- We decided to go upriver and visit the Grand Palace. Last time was 15 years ago when Megan joined us for two weeks in Thailand. Before the development of the BTS elevated skytrain and the subway system (we remember Bangkok before both) the fastest way to move was a river boat on the Chao Praya river. Since the Grand Palace is no where near either system, we take the skytrain to Taksin Pier and catch the Chao Praya Express and head upriver to Chang Pier near the palace. The boats hold about 200 people, mostly standing and stop at designated piers along the way. The ten mile long system costs 14 Baht or roughly 40¢.
- The Grand Palace is old so not a lot has changed in 15 years. The buildings are as beautiful as ever. At the National Museum we saw the royal funeral carriage which will carry the king’s body through Bangkok to his cremation point. The Thai’s revered and loved king is now 88 and under constant medical care. Last week he was in the hospital to have excess water drained from his brain. His passing will traumatize this country.
- The other real change at the Grand Palace is the tourist base. In the past, one could quietly roam through the complex enjoying the Thai Buddhists praying at the numerous shrines and alters, offering up insense and flowers. Fast forward 15 years and the Chinese tourists have taken over the tourist scene. Hundreds of tour groups (30-40 people) descend on the Grand Palace daily with their flag bearing tour guide. Each group moves en masse, half carrying sun umbrellas which are wacking me in the face. The flag bearer shouts at the top of their voices so their group hears. The Chinese speak loudly anyway. I am assuming that most Chinese have no religion growing up in a Communist country, so their was no respect of the numerous “quiet please” signs through out the complex. It was a constant battle navigating the palace grounds. It was refreshing to get out of the grounds.
These were all tour groups and obviously non English speaking. There are still thousands of independent Chinese travelling also but they all speak passable English, actually better than the Thai’s. Thailand is getting inundated by Chinese tourists since they are not welcomed in the Philippines, Vietnam and other SE Asian countries over the South China Sea issue.