22.11.2011 - 24.11.2011 34 °C
When our bus deposited us in Bangkok, it took us a little while to realise that the Southern Bus Terminal had been temporarily relocated because of the flooding. So, once we realised that we didn't know where we were, we jumped in a taxi to the Khao San Road.
We took one of the boat taxis down the river, which was really high - just within its banks, into the city centre to have a wander round. We visited Jim Thompson's house. It's an amalgamation of six authentic Thai houses that had been brought together by Jim Thompson and turned into one large dwelling for him and his collection of art and antiques. We first heard about Jim Thompson in the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia - he was on holiday there in 1967 and went out for a walk in the hills, never to be seen again. No-one knows what happened to him. So his beautiful house and garden in Bangkok are now looked after and opened to the public by a foundation in his memory. Our restaurant that evening was called Cabbages and Condoms and gives its profits to a project that works with Thai communities to promote family planning, amongst other things such as tsunami relief. The décor followed an amusing prophylaxis-inspired theme.
The next day we visited the Royal Palace - the compound houses many buildings of different styles that the King took a liking to and decided to reproduce Thai-style, including Buckingham Palace and Versailles. It also houses the longest painting in the world - a mural that stretches for nearly 1km and depicts an ancient Thai epic involving the kidnap of a princess by a giant demon and her eventual rescue by an army of flying monkeys. Naturally. The temple inside the Royal Palace complex houses the infamous Emerald Buddha (which is made of jade, not emerald) and wears different clothing depending on the season. The King himself takes part in the ceremony to change the Buddha's dress, each of which is made of pure gold, the three seasons totalling 120 million baht's worth of clothes! When we saw the Emerald Buddha, it was wearing the dress of the cool season, which we found hard to believe as Bangkok was well in excess of 30 degrees that day! We found a really nice coffee house with aircon, wifi, and cake. In the evening, we headed out onto the market to enjoy the market stalls and do a bit of people watching from a roadside bar, only to be spotted by an Aussie couple, Kate and James, who had the room next to ours on Koh Tao! Small world. Had a nice evening chatting to them and got back much later than anticipated for our impending journey across the Cambodian border the next day. More on this later...