - so no-one's coming, and they want us to get the word out.

We've seen no sign of military rule - the closest we got was a ceremonial guard change at the Grand Palace, with lots of slapping and stamping from painfully tightly white-uniformed soldiers. We were dutifully doing Bangkok's sights: palaces, temples, markets, canals, Chinatown. Also getting stuck in traffic, learning that water monitors actually are a monitor of water quality, feeding huge but surprisingly gentle catfish for good luck, and having a really interesting conversation with guide Suree about Buddhism as we sat rather uncomfortably on the floor beneath the Gold Buddha.

Though I had seen most of today's sights before, twice, it was still good to visit them again, and enjoy the colour and detail, the refinement and the squalor, the real and the imagined, and hear the stories and the background. Though - and I'm sorry to seem churlish -  a bit less food would have been preferable.

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