Anna arrived on December 24th and together we spent a few weeks in and around Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Ko Samed.
One of the first stops was Wat Arun, below. Although not visited as much as some of the other wats, it is special in that the outer layer is entirely decorated with shards of ceramics from used plates, cups and bowls.
The main attraction in Bangkok is arguably Wat Phra Kaew (Keo), located in the Grand Palace compound. Its opulence is overwhelming.
For a slightly different perspective, Anna determined a visit to the snake farm was in order. Part of the Red Cross, the snake farm harvests venom daily from a variety of "residents" to make antidotes. Over time, demonstrations of snake handling have taken off and we were surprised by the crowd relishing in the handlers' near-death experiences. One of them showed off a 3 fingered hand, courtesy of an earlier encounter. There were some non-venomous ones around too for closer scrutiny.
A visit to Wat Saket, located right near where we stayed in Banglampu, filled a lazy afternoon.
We decided to risk a trip to Ko Samed island, sans hotel booking, a tad foolish in the middle of the high season. We lucked out and found a secluded beach with a handful of mostly local tourists and a nice cabin with all the amenities. It proved to be very enjoyable and we basically did little but enjoy the scenery, swim, and sample the smattering of local beach restaurants. In the evenings we watched the Geckos catch insects along the ceiling of our balcony.
Back in Bangkok we went to the reclining Buddha, something we missed when near Wat Phra Kaew.
The last few days were whiled away with lingering around Bangkok, getting some fitted clothing and browsing around the unexplored nooks and crannies of the city. Bangkok has changed in a number of ways since I was here last. It all looks and feels similar, except that cars have stopped honking incessantly, there is a more confident feel in the air with locals. Airline tickets can be bought at 7/11 and even the tax department has a drive-thru. The West is falling behind in some ways...