16 March 2008

Kuwago's Flights: Bangkok

On a recent trip to Bangkok, one of my most memorable experiences was to actually see a real Lotus flower right before my very eyes. Prior to this, I have only seen lotus flowers in pictures and drawings. Lotus flowers symbolize man's struggle for spiritual enlightenment, for lotus flowers are often said to thrive in the most polluted waters, yet produce one of the cleanest and most beautiful flowers, which are likewise edible. Interestingly, the polluted waters symbolize the material world and human degradation -- the sea of humanity. We oftentimes see figures of Buddha and other great saints, even Krishna, set on top of Lotus flowers. Many references in sacred texts also refer to the lotus flower being at the feet of many enlightened souls.

Having gone to Bangkok for business, and my operating sphere limited only within city limits -- actually, just the vicinity of our hotel -- I still had the opportunity of visiting a beautiful temple compound, which I was told by the tuktuk driver was that of the "Lucky Buddha". My wife and I bought some flowers and incense at the entrance and offered this to the Buddha. We were also instructed to stick a small gold piece of paper that came with the flowers, on the knees of the Buddha's statue for good luck.

Of course, in spite of the busy schedule, no trip to Bangkok would be complete, according to my wife, without the usual shopping spree. We were told that the best time to go shopping on that particular day was at 1PM. Hence, past noon, our shopping adventure began.

I must say, merchandise there was really cheap. Not only were the apparel fairly priced, but also the food, transportation and accommodations. Sure, some items cost just as much as in the Philippines, but most things I saw were priced relatively lower.

We managed to get around with relative ease, thanks to the wonderful transportation system in Bangkok. We were able to try their MRT, Tuktuk and Taxi and even did a fair amount of walking, just to enjoy the sights, smell and sounds of the city. No hassles whatsoever, except for the time we inadvertently got on the wrong MRT coach which veered away from our intended destination just as we were approaching the station.

I love hot and spicy food, but this dish, I almost couldn't handle......almost! In the end, I was victorious, but that simple noodle dish with papaya salad really put up one helluva fight! Foolish me thought that a dish of just noodles and vegetables would be a walk in the park, in spite of the reputation of Thai food. I was wrong. The Thasiam Hot Noodles and Papaya Salad were definitely worthy adversaries. ;-)

In the background of the shot below, you can see the Amari Watergate, which is the hotel we were billeted in for the trip. The shot was taken from the CentralWorld Mall, which is just a stone's throw away, which is where we had our Thai meal. Our host, my partner, refused to allow us to eat traditional Thai street food. Besides, he said, I would have a hard time finding vegetarian fare, and the food would definitely be double the hot-and-spicy level of the food we had just taken. This was validated by the locals. I felt like my bravado for being able to handle spicy food had just been doused. I was a cub amidst all the lions.

After a whole day and night out on the busy streets of Bangkok shopping and sightseeing, it was nice to sit at the hotel lobby, a drink in hand, enjoying traditional Thai music.

Each time I visit a foreign country, I approach the place with an open heart and mind, for it is the only way you can appreciate everything new you see, without biases and pre-conceived notions. This has worked to my advantage on several occasions. On this particular trip, I was approached by no less than three people, all wanting to point me in the right direction, without my asking or calling their attention. I was even mistaken for a local, yet these kind souls offered to help me get around, and specifically visit the Luck Buddha temple. All three of them, not knowing each other at all. And so I visited and paid my respects. I felt that I must have been led to the place. I have been told that I should not talk to strangers, especially when you are a foreigner in a distant land. I entertained these strangers for my heart told me to do otherwise, and I was brought to new places we would otherwise have just let pass.

Such is the protection of a pilgrim.

Bangkok is a pleasant place to visit. The streets are clean, sightseeing and food is cheap, the culture is fairly exotic by western standards yet you see quite a number of tourists and where there is a significant amount of history behind the country. I look forward to my next trip to Bangkok.

Please visit my other BLOG, where I share my thoughts on the various systems I observed in Bangkok.


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Bangkok Hotels, Thailand said...

I used to see many Lotus Flowers at Pathumwan Princess Hotel. I knew Pathumwan and Lotus are same meaning..Thank you for sharing the story...