12 January, 2011

Day 10

First off, I'd like to apologize. I was hoping to get some pictures from today's events, but I, in all-too-typical fashion, forgot to charge the battery in my camera. Sorry about that. The only pictures taken were on K's disposable camera, so I may edit this post later if I can scan them in.

We had decided to take one of the hotel's offered partner sightseeing tours today. Originally, we thought it was going to be a charter bus like we had seen, but it wasn't until arriving in the lobby that we found out it was a private tour with a single English speaking tour guide and a driver. In the end, it worked out in our favor that way! Our guide was very sweet, if a little hyper at times.

En route to the first stop, we passed several interesting attractions, including the Parliament building, the UN building, and several other government offices like the Ministry of Defense. All very ornately done by our standards. Nearby, we saw several gold-painted shrine-like portraits of the King, much like we have so far seen throughout the city. I detect a strong, sincere reverence for the King here, and far be it from me to show disdain for a working government, however that may be. I'll leave the politics out of it. Let's just say that unlike many Americans, I wouldn't object to a monarchy if it were done right.

Also, our tour guide had asked us several basic questions, including what brought us to Thailand to begin with. I explained that I had originally come for plastic surgery. She told us she got her nose done (which I would not have been able to tell, it looked perfect already), and asked me what I had done. I told her, "sex change." She didn't seem to really pause at that, but she did ask about how long ago it was done. She had clearly seen the donut, and throughout the day, she would hold my hand if it appeared that I was slowing down, or just around stairs, etc. It was very nice of her; even if I really didn't need the help by that point, I still appreciated it.

Anyways, our destination for the day was the Grand Palace. Interestingly enough, there was a pretty strict dress code; both K and I were wearing shorts, and that was not up to par, so we were issued traditional wrap-style skirts. Now, I have no objection to skirts, even though I don't wear them very often...but I couldn't tell you the last time K had worn one (like many gender-nonconforming women, for that matter.) So it was a rather curious affair. Luckily, they issued me a purple one, which matched the trim on my shirt.

The temple grounds were incredibly beautiful. We stepped into the main building early on, which was the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. The smell of incense, the sounds of shuffled bare feet and a quiet reverence were all that pierced the air inside. We bowed for several minutes before stepping back outside.

Several other areas among the grounds were incredibly interesting, including the smaller chapels, the bellfry, and the walls engraved with pictoral tales of Buddhist myths and Thai legends. After a small restroom break, it was on to the palace itself.

The palace's main chamber housed a golden cradle and throne, with large, vaulted, and highly detailed ceilings. Again the rooms were hushed to a quiet murmur. And then there was the armory.

That was my geek out moment. I've believed, and often spoken, that you can see much of a culture by their weaponry. Polearms seemed to be the dominant choice; lances, pikes, tridents, and poleaxes were a large feature. They were often long enough to fight with on the backs of elephants; so we were told, elephants were a royal and revered creature. Their swords and daggers were not missing, either. Their main sword style seemed to be an interesting blend of Chinese, Japanese, and European (mostly French) styles. I even found a pair of spiked maces, which totally made my day.

We hopped back in the car real quick before dropping off again at Wat Po. The architecture here was more influenced by Chinese neighbors throughout the time, especially during the building of these structures under the reign of King Rama IV. The main temple housed the famous Reclining Buddha statue. HUGE! I think I saw it was at least 30-35 metres in length, all painted in gold. I participated in a little luck ritual in the temple. You start with a handful of 50 cent pieces. Along the (northern?) wall, are a long row of bowls. You walk along the wall, dropping one coin in each bowl until you reach the front of the temple again.

Wat Po was notably quieter than our previous stop. Probably why there were kittens everywhere, many of which were clearly of a Manx decent. K got a huge kick out of that,  including stopping to give some of her water to one of them that was relaxing in the shade. Such a cute scene.

We made our way back. Our tour guide was fantastic all day. At this point, as the conversation went along, we were talking about several of Thailand's draws as a country, and Bangkok as a city. I mentioned, truthfully, that many girls like me go there for this procedure, and that it's rather famously considered by many. At this, she asked me a question about the process. From what she told me, it appeared that she thought I was a girl all along, and that when I told her, "sex change," she thought that meant I was becoming a boy! Whoops! I guess that says something about my passing. I clarified for her. She was kind of embarrassed, but she was hardly hung up on the idea. So she asked if I had a boyfriend.  I told her, "No, I have a girlfriend." That actually was a bit more confusing, but after a minute she told me she understood. And I believed her. She handled the entire thing with the utmost of professionalism.

All in all, it was a lot of fun. Tomorrow I have a clinic appointment first thing, and after that, I just don't know what'll happen. Still, you'll know when I do.

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