Monday, August 28, 2006


Located in the heart of Bangkok's Chinatown district, Wat Traimit is a classic example of the old adage "It's what's on the inside the counts."

As far as wats go, the structure is uninspiring. The compound is filled with fortune-telling machines and stalls selling various trinkets, t-shirts and other souvenirs that make it feel more like a tacky tourist trap as opposed to a place of worship.

Also known as the Temple of the Golden Buddha, Wat Traimit is home to the largest known solid gold Buddha image in the world. Standing at 15 feet tall and weighing in at approximately 5 tons, this 700-year old statue has an interesting history.

Originally covered in plaster to hide it from 18th Century Burmese invaders, the real treasure inside wasn't discovered until 1955 when movers accidentally dropped it and broke the stucco exterior. This set off a national treasure hunt for similar masterpieces, but none rivaling the Golden Buddha were ever found. Some of the original stucco coverings are displayed on the right of the statue, while on the left is another souvenir stand with a variety of knick knacks.

While this kind of extreme commercialization of a religious image at an actual temple may seem a bit crass, there does seem to be a good motive behind it. In front of the statue was this model of a future temple worthy of housing an image as magnificent as the Golden Buddha.

Supposedly all proceeds from the various souvenir stands at Wat Traimit go towards the construction of the new temple. It is slated to be completed on the 80th anniversary of HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej's ascension to the throne - which would be exactly 20 years from this year.

Sadly, right behind the statue was a door with a full view of the men's toilet.

The compound did have another small temple that was actully nicer than the one that housed the Golden Buddha. The Buddha image inside was pretty standard, but outside were a few interesting statues.

Despite the long line of buses in front of the street leading up to Wat Traimit, I personally don't think that it's part of an essential Bangkok sight-seeing trip. If you find yourself in Chinatown it's worth checking out - but don't go out of your way to see it because the whole experience takes all of 5 minutes.

Friday, August 25, 2006


Lumphini Park (also known as Suan Lumphini) is Bangkok's largest and most popular park. Nestled in the heart of downtown, it's a nice escape from the everday hustle, bustle and confusion of the city.

As far as parks go, this place can get pretty crowded at times. I'm told that things really get going before 7:00 am, but I don't know this from experience. Supposedly, there are throngs of people at Lumphini performing various physical activities and vendors selling things like snake's blood at the crack of dawn.

I've been to Lumphini Park several times and the other day I arrived with my bike around 8:30 in the morning. While not overally crowded, there were still a lot of people doing things like t'ai chi:


Weightlifting and exercise:

And ballroom dancing:

There were also plenty of joggers, walkers and people like myself riding bicycles as well as a swimming pool.

I can appreciate the fact of people coming together to support each while exercising, but I honestly don't know how they do it in the exhausting humidity that is standard for Bangkok. Even in the heavily wooded area of the Park, the air is still completely stifling. Perhaps that's why Lumphini is so crowded before the sun fully rises. I was just riding my bike at an extremely leisurely pace and I still got pretty sweaty after an hour or so.

Lumphini Park surrounds a large artificial lake and small paddle boats are available there for rental.

The area around the lake is also a great place to spot a monitor lizard. The Park is literally crawling with these creatures and the largest ones are about the size of a small crocodile.

Unlike crocodiles, these things seem pretty timid. They tend to hang out only around the edges of the water (or in the water) and when you approach them, they quickly scurry for cover. Still, I don't want to get to friendly with them and the closest I've gotten to a monitor lizard is this guy who was hanging out in a sewer on one of the walking paths:

All in all, Lumphini Park provides a nice relief from a city that can be a tad overwhelming at times. It's a good place to relax and clear your mind, even if you chose to do so while performing some activity that pushes your body to the outer edges of heat exhaustion.

Thursday, August 17, 2006


Today's excursion was to the Samut Prakan Crocodile Farm and Zoo.

Almost immediately, I knew this place was going to be a little different. One of the first things you see here is a display of deformed crocodiles. This is the place to go if you want to see crocs with misshapen mouths:

No eyes:

No tails:


And various other oddities. This next one was called "Single Tailed Albino" and there was also a six-legged crocodile, but I couldn't get a decent picture of it.

This is the reptilian equivilant of the carnival sideshow. About the only thing missing was was a bearded crocodile and Siamese twin crocodiles. I'm told that these poor creatures are manipulated before they are hatched by heating their eggs. It's kind of sad really.

Another thing that sets this zoo apart from others is the chance to feed the animals. They sell bananas on site to feed to elephants and hippos:

And buckets of chicken carcases to feed to hungry crocodiles:

I'm the kind of guy who wouldn't mind seeing a gazelle set loose in the lion's den at the zoo, so this kind of activity appealed to me.

There were also some friendly orangutans who beg for food, but since they didn't have anything available for purchase, I didn't want to give them anything except some dry grass.

I did see some lady toss an iced coffee (cup and all) into the chimpanzee cage. The whole thing splattered all over the ground. I'm not sure what she was expecting to happen, but the chimp didn't appear too pleased with the situation.

Several brave (or stupid depending on how you look at it) men put on a crocodile wrestling show. This mainly consists of them dragging the beasts out of the water by their tails and then provoking them with a stick so that their jaws snap down. One of the performers even had the guts to stick his hand into a crocodile's mouth. Both guys had all of their limbs and fingers, so I suppose they know what they were doing. If it was me, I wouldn't get close to those things unless I was wearing a suit of armor (all they had on were silky red pajamas without shoes).

Next was an elephant show where four pachyderms performed a series of cute tricks.

Afterwards, they allow kids to get on them for a photo opportunity. Surprisingly, this was free.

There were also chances to get your picture taken with a full grown tiger, but I wasn't goint to let my kids get anywhere near that thing, despite the sign that read: "I won't eat you - you are my friend."

Speaking of tigers, this was the first time I've seen a white tiger in person.

Snakes, turtles, porcupines, and various birds can also be found at the Samut Prakan Crocodile Farm and Zoo. It's not too large of a place, so it makes for a good destination to kill a few hours. My kids enjoyed it and that's always an accomplishment.

I've been here in Bangkok for eight weeks now and the one thing that I've really been craving is a decent cheeseburger. I refuse to go to McDonald's or Burger King (I said I wanted something decent). We got some burgers from the grocery store and in my opinion, they were just "OK."

What I wanted - no, I take that back - what I needed was a good All-American juicy cheeseburger - just like they make 'em back home. I mentioned this to several people and one name kept coming up as the answer to all my prayers - "The Garage."

Located in a mall connected to the Conrad Hotel on Wireless Road, it's as if God (or Buddha depending on what you believe in) scooped up the Garage from the good 'ol U.S. of A. and transplanted it smack in the middle of Bangkok.

We went during lunchtime and it wasn't too crowded. After the waitress came, I quickly scanned the menu (out of habit) and placed my order: a standard cheeseburger.

This is what I came all the way across town for and this is what I was going to get. I didn't even want to mess it up by having them put bacon on it or ordering some other specialty burger (for the record, the Garage does offer items like pizza, hotdogs, subs, salads and the dreaded veggie burger).

Before I could blink and eye, my order arrived and I'm pleased to report that it lived up to all of the hype. It really was a thing of beauty and after admiring it for a few moments, I quickly devoured (OK, inhaled) it.

There could have been a few more fries, but I'm just nitpicking there.

The interior is about what you would expect from a place called the Garage: a plain concrete floor, license plates and Route 66 signs on the wall, a few gas pumps, and seats that came from actual cars.

The only complaint I have about the atmosphere was the music. They had some soft Thai pop stuff playing and this is a place that just cries out for some good old-fashioned rock 'n roll (if the owner/manager of the Garage wants to email me I will be happy to drop off a couple of killer mix CDs for him).

This place is pretty family friendly too. There are several TVs and the big one has a Playstation 2 hookup and with over 50 games to play while one recovers from their food-induced coma.

They even have a pole in the middle of the restaurant that you can sign and leave a graffiti style greeting. It took me awhile to find a place where I could pimp this blog, but I managed.

All in all, the Garage was just what the doctor ordered (actully warned me about) and I'm sure I will make it my regular spot whenever the carnal urge to consume cooked animal flesh wedged between two buns and a slice of cheese overcomes me.

For more information on the Garage please visit:

Wednesday, August 16, 2006


Last Saturday (August 12), was the 74th birthday of Queen Sirikit, the wife and Queen Consort of Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX), King of Thailand. Like her husband, the Queen is immensely popular here in and her birthday is a national holiday. In fact, it is also Thailand's official Mother's Day (which is interesting because Queen Sirikit's birth name was Mom Rajawongse Sirikit Kitiyakara).

For this reason, images of the Her Majesty have popped up all over Bangkok this month and many of them have replaced the images of the King (astute readers of this blog should be able to recognize several of the locations from my July 16 entry entitled "The King and I").

I'm sure that next month most (if not all) of these images will be replaced again with pictures of the King, but for now it's a nice change of pace to see something different in town.

While King Bhumibol's official color is yellow, Queen Sirikit's is blue. For this reason, blue shirts are now sold with the royal emblem on the front for those who wish to honor the queen in this way.

The blue shirts are nowhere near as prominent as the King's yellow shirts, but on any given day you are bound to see a few of them out and about.

I even spotted this interesting vehicle this afternoon. I'm not sure what it is, but it was part of a procession of similar "Queenmobiles" driving down Sukhumwit Road.

It seems that there are no ends to the Thai's fascination with the Royal Family. I am only starting to understand it, but the more I learn, the more it makes sense. When you consider Queen Sirikit's charitable work, her role as the President of the Thai Red Cross (a post she has held since 1956), and her efforts after the 2004 tsunami disaster, she appears to be a remarkable woman and one who always has the best interests of her people in mind.

Happy birthday Queen Sirikit and many happy returns (and long live the King and Queen).