I arrived in Bangkok in the middle of the night, so my impressions of the city as the taxi took me into town were a bit muted by the darkness. Yes there were some lights, but not that many. And I was on a highway most of the way. As I approached downtown, most of the big buildings had turned off their lights (I mean, it was almost 2AM), but I could still their darkened shapes across the horizon. The contrast with Phnom Penh could not have been more severe. The flight was fine and after a small delay with my visa, I headed into town. So the airport is not big and the parking lots was basically packed dirt. Do you want to know why so many people here have surgical masks on? Well it's the dry season here, so the dust is just insane. Add in all of the exhaust fumes, and you'd want a surgical mask as well. Which is why taxis are better than Tuk-Tuks here. Leaving the airport, the main road was like strip mall hell. Even as we approached the city, the buildings for the most part were low rise buildings (2-4 floors), and few mid rise buildings (5-10 floors), and very, very few high rise buildings. Oh, and the traffic. Insane. I used to say that driving in Italy was like driving on the dark side. The driving here is just beyond belief. Cars, scooters, bike, motorcycles, busses, lorries, big trucks, you name it. All on the road with basically no stop lights or rules. It was like seeing a swarm in action. The interesting thing is that everyone just accepted that it was crazy and didn't get upset about it. In DC there would be road rage every 2 blocks. Here? People just give two short honks of their horn saying: "hey, please move over a bit, I'm trying to get by." It's all crazy, but it seems to work for them.
I made it to my hotel and was very pleased by my choice. I did a lot of research on my hotels and I had chosen wisely! While my hotel in Bangkok was a nice Marriott style hotel in a good location, The Plantation was like a tropical Kimpton! Walking off the street, there's a huge courtyard with a koi pond and statues and then when you get into the inner compound, there are lush trees to keep the resort cool. And an amazing pool! After settling in, I had lunch at the pool. I took a short nap and then I headed off to the Royal Palace and the Silver Pagoda which were just a short walk from my hotel. The compound included a number of cool building with Khmer roofs and ornate building. Interestingly enough a lot of the statues and decorations were destroyed by the Khmer Rouge so there are concrete replicas of many of the ornaments. Still pretty in a weird way. After walking around the Royal Palace compound, I went over the Silver Pagoda which is named after the 5000 silver tiles on the floor. It is also the home of the Emerald Buddha (another one!) though this one is made of green Bacharrat crystals. No photos allowed inside, so that's a bummer.
After the Royal Palace, I went to the National Museum which was nearby. Housed in a very pretty terracotta mansion, it is filled with Khmer sculpture including a lot of artifacts that have been moved from Angkor Wat to the capital for safekeeping. The mansion had a great courtyard and the sculptures were very interesting. Oh, I checked with "the google" for the skinny vs. fat Buddha. So the real Buddha is skinny. There's a Chinese folklore deity call Budai that is the fat one. So not the same thing after all.
I went back to the hotel for a shower (#AlwaysSweating!) and then headed to "Friends" for dinner. No, it's not named after the US sitcom "Friends". It's a nearby tapas style restaurant that help street children get started in the hospitality business. So that was kind of cool. And the food was good. Afterwards I went to the Foreign Correspondents Club (FCC) for a drink on their rooftop bar overlooking the Mekong River. And then it was time to crash.