Another fun day in Bangkok although it seems to have gotten even warmer. Who thought that was even possible. I spent the morning finishing my book (The Girl Who Played with Fire), lunch with the guys (at a new buffet venue), and the rest of the day discovering a whole new form of locomotion in Bangkok. The klong.
It is easy to mistake Bangkok as a very ancient city when in actuality it is not. The previous capitols of Thailand, Ayutthaya and Sukothai are much older. But they were also vulnerable to the Burmese who had this nasty little habit of buring the places down and cutting the heads off the Thai Bhuddas. Both of these actions really, really got under the skin of the Thai people. After several centuries of this nonsense they finally decided to put a stop to it and move their capital to a location that was much easier to defend.
Thus Bangkok came to be, nestled in a bend in the mighty Chao Phraya River. With water on three sides (conveniently the ones that face Burma) the fires and decaptitations slowed to a more manageable pace. As the Rama dynasty kings were building the formidible palaces and temples they also had built a series of canals that criss-cross the city. While many of the canals have filled up or have been buried over the years, many are still usable today. They are called “klongs” in the Thai language.
For just 11 baht (about 35 cents) you can jump on one of the boats that ply the canals. There aren’t many tourists on them, and you have to be fast boarding and unboarding, but they are another example of where the journey can be almost as fun as the destination. I finally got the nerve to try one today.
There was a klong stop about a block from where I had lunch that went to the Golden Mount, a temple that I have been wanting to visit. I decided to give it a whirl. It was so interesting. Getting in and out of the darn things is no easy feat, and the klongs can be pretty stagnant and “fragrant” at times, but to be able to go across town so quickly and easily it is really worth it.
The Golden Mount was one of the most interesting spots I’ve visited so far (but I’m saving a lot of stuff for when Jill gets here the day after tomorrow). It was a very active temple built on a little hill. You had to access it by climbing up a lot of steps. The views from the top were commanding, and the smell of incense strong in the air. It was also nice to hear the chanting of the monks wafting on the breeze in the background. All tolled it make for a very “exotic” and intoxicating experience.