Koh Samui, Thailand:
Samui is gorgeous and a nice change from Bangkok (where we only spent one day, but that was more than enough). Jeanette and I arrived here yesterday after saying goodbye to Mark, and hopefully Sandy and Stephanie are meeting up with us later this week.
How to describe Bangkok? Hot. Dirty. Kind of stinky. A messy, disorganized city with stunningly beautiful buildings distributed all around.
I didn't love Bangkok. We have one more day there (Saturday) before flying back to Seoul and both Jeanette and I are at loose ends about what to do. Maybe just get more massages and eat as much curry as possible before departure.
There are some fantastic things in Bangkok though. The Grand Palace is a breathtaking compound meant to house Thailand's royal family -- the present King lives in a different palace, however.
Guards enforce strong rules about dress code. Shoulders must be covered and only long pants are allowed, no shorts or capris. Jeanette and I joined the long queue of people who were "inappropriately" dressed to borrow long skirts for the visit. We had purposely chosen outfits we thought were conservative enough for entrance, but obviously not. Oops!
The most famous site in the Grand Palace is the Emerald Buddha, which is actually jade, who knew?! Being Chinese New Year, the main attractions were even more packed than usual and it was stifling in there, but a beautiful thing to see anyway. Many people were praying and making offerings to Buddha.
Then it was off around the corner to see the famous Reclining Buddha. I had no idea it was so massive and then you walk into the building which houses it and there's a giant, gold Buddha. He's so much more impressive in person than any pictures do justice.
A long, LONG walk later, we arrived in Chinatown just in time to see the end of the Chinese New Year parade. The streets were jam-packed with people but everyone seemed to be having fun and there was a ton of shopping.
The best thing about Thailand's cities is the street food. It's all delicious and cheap -- Pad Thai for dinner yesterday was less than US $1, a curry might be US $1.20 or so. Incredible. Even at nicer restaurants, a good dinner will cost less than US $4. It's going to be hard to go back to the US and pay much more for Thai food, not to mention having to go back to eating Korean food in the first place. It's just not the same...
We arrived at Koh Samui last night and spent all day today just being lazy. Eat food, beach, eat food, beach. Not bad at all. Tomorrow we're renting scooters to see more of the island, including Big Buddha and some markets.
And yes, I'm already sunburnt. My poor pale skin has no idea how to handle sunlight.