Thursday, October 8, 2015

Day 77 - Of Flowers, Veggies and Rice Weevils

Today we had to get up early to meet our city tour guide at 8:30 AM. We were surprised that the guide spoke German like a waterfall (not always understandable but uninterrupted). A driver drove us in a shuttle bus through parts of Bangkok's city center to the flower market ("Pak Khlong Talat"). 

Being nearly the only non-Thais on the entire market, we were curiously eyed walking past the flower wreaths under the low installed stall umbrellas. In every of the hundreds of stalls, a couple of persons were producing strings of flowers with long spikes. Jab jab! Mainly marigold, jasmine, lotus flowers, "dok rak"s, roses. In most cases, the flower buds were not open yet. The dok rak flower (meaning in Thai is "flower of love") hasn't got a strong scent of its own, so that they are mixed with other fragrant buds for the garlands. These garlands serve as decoration for weddings (golden ribbon), funerals (black ribbon) or offerings to Buddha. Even banana leaves and lotus leaves are sold or involved. 

If you want to make a big offering, you need to buy not only a garland, but a whole flower pot where lotus flowers are the highlight. They are picked as a bum as well, and folded in a special way to make them look artificial and unreal, made with effort > more value. Lotus flowers are used in many different ways anyway: not only for offerings and other decoration, but also as symbol for cleanliness and purity. You can eat the petal as a vegetable and produce silk by breaking the lotus' stem.

As an orchid lover one of the stalls really broke my heart: hundreds of orchid blossoms lay stacked on a stack, not even all of them in full bloom. Even on the flower side you feel the Western influence: it is a new custom in Thailand to bring flowers along to a visit.

Just across the flower market is the vegetable market. There we learned that papaya cannot only be a fruit, but a vegetable as well (green papaya). We saw so many different sorts of eggplants, from small green ones (pea size) all the way to apple-eggplants. All sizes and sorts of garlic, mushrooms, chili. Chili is loved in Thailand, and our guide told us that Thais do not like bell pepper because it's not spicy enough. Coriander is one of the most used herbs in Thailand (that I don't like too much in too tall amounts).

All over the markets you could find hawkers selling Thai sausages or grilled fish or ready-to-eat curries. Through the narrow aisle between the selling stalls not only the visitors and buyers had to walk, but also "vans" in form of big baskets on a barrow torn by a man. Sometimes they even brought huge ice blocks that steamed. But the big highlight (and fortunately the only nasty thing) was a box of rice weevils with rough-grained salt. We were told that they are not only used for eating (lots of proteins), but also to produce perfume - yum, the new rice weevil collection.

And how often we heard that they want "our" skin color, whereas we assured we wanted "their" skin color more. How often our guide must have been here on tours, because she seemed to know most people there.

The second stop after the markets was the Wat Sutha temple. Although it is quite big and nicely decorated, there are nearly no tourists there. Other temples (see days 79 and 80) are so famous that they draw all the attention. The first impression was the special form of roofs and gables. Roofs are mostly staged, and every gable is decorated with many "thorns". Everything is decorated in great detail, withs lots of gold and small pieces of porcellaine, coloured glass or little mirrors. Inside the main hall everything was so quiet, and we really enjoyed sitting on the carpet floor, watching the 8 meters high golden Buddha statue with a white "umbrella" over his head. Normally only the king owns a white umbrella, which means that "the King is here". In fact, the big Buddha statues in most big temples contain parts of the ashes of one or many members of the royal family.

We watched a person bring several flower garlands from the flower market to make a offering to Buddha. A Buddhist monk received the offering and threw holy water on the woman to clean her from her sins. 

Long rows of Buddha statues lined up along the outer walls of the temple

A reclining Buddha sculpture in one of the side temples
After the relaxing stop at Wat Suthat, the shuttle drove us along several downtown sights before the tour ended at the inevitable gem store (google Bangkok gem store to learn more if you want).  
Of course we were not interested to buy jewelry, and so it was even more unpleasant that a German speaking salesman ran after us (or better: ran after my mother, because she often left a comment how beautiful it was lol). Iuuuuuh, such an uncomfortable atmosphere, I would have preferred to walk around alone, peacefully with patience.....
We had a late lunch in the hotel restaurant, spent the afternoon on the pool and enjoyed watching the river cruise boats in the evening.    

The "Rainbow Boat"

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