At breakfast we saw Rana and Engin and they said nothing to us and we said nothing to them. We went to the huge temple, Wat Pho
, with its mammoth reclining Buddha, 15meters high, with gold leaf and mother-of-pearl inlay for the eyes and feet. It’s the oldest and largest wat in Bangkok and has the largest collection of Buddha images in Thailand. They had dozens of Ramakien murals featuring their version of the Indian epic Ramayana, and we liked the Chinese Rock giants with weapons in their hands guarding the Sheltered Gate. It was again over 100 degrees outside. Bangkok was having a heat wave. It wasn’t supposed to be this hot until mid-April. Cos and I got 1/2-hour massages at Wat Pho, where they have a little school. We paid 50 cents extra to get clean sheets. They had a fan. The woman who massaged me looked like a middle-aged owl, with cokebottle glasses and a moustache. She didn’t massage me so much as manipulate my body into grotesque contortions. She cracked my knuckles on my fingers and toes. I will have to buy a book on Thai massage. Being bent pleases me more than being rubbed.
We took a ferry to Wat Arun, the Temple of Dawn, named after Aruna, the Indian god of dawn. Its prang (Khmer-style tower) has a plaster covering embedded with a mosaic of broken multicolered Chinese porcelain (from then the Cheinese ships calling at Bangkok used tons of old porcelain as ballast). Wat Arun is a small place, it is a lovely place, but it is an evil place. It’s right on the river on the opposite side with an incredible view of Bangkok, but we paid three times to get in there. When you get there, they request a donation and show you a book where everyone paid 100 baht. So we left 100 baht (usual admission is 40). Then they have these two cutout figures of goofy monks where you can put your heads through and take a picture. We snapped a picture of Dilek and Cos with their heads in it, and a man appeared out of nowhere and demanded 80 baht from Dilek. It says at the bottom of the life-sized figures, in tiny one-inch-high blue letters on a blue background, 40B. Finally you get to the wat, which you can climb around, and it says “Admission 40 baht.” I said that we already paid, but the front desk payment was just an optional donation. (Every temple has one, but they put the admission at the admission and the optional donation inside). A nasty trick, and by now I was pissed, but we’d crossed the river and it was 100 degrees outside and we ponied up our third payment. I started to climb and was stopped by a man demanding 20 baht to rent a sarong to cover my legs with “out of respect.” Only one or two places in Thailand, such as the Grand Palace, demand that you cover your legs, and I knew that Wat Arun wasn’t demanding it out of respect. So I opened my backpack and put on my slacks over my shorts right there. I climbed and sweated. It was beautiful. I hated it.
From there we piled in a 3-wheeled tuk-tuk (a basically motorcycle with a covered cart behind it) to get to a Portugese church. Elif yelled at me because piling 4 people in a tuk-tuk instead of a 2-rowed songthlaew meant that we were literally sitting on top of each other, but we made it there OK. We ended up in a poor area of teak houses over little streams and tiny, tiny alleys that looked like some kind of Venetian ghetto (mixed with something out of The Deer Hunter). Even though the houses were decrepit and they were living over smelly, garbagey, muddy streams loaded with mosquitoes, they had amazing little gardens and birds in cages which looked well tended-to. We went to the church and then to a temple nearby where a monk was sleeping under a huge bell. It was too hot. I again suggested we go back to the hotel to swim. They were thrilled.
- Namwan journey 1 (Wat Arun) (noonamawan.wordpress.com)