Back to the Land of Smiles
The Peak – Hong Kong
After my ABET in Chiang Mai, I whizzed in and out of Hong Kong where I met a friend who was travelling this part of the world.
It happened to be a great stop. I generally hesitate to visit the ‘big’ cities on this particular journey, but as soon as I landed, the energy, there goes that word again, felt great.
Being a major international financial center, Hong Kong allowed me to sort out some banking issues in person, and to indulge in some small luxuries from one of my favorite stores, ‘Lush’.
Hong Kong Park
Did you know Hong Kong:
has a population over 7.25 million and is one of the most densely populated places in the world
was under a lease to the United Kingdom until 1997
Is technically a part of China but has its own currency, legal and parliamentary system, immigration and passport controls and more… at least for 50 years from until 2047
Here are a couple of links that provide an easy to read and interesting overview.
Did you know that HSBC stands for Hong Kong & Shanghai Banking Corporation? I learned something new on this visit.
I had an opportunity to connect to Barrie who I met in my travels to Myanmar earlier in the year and experience some local cuisines, Yum!
Yum, can you guess this local cuisine?
Banking, indulgence, and friend fixes behind me, I make my way back to Thailand, The Land of Smiles. My final destination is Chiang Mai, yet again, but with a stop along the way in Bangkok.
I wasn’t that keen on the noise, and smell of urine while strolling along the main streets.
Bangkok’s government buildings were massive and well protected.
I also noticed that a significant amount of locals were dressed in black.
As Thailand wasn’t on my original destinations, I had completely forgotten that Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol Adulyadej had passed in October last year and the country was still in their one year of mourning.
This was much more prevalent and physically visible in Bangkok than Chiang Mai.
King Bhumibol Adulyadej took the throne at just 18 years of age in 1946 and was the world’s longest serving constitutional monarch and Thailand’s longest reigning King. He was well loved Thailand. Here are some interesting reads:
When it comes to the royal family and locations, you’ll find locals adhere to their strict observances, such as dress. Here’s an example.
I’m in Bangkok, so I must see the Royal Palace whether or not it’s on my top things to do or not, right? I had worn darker clothes in respect to local observances. I had worn a long sleeve shirt and 3/4 length capris?
Given my limited travel wardrobe, this was typical of what I wore throughout Asia. It had served me well so far, especially when visiting temples, pagodas, etc.
As I reach the Palace, I was shocked by the long lines to enter. I just adore lines, NOT, but ok, I’m here, so let me wait it out.
While waiting in line, there were numerous workers pulling people aside advising their dress wasn’t appropriate and they would have to change. For example, there were three different men near me and because they were wearing shorts, they would not be allowed in. They would need a longyi or slacks/pants.
Line outside Palace
During a good 45 minutes in line, I wasn’t approached once. I assumed I was ok, I hadn’t had any issues before and besides there were women in line wearing dresses above the knees. My capris went just above my ankles.
I’m now at the entrance and a woman pulls me aside, literally grabs me, and tells me I’m unable to go in. In my mind I’m thinking ‘I didn’t stand 45 mins in ~36C/97F heat to be told I wasn’t going in’, but it’s a precarious situation.
One of the other workers observed this and asked me to stand next to a fence railing. Apparently it was a way to measure if my capris were long enough.
She asked me if I could pull my capris down further so they would cover my ankles, so, lo and behold I walked around the Palace in fashion with my pants half way down my bum. It was my shirt that saved me from publicly demonstrating this fashion statement, and of course my bum.
Needless to say, it’s important to always observe local customs when travelling, regardless of what you think about the custom.
A sign posted ‘Be Quiet, Except Tourist Guide’, was hilarious and should probably have said ‘Be Quiet, Except Tourist’ as the was no quiet!
The Palace was enormous and intricately designed.
It was also one of the most crowded tourist attractions in my Asian travels so far, I actually couldn’t get out fast enough.
Reclining Buddha – Phra Nakorn
Guess what I discovered some ways outside of Bangkok? A floating market, yippee, finally! Putting aside these are now geared mainly for tourist, I was still glad to make it, especially given my experience in Inle Lake, Myanmar.
I hit some other areas around Bangkok and then made my way to Ayutthaya.
Street where many Buddhist statues are sold
Street where many Buddhist statues are sold
In the center of the busy square in front of Wat Suthat stands one of Bangkok’s most eye-catching sights, the 27 m high teak frame of the so-called Giant Swing. This used to be the focus of a religious ceremony held every year in December after the rice harvest.
Teams of three took turns to balance on a dangerously narrow board and be swung 25 m or more off the ground “up to Heaven”, at which point they would attempt to catch a bag of silver coins in their teeth. King Rama VII banned the contest in 1932, following a number of fatal accidents.
The iconic Giant Swing in Bangkok, previously used in ceremonies after rice harvests.
Driving around Ayutthaya had a similar feel to Bagan in regards to some of the styles of the temples. This is not surprising given influences of various countries through Thailand’s history with Myanmar, Cambodia and other neighboring countries.
Ayutthaya was Thailand’s capital for more than 400 years until the 1760’s after wars with Burma.
beautiful sunset around Ayutthaya
beautiful moon around Ayutthaya
It’s now time to make my way back to Chiang Mai to develop a relationship with Reiki.
Love & Light,
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