Before I talk about today, I keep meaning to write a couple things about some things we’ve seen and some differences we’ve encountered to what we’re used to in the U.S. First, every bathroom we’ve encountered (Europe and Asia) has the light switch outside the bathroom door! And, in the hotels in Istanbul and here, you have to insert your key card when you enter the room, to get power to the room. When you leave and pull your card, the power stays on for another minute or two, then everything (power and air) is shut off (except here, our refrigerator and the light over the kitchen counter stay powered). Here, we also need to use our key card inside the elevator, to select any floor other than ground. That might be because the elevator and rooms are on the opposite side of a drive-though to the parking garage?
Also, I mentioned we’ve been riding the sky train a lot - but I don’t think I mentioned how extremely clean it is, even the floor! And how air conditioned it is - to the point of almost being too cold!
As you may know, Thailand is a monarchy. The current king became king about 2 years ago when his father died, but was just crowned in May. Because of that, the Thai people who are working are supposed to wear yellow to work unless they have a uniform, through July. Yellow because each day of the week has a color, and Monday is yellow. Since the king was born on a Monday, that’s his color. It’s been really noticeable, especially on public transportation - I don’t think we have that much yellow in all of Michigan! There are also displays (?? - Nick calls them shrines) all over town, with a huge poster of the king and flowers. I took a pic of this one in front of a bank, but they are literally everywhere and no 2 are exactly the same - I even saw one in front of the 7-Eleven. Speaking of the king, Nudi says there are strict laws about talking bad about the king - if you do so, you could be banished from Thailand or killed.
I did talk about motorbikes and how they zip in and out of traffic and between cars, but I got a great pic of it from the skywalk this morning. As you can see, especially at stoplights all the motorcycles go between the cars and end up clustered in the front, often creating extra lanes where there aren’t any. Sometimes they even pull into oncoming traffic, as you can see here (they drive on the left here, from the right side of the car).
Finally, about the food. Those of you that know me know that I am pretty picky about eating meat, so I was a little worried about eating in Thailand. I do have one go-to Thai dish that I love, but I stick to that - and that’s in the U.S. However, since we’ve been in Thailand, we’ve been trying lots of different dishes, largely due to the “family-style” way we’ve been eating most meals (very common here), and Nudi saying “I think you should try______”, and we do, and we really like it!
Now, on to today...
This morning after breakfast we took the sky train to the boat again like we did last night, but this time we took a different boat and went the other direction on the Chao Phraya River. We got off near The Grand Palace temple, where we walked around the grounds, and went inside the main temple (“the most holy temple in all of Thailand”, as I overheard a tour guide telling someone). There are a lot of temples in this area, Nudi says each king gets his own, and you can tell how powerful the king is by how large his temple is. The Grand Palace is the oldest and largest. To enter the temple grounds, you have to adhere to their strict dress code - long pants, no bare shoulders (preferably, but not strictly, long sleeves), no sandals. You must take off your shoes to enter the temple. So, to be honest, we probably didn’t take the time or give it the attention that we might have had we not been melting (it was 92 degrees with a “feels like” of 102), but we did walk around and see most everything. You are not allowed to take pictures inside the temple, but the design and artwork are amazing.
After that, we went back to the hotel and used the pool a little before our late check out, then went to lunch down the street from our hotel before taking a taxi van to the airport. We are heading to Nudi’s hometown of Udon Thani, where we will stay until Friday evening. To get there, it’s a 7 hour drive or a 1 hour flight, and the flight is cheaper than taking the bus! Nudi says it costs her about the equivalent of $15... I paid a little more because the cheaper airline didn’t accept any form of payment I could provide and I paid for heavier luggage, but it was still extremely reasonable.
When we landed in Udon Thani shortly after 7pm, the first thing we noticed was that it was fully dark out already! I guess we didn’t pay attention in Bangkok,but we are certain it wasn’t dark this early in Croatia, and of course it’s not at hone so early this time of year.
We were pleasantly surprised when Nudi told us that her mom was there waiting for us! . It was so fun to finally meet her in person. Because she is currently teaching (their school year is different than ours) and also taking care of her parents, she is really busy right now, but came to meet us and also followed us to the hotel (we needed a taxi van for all of us and luggage) to visit for a bit before going over to her parents’. She also brought these flowers for Tim and I ~ they are common for Thai Mother’s Day and are jasmine and mini roses, symbolizing gentleness and love. Nudi says her grandparents are also very excited that we are here, and have been calling her multiple times each day to check on us . We also found out tonight that they’ve very generously hired a car and driver for us for the next 2 days - tomorrow Nudi will show us around Udon Thani, and the next day I think we will go north into Laos for the day.
After Nudi’s mom left and we got a little settled, we walked out to dinner. We went to a street vendor, where we ate at camp-style tables, and the were cooking on the curb. It was a bit late, and they were still cooking even after we were finished - Nudi says with the club nearby, they will cook and have customers easily until midnight. They were busy they whole time we were there, both with sit-down and takeout (on scooters, mostly). Again, it was delicious (though Nick is pretty sure he’s not crazy about frozen then cooked blood, which looks like chunks of beef in the red dish, which the rest of us didn’t have). Six meals (Nick ate 2) cost us 240 BTH (about $8). The five ~20oz beers we bought from the marker next door (sound familiar Mom, Dad, Mexico friends??) cost us 300 baht ($10) - more than the food!
While we were there, it downpoured - but luckily we were under an awning, and it lightened up a lot before our walk back. We just had a little ways to go without cover, as most of our walk was under a covered walkway, When we got back to the hotel, we sat in the lobby bar for a bit (closer to American prices but not quite) and listened to the piano player and singer ~ about 50% in English, about 60% of those songs we recognized.