Back to earth in Bangkok

The modern skyline of Bangkok
Behind the commercial facade lies a treasure trove .....

We had planned a couple of days in Bangkok on the way home to relax and make a slow return to reality. It was a bumpy landing! In this city of high humidity and high-pressure commercialism, where every tourist guide and every tuk-tuk driver seems to be a tout for shops wanting to part you from large sums of money for things you neither need nor want, reality didn't seep back, it hit us directly in the face. Despite the guilt trips for depriving these poor folk of their commissions, we didn't buy the Thai crown jewels, nor a teak dining setting, nor a silk Kashmiri carpet.

.... of ancient Thai architecture and ....

..... Buddhist culture

Even at our luxury hotel we felt out of place; I am stressed out by waiters that hover like blowflies at a barbie and having people open doors or jump to attention when I approach. Give me the genuine smiles and simplicity of life of the Sikkimese people anyday. After a day of "luxury", including a monster sea-food buffet on the banks of the Chao Phraya (which I confess was great after 5 weeks of Himalayan food) and lazing beside the pool, we abandoned the hotel for the nearby streets and sidewalk restaurants, where we watched the local residents as we sipped a Singha beer and realised that most Thais are just normal people like us, getting on with their lives.

Nonetheless, you cannot come to Bangkok without being a tourist and we did ride up the Chao Phraya in a long-tailed boat to visit the Royal Palace and a selection of Wats; the cultural heritage of this city is magnificent. However, as we were in the grounds of the dazzling multi-coloured Temple of the Emerald Buddha, jostled noisily by thousands of like-minded tourists from all over the world, my mind drifted back to another temple, silent with snow-clad walls, deep in the Himalayas, that only a few of us were privileged to see. I know where I'd rather be!

Wat Saket (The Golden Mount)

On the roof of The Golden Mount

Preferences aside, the following photos of the wats and temples of Bangkok are included as a diversion from the landscapes of the Sikkimese Himalayas. In their own setting they do have a unique aesthetic appeal and the contrast between the tantric mahayana buddhist art of Tibet and the hinayana buddhist art of Thailand is fascinating.

Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn)

In the courtyard of Wat Arun

Demon guards

On the canals

Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho

Chedi in the courtyard of 16th century Wat Pho

Temple facade - Wat Pho

Temple interior

The Royal Pantheon in Wat Phra Kaeo

Monks in the shade of an ornate pavilion

In the grounds of the Temple of the Emerald Buddha

Athawijarn Sala

The grounds of the Royal Palace

Chakri Maha Prasat Hall - Thai Royal Palace