Sunday, December 1, 2013

Travelogue: Thailand, Day 4

This marked the beginning of typical tourist behavior. After all of the transportation issues getting to Hua Hin, I was reasonably nervous about taking the train and river boat to go sightseeing. After breakfast, I slapped on a brave face and stepped out.

Riding the river boat express was surprisingly interesting. First off, it was a different way to travel, though the water was dirty enough that I felt no desire whatsoever to go wading. Secondly, it revealed the strange juxtaposition of dilapidated houses made of metal sheets and fancy international hotels. Both abutted the waterfront, thought the latter had more formalized piers. While announcements on the boat were made in English by loudspeaker, it was difficult to understand what the guide was saying, and I had to rely upon signs at the piers again to figure out where we were / how much farther we had to go. In the end, I got off by Wat Pho when I meant to disembark by the Palace. Whoops.

Wat Pho
The reclining Buddha has to be the largest golden statute that I've ever seen. Even its toes were inlaid with mother of pearl! Guests had to put on green robes if their clothes revealed too much skin, and everyone had to take off their shoes to enter.

While the giant Buddha is the main draw for tourists, there is actually a lot more to see at Wat Pho. If seemed like the more that I walked around, the more that I discovered to admire and examine. Not bad for THB 100 entrance fee...they even give you a free bottle of water!

Eventually, I managed to see everything I could want...or rather, I lost interest. It happens. At that point, I decided to walk the two miles to the National Museum, taking a detour through a university campus to see their view of the water. After attending college on a stereotypical (but of course, very lovely) Ivy League campus, it was incredibly different to see Thai-style academic buildings. As jarring as it was, that's probably what they think when they visit the States, so there you are.

National Musuem
This was my original goal when I set out for the day. Despite the small size of the campus, there's actually a good amount of artifacts stored. The Naga featured prominently in pieces of balustrades and other stoneworks set out for display, though some of them were rather worn :( After a lap outside examining those and a few carriages and cannons, I ventured inside for more protected pieces.

I'm pretty sure my eyes started to go after a while from all of the gold. From chariots to funeral urns, it seemed like everything was covered in it, at least in the first building that I entered. The workmanship was amazing, though!

Moving into the Buddhist relics, I was caught between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, I'm morally opposed to the use of elephant ivory for human purposes. On the other, one has to acknowledge the skill that went into carving out these tusks. I'm still slack-jawed looking at the pictures.

The day ended with dinner at noodle cart. My wallet was basically empty as I settled down on the dirty plastic stool and ate noodles and bean sprouts made by a vendor who was definitely not wearing plastic gloves. Oh, the horror. It's interesting how my standards for sanitation drop precipitously whenever I travel to Asia. The meat's been sitting out in 90+ degree weather, and the vegetables were handled by unwashed hands, but so be it. My stomach was full and happy, and all's well that ends well. For the equivalent of $1 USD, dinner outdid a burger from McDonald's any day. :)

Overall, I'd say the day was reasonably productive. Not as jam-packed as many another tourist's, but it was a reasonable pace, rather than the stressful "go go go" that often occurs on foreign vacations. Thank goodness.
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