Bangkok was hot and humid in a sticky two showers a day, change your clothes kind of hot. Maybe that weather felt more foreign than anything – especially since the wedding party included so many Alaskans.
Nonetheless, we saw sights. Lady Baby toured the Grand Palace complex – acres of palace buildings and temples glistening gold, bright with glass mosaic and hand-painted tiles, planters and topiary – and packed with visitors. Eye level with tourists from her position in a backpack, Lady Baby became nearly as photographed as various elephant, monkey, and goddess statues. Japanese tourists asked to have their pictures taken with her, and Thai people wanted to hold her.
Lady Baby figured out her own ways with her public. When curious she has a distinctive gaze, focused and steady. But in these days, when dozens of strangers came toward her, she developed her own form of wei – head dipping in shy-baby pose, then sneaking looks, and reacting depending on the approaching person. The staff at the hotel won her over quickly. They greeted her with huge smiles and her name, and she flashed her nose-crinkling grin.
But hot, it was hot at the Grand Palace, and our group disintegrated as the tour went on. Ornate, elaborate, so beautiful and meaningful – statues of sacred white elephants and mythological creatures, and the Emerald Buddha dressed according to season by the Thai king – you wanted to absorb much more than was possible.
Lady Baby and her parents discovered a place serving ice cream, but I followed our younger son through a nearby street market – my one sample of what should be a huge focus in Bangkok. This market had narrow aisles and lowdown tables piled high with fruit and vegetables and wares. Women sat and sewed purses for tourists, and one of the young visitors bought three pairs of the most swell harem pants – one pair a burnt orange, tight at the ankle and flowing. A series of flat and colorful parasols bridged the gaps between the stalls, trying to shut out the sun and heat.
A man walked by carrying panniers hanging from a pole across his back – one kettle with rice, the other soup? We bought cashews and peanuts (always my mainstay on a trip – and the cashews the best I have ever had, roasted but not salty), and cold drinks. True to everything you always hear, when we stopped at a stand for lunch – pointing to pots and then accepting a seat offered in the shade – we had nearly the best meal of the trip.
Luckily afternoons were always free – naps, swims, regrouping in time for pre-dinner cocktails on the top of the hotel at the Moon Roof Bar. The sun a red ball, followed quickly by darkness, the twinkling and enormous city spread below. Truly perfect.