Friday, August 7, 2009

on the way home

Yesterday, while Jean slept at the hotel, the rest of us and Dolores Werkhoven got brave and took the water taxi back to the center of Bangkok. We had a map with which to find the grand palace, but silly us, we totally didn't think that there would be tuck-tuck drivers and swarms of people to accost us when we got off the taxi.
One man informed us that we wouldn't be allowed into the grand palace because some of us were wearing tank tops and flipflops; then he proceeded to arrange for 2 tuck-tucks to take us around to some other sites that we could see for the small sum of 100 baht (about $3.00). That seemed like a really good deal so we took it. Riding in a tuck-tuck is an adventure. They have little regard for the lines in the road. They and the motorbikes squeeze through wherever they can. We were hanging on for dear life, and there was never much between us and the car next to us.
We started by going up the golden mount. It's kind of a special Buddhist holy place, but you can climb a bunch of steps and get a great view of the city. Bangkok is huge!!! Thankfully the day was quite cool, and we had a great panoramic view. Next we crossed the road to see the biggest Buddah, and I think the oldest (789 years old) in Thailand. Some guy, who said he worked for the THai government, just happened to latch on to us there and talk with us about the Buddah and how he went to a Catholic school in NYC where they taught him to forgive and the Buddhist monks taught him never to be angry. On those two principles is the secret of life, according to him....He ended his time with us by encouraging us very strongly to buy sapphires--there was a sale on them today at a certain store>..
Wouldn't you know it! Our next stop was that particular sapphire store. We quickly found out that the tuck-tuck drivers get paid for bring us there (that's why the ride was so cheap). It was tempting to buy a sapphire or ruby ring (less than $800 American!) but we resisted. ..Our next stop was a tailor shop. You guessed it. Our drivers also got a kickback from this shop, in the form of free gasoline.
By this time we were getting frustrated so we asked to be taken back to the water taxi. After another harrowing ride around town we got back, took the taxi back upriver, and even made a diversion to a supermarket for supplies before going back to the hotel. I guess we might be able to do this without Roger!
I'm in the Seoul airport right now. We just got back from our city tour of Seoul. Seoul is a much more western city than any of the other Asian cities we've been in. It's very clean, the cars drive on the right side of the road, the drivers obey the rules, and there isn't an abundance of street people selling, driving little cars, etc...
Our tour guide took us around the city. We saw the 'blue house'--where their President lives, a changing of the guard at an old king's palace, walked through another market, and ate a Korean lunch sitting on the floor. Well, some of us did. Jean slept in a lounge chair at the airport the whole time, and Katy had some intestinal issues during the trip. We're all weary, but will soon be headed home. Jean looked much better when we got back to the airport. She had slept the whole time we were gone, and she's getting her color back. Thanks for praying.
It's definitely been an adventure!!!

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