Waking up was surreal. It was the morning after my arrival, and I’ve had far too little sleep. Not that I’m complaining; it was a memorable night for sure, first with my arrival in Thailand, followed by the hours spent getting to know the woman I had grown so “virtually” close to in the flesh. Not that only “the flesh” was involved in this process – sure, we had figured out pretty quickly how wonderfully natural it felt to kiss each other, but after 4 months of courtship with a whole planet between us, simply being in the same room as each other felt amazing. After hours of cuddling and conversation, my exhaustion finally overtook my excitement, and we gave in to sleep….for a few hours, at least, until I woke up starving and in dire need of some breakfast.
And so, we headed down to eat at the breakfast buffet in the hotel restaurant. As we ate, it became apparent to me that everything about this was surreal – the feeling I had upon waking wasn’t going away anytime soon; here I was, in the midst of what had only been a fantastical daydream just scant months prior. I remember the mix of emotions: a sense of achievement, for turning a “what if” into reality, the pioneering excitement one feels when just discovering a new and unfamiliar land for the first time, and of course my feelings for Cecille, this larger-than-life woman who was in fact a little bit smaller than I had imagined her…but also, more beautiful than pictures or a webcam could convey. I was excited: excited about the coming 2 weeks, the places I would discover and the sights I would see; but even more so, excited about the prospect of spending these 2 weeks with her, and what could develop as we got to know each other more.
Breakfast was quite satisfying, but I was nowhere near feeling well-rested…but this was OK, because Cecille and I had the foresight to keep our itinerary clear for this first day. We knew I’d be jetlagged, and that touring Bangkok and Thailand would be much more enjoyable if done with adequate rest to mitigate the jet-lag of my global traverse. We headed back up to our room, only venturing out to acquire more take-out Chinese food from the restaurant around the corner when our bellies demanded the attention. Otherwise, it was a day of intimate relaxation, frequent cuddling, and simply getting used to the idea that we were actually in the same place at the same time. In short, we shut out the outside world and lived in one of our own creation as I recuperated.
We woke early the next morning, and I felt refreshed and ready for adventure. Our first stop? The quintessential tourist destination of any Bangkok tourist: The Grand Palace! After another satisfying breakfast, we hopped into a taxi and headed to our destination. This ride was my first opportunity to really see Bangkok, alive and in daylight. Naturally, the first thing I noticed was the humid, sweltering heat! I was sweating instantly, but I wasn’t surprised – this was to be expected in a tropical location. I was thankful for the A/C in the taxi, and while we rode, I held Cecille close as I gazed at the world outside of the window. Traffic moved in some kind of barely controlled chaos, which can basically be described as everyone goes at once, with yielding done only at the last possible instant. This approach remained consistent regardless of vehicle size or velocity – the large tour buses, motorbikes, Tuk-Tuks, Taxis, and tinted-window SUVs all vied for leverage, taking every inch of road afforded to them.
Also, Bangkok is a colorful city, from the fabrics being sold street-side, the numerous Buddhist shrines located practically everywhere, the hot pink or green taxis, to the variety of fresh fruits displayed by cart-vendors on every street corner. Bangkok is vibrant, bright, and alive….and it smells, too. Admittedly, not as bad as most underground NYC subway stations…and any city with a population of several million has its own unique “parfum”, that’s for sure!
Our taxi dropped us off near the Palace gates, and so we headed to the closest visible entrance. Although this particular gate was closed, there was a small crowd of people milling about the entrance. We surely looked like tourists as we sauntered up to it, and a Thai man with a somewhat official looking outfit approached us. He informed us in broken English that the Palace was not yet open to the public for another hour (1pm, we were told), but why don’t we just step into this waiting Tuk-Tuk for a tour of the area instead of standing around? He must have sounded persuasive, because within seconds I was following my usually headstrong and city-smart Cecille into a small Tuk-Tuk, which wasted no time in speeding off away from the Palace. Although I hadn’t really had time to react or question what was going on, as we were herded into the Tuk-Tuk I remembered something I had read online a few weeks before about a common scam at the Palace; men would dress in some semblance of “official looking uniform”, then lie to tourists about the Palace being closed for the sole purpose of sending them off on an overpriced half-hour “tour” in a waiting Tuk-Tuk. As we were already approaching the next intersection, it dawned on me that this is exactly what was happening to us. I turned to Cecille:
“Hey…why are we doing this?”
She shrugged her shoulders. “If the Palace isn’t open yet, then why not? You’ll get a chance to see some of the city while we wait.”
“I read on the internet that the Palace is open all day. I think these guys are lying to us.” The Tuk-Tuk stopped at a traffic light. “Can we just go? Let’s get out of here.”
Cecille didn’t argue or hesitate. Just like that, she just trusted me, even though this was now her city and I was the stranger; she grabbed my hand, and we jumped off from the Tuk-Tuk together, saying “No, sorry, we’re going now,” to the incredulous driver. With this simple gesture, I immediately trusted her more, too.
Still holding hands, we walked the few blocks back to the Grand Palace.
After locating the correct entrance, we walked onto the Palace grounds. We entered through The Phimanchaisri Gate, the main entrance from the Outer to the Middle Court. The Outer Court or Khet Phra Racha Than Chan Na (เขตพระราชฐานชั้นหน้า) of the Grand Palace is situated to the northwest of the palace (the northeast being occupied by the Temple of the Emerald Buddha). Not surprisingly, it was crowded with other tourists…just another day at one of the world’s most majestic Royal compounds.
Also, according to the Palace’s dress code, one could not go sleeveless. Thankfully, Palace staff operate a shirt rental for a nominal fee. My collared shirt was deemed acceptable so we went to procure a shirt for Cecille:
She wore it with style, of course!
We made our way into the crowded area near the compound of giant golden temples where The Temple of the Emerald Buddha or Wat Phra Kaew (วัดพระแก้ว) is located and had a look around. We sat for a moment to plan our next move, and I took a quick video as I glanced around.
(Isn’t she sweet? Already contemplating a gift for my mother. 🙂 )
The Royal Palace is amazing, truly opulent. Everywhere I turned, there was something else fascinating to look at.
This one particular building was in the midst of undergoing some renovations:
Next, we checked out the scale model of Angkor Wat, and a nice young lady took what was for us, our first photo together
Then, Phra Thinang Boromphiman (living quarters for royalty) but the gates were being closed as we got there.
We also took some time to sit in the Temple of the Emerald Buddha located in the compound where the giant golden temples are. The interior of the Temple was even more ornate and glittering than what you can see in the other pics of the Palace, but unfortunately, there was no photography allowed inside. We spent about 15 minutes in there, in silent meditative reverence, taking in all of the shiny and magnificent details of our surroundings.
Then we went to Phra Thinang Chakri Maha Prasat, which houses the throne room where the King receives ambassadors on the occasion of the presentation of their credentials.
One of the ground floor sections housed an “Arms Room”, a gun museum which displayed many antique guns from different eras and nations. Unfortunately, no photos were allowed inside, so I can’t show it off!
After checking out the guns for a little while, we headed over to the Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles. It’s located in the Ratsadakorn-bhibbhathana building, and is described as such:
“The museum’s mission is to collect, display, preserve, and serve as a centre for all who wish to learn about textiles, past and present, from Southeast Asia, South Asian, and East Asia, with a special emphasis on the textiles of, and related to, the royal court and Her Majesty Queen Sirikit.” – See more at: http://asemus.museum/museum/queen-sirikit-museum-of-textiles
Unlike Cecille, who basically gushed and wowed at every display of the exquisite Thai silk “haute couture” (gowns and dresses worn by Thai royalty), the museum itself was only barely interesting to me – but the fun part came after the walkthrough: an opportunity to be dressed up in traditional Thai garb!
I’m such a lucky guy…
Lastly , we checked out the Pavilion of Regalia, Royal Decorations and Coins which is a museum of….you guessed it: regalia, royal decorations, and coins. Although it was interesting, by this time we were both getting hungry and I could tell that Cecille’s feet were starting to bother her again. I told her that I would change the dressing on her wounds once we returned to the hotel, but for now, why don’t we give our feet a break and sit down for a late lunch? We left the Palace grounds and headed across the street to eat at Au Bon Pain. Once we stepped into the air conditioned restaurant, Cecille repeated the caring ritual that she had began earlier that day – she brought out a hand towel and mopped the sweat from my brow. Since it’s always hot in Thailand, this is something that she would do more of numerous times, during this trip and the following ones as well. Every time she does so, I am touched; it feels good to be doted on in this way! 🙂
It was already early evening once we finished our meal, so we decided to head to the bank of the Chao Praya River to watch the sunset while we waited for a river boat to ferry us to the other side so that we could visit the Wat Arun (Temple Of Dawn) across the way.
After roaming the area around the Temple for a while, we sat together close by to relax, then plan our way back to the hotel. The nearest BTS (Skytrain) station wasn’t very near, so we decided to catch a Tuk-Tuk to get there. A minute or two before we got to the street, it started pouring..! Naturally, this made the Tuk-Tuk ride into a splashy wet adventure, our driver unfazed by the slippery road conditions. But still safe and sound, we made it to the BTS station, caught a train, and then a transfer to an MRT train (Bangkok’s subway) before arriving to the vicinity of our hotel. Tired, wet, dirty, and hungry – but nevertheless very happy about our day of exploration. Cecille often commented how lucky we were to have visited such a special and historical place, and having the chance to be able to get to know such an amazing country’s cultural heritage, artifacts and architecture up close. After hours of walking about, our eyes were satiated and we were done sightseeing for the day. Our stomachs however were feeling the other way around and so we stopped at our new favorite Chinese restaurant Chok Dee and grabbed some take-out for the hotel room. However, once we finally returned to our “base”, showering and eating were temporarily postponed due to other priorities… 😉
It’s A New Yorker’s State of Mind is a periodic contribution from Ian, Cecille’s devoted fiancé, about the developing story of creating a life together with his Muse – and the journeys, trials, and triumphs that come with it. Born and raised in New York, Ian enjoys travel both domestically in the US and abroad to Europe (and now Asia!). An adventurous spirit, a music enthusiast, and an avid reader, he’s up for writing about places to go, things to do, music to listen to, and books to read. Unadulterated and direct, IAN.Y.S.M. is a refreshing peek on the male perspective, a companionate “side window” into Ian’s POV from New York, and a fitting rendering alongside the lovely msglobalfilipina’s riveting entries. \m/