Bangkok

The flight back to Bangkok last night was again without any hiccups. This morning, we decided that we would beat the crowds. Having gotten up early for the buffet breakfast, we make our way to the Grand Palace complex. Already, there are throngs of tourists like ants swarming to get through a keyhole. We take the Thai people entrance and are among the first ones to enter Wat Phra Keaw, the Emerald Buddha Temple, right at opening time. The empty temple looks so different, exuding a calm that will be disrupted moments later from noisy tour groups. We practically have the grounds to ourselves, free to take pictures without fighting with others.

From there, we slip through into the Grand Palace. The gardeners are finishing their watering for the morning, and the rising sun paints the structures in a serene light. Behind us are the crowds, pouring into the temple. Then, we walk to Wat Po. At this point, we realize that Yan’s bag with passport and phone was left in the temple. We hurry back, check in to lost-and-found, and to our relief, the desk agent identifies us right away. She says the bag had been picked up by a guard and then escorts us through the swelling crowd to the back quarters. Another guard has the passport, looking for a facial match. Thankfully, everything is there.

The trip to Wat Po is a rush. Again, we’re here before the tourists. The huge reclining Buddha seems to budge against the edge of a too-small temple. With his head propped against one hand, the temple seems barely long enough—not enough for him to completely lie down. His footprints are getting a makeover. Along the exit, the temple resounds with the clink-clink-clink of pilgrims dropping alms into the long row of brass bowls.

We zip back to the hotel and get ready for lunch. Great vegetarian food is easy to find in Thailand, where many choose to forego meat during religious holidays. May’s Veggie is one such place. We order too many exotic dishes—rich curry, spicy salads bursting with mint and lemongrass, sour green mango garnish over fried tuna flakes.

In the afternoon, we taxi out of Bangkok down toward the river delta, to a town called Baknam, or Waters’ Mouth. Here, we have a mini reunion at Rossukhon. Dinner’s highlight is mango sticky rice. Apparently, the town is known for their mangos, and my aunt grows the best mangos in town. She had picked them that day and pre-ordered sticky rice flavored with pandan leaves from this restaurant that is known for this dish. Two dishes arrive, heaped full of pale green translucent rice. Two more plates come with sliced ripe mango. We divide up the rice, drizzle on rich coconut cream, and arrange the mango pieces on top. This was one of the best desserts—slightly sweet and fragrant from the pandan, a hint of salt from the coconut drizzle, and flavorful mango, smooth without fibrousness.

It has been a day of ceaseless eating, as lunch flowed into dinner. We head back to Bangkok early, as tomorrow, there will be an early flight to Hong Kong.

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