In the Kingdom of Siam
We are starting our journey through Southeast Asia in Bangkok, largest city of Thailand. It was formerly known as Siam, under King Mongkut…the fourth ruling King, who many Americans probably know who was represented by Yul Brenner in the King and I. In 1939, the country gained its freedom, renaming the country to Thailand, which means land of the free. Four generations later, and it is this King’s great grandson who now sits on the Royal throne. The king is so revered here that all versions of the King and I movie have been forbidden from playing in this country.
Our first day starts and ends with two extremes. Bangkok has a population of 12 million people, of which 95 percent are Buddist. In efforts of having a good life, in this one or the next, many of the people give to the building of temples, which may account for the over 50,000 temples across the county. Our first stop was to Wat Po, one of the oldest in temples in the city. It has over 70 chedis, or pyramids which house the ashes of many of the royal family members. It also has more than 1000 Buddha images, and is home to the largest reclining Buddha. It is 50′ high and 150′ long representing Buddha’s passing into Nirvana. We certainly felt dwarfed standing next to this!
In the evening, we went to one of the craziest shows in town…dinner and a show at the Calypso, an all male transvestite song and dance review. The guys were pretty excited to see the show, but after it was all over, they were definitely confused. It was actually difficult to tell that they weren’t really females! This kind of show seems to be very popular in the larger tourist destination cities of Thailand.
It was a crazy way to end our first day. The weather here is like spending an entire day in a sauna! There is just no escaping it…hot, humid, and very sticky. Thank heavens for air conditioning!