Monday, June 20, 2011
My Week in Bangkok
One thing the State Department does is make sure its employees are trained. They even require certain training for you to be eligible for promotion. It was obvious that this message never made it to my first post, Tegucigalpa, Honduras, because I got turned down for every training request I made. "No funds." The best excuse was "It's not your turn." But no one else was eligible to go so no one went. But that's another story.
Fast forward to Muscat, Oman...my current assignment. I finally got the green light to go to Bangkok for a week of training in PowerPoint, culminating with the exam to get my Microsoft Certification in that program. The training was fun, I passed the test, met some great people and saw quite a bit of the city. Classes ended at 3:45 or 4:00 every day so that left plenty of time to see temples, to shop, to walk all over the city..and did I mention shop?
These Buddhas were at Wat Pho (Wat means temple). These temples are beautiful places with statues, bonsai like I've never seen before and tall spires covered in decorative porcelain. The little man that was our tour guide was so cute. I couldn't understand everything he said but he would walk ahead of us, turn around and then hold his hands as though he was directing a jumbo jet into its parking place and we would turn around and it would be a perfect scene for a photograph. You could tell he had done this before!
As I mentioned before, there was beautiful bonsai plants all over the place. This one was particularly beautiful, but really, they were all amazing. Our guide told us that they were all at least 150 years old. I didn't dare touch one, even though I pride myself on having a green thumb. I really didn't want to be the cause of one of these plants dying!
We saw many major Buddhas...Happy Buddha, Reclining Buddha and others that, because I was so busy marveling at the sight of them,I missed hearing which one I was looking at!
Another place we went was Wat Arun. There were more of the same kind of structures but much bigger. It was just amazing. That's me in the picture below and yes, I did climb the steps up the structure behind me!
It's hard to see, but covering all these tall structures was what looked like broken plates. But it was really porcelain. It had to have taken years to build these and decorate them. The statues were everywhere... Confucius, dogs, everything you could imagine.
You would have thought it would be crowded but it wasn't. Many of the people there were from Thailand and came to pay their respects. Probably just as many were tourists, like us. You could hear several languages being spoken at any given moment.
I had heard of the Reclining Buddha, but until you visit a country and actually see some of the things there, it doesn't really register. When I saw this Buddha, I was amazed. It is huge! Now that I've seen it, I want to read about why someone wanted a Buddha in a reclining position when all others were sitting cross legged in a lotus position! What would possess someone to build a concrete Buddha this huge and then cover it in gold?
Have I mentioned shopping yet? No?? Well....let me tell you, Bangkok has some serious shopping choices! I did manage to buy some silk, my major purchase being a reversible silk jacket in a Chinese style with the little frog closures. One side is black, the other is brown. That jacket will get some major wear time! I also bought some assorted silk scarves, some beads since I've taken up jewelry making, a couple of pillow covers and some other various items that I just had to have. We went to the Weekend Market,(the largest outdoor market in the world), the MBK Mall (7 levels of everything ever made to be sold) and lots of little shops along the way when we went walking.
Remember those stairs I climbed? Well, this was the view from the top, looking back over a part of the city. It was gorgeous, especially with those menacing dark clouds! We decided it was time to put the cameras away and head for some kind of cover. We made it back to the river and inside a little gift shop just as the rain began. We had some chicken and fried rice and water..it was hot and humid! I also made it to Jim Thompson's Museum. He was an American who settled in Thailand and developed the silk industry there. It became hugely successful. One day, he walked into the jungle and never came out. He is remembered fondly by the Thai people and for good reason.
After 9 days of studying and shopping, it was back to reality and work in Muscat. I am now looking forward to my trip to the states next month. I haven't seen my dad in a year and it's high time I got a hug from him. I'll be in Fort Worth for about 9 days and then, amazingly enough, on to Washington for 3 weeks of training! When it rains, it pours! For my FS friends, never get discouraged if you get turned down for regional training...your day will come. Make the most of it because you don't get opportunities like this every day!