James Bond Island

We decided that there were so many interesting things to see near to Ao Nang/Krabi that we’d better combine a few of them into an organized tour. This is pretty common in SE Asia- there are tour companies everywhere, happy to whisk you away to the local attractions and overcharge you a little, but they make it worth your while by taking all the worry and planning and transportation issues out of the equation for you.

Well, we loved the photos we’d seen of the “James Bond island” (so named because ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’ was filmed there), and so we booked a tour that featured a visit to it. Its actual name?  Ko Tapu, or ‘Nail Island’.

It’s such an impossible-looking limestone karst, rising top-heavy up out of the green waters.

Well, we didn’t get to spend much time there (maybe 30 minutes- certainly not enough time for any of the Bond actors to show up) but the other destinations were pretty fun, too. We also saw a floating village, the Tone-Tai waterfall, and Wat Suwankuha – the monkey temple with Buddhas tucked away in a cave amongst the stalactites.

It was a very full day, and as always, we got to know some of the people on our tour with us, which is always fun and informative (you learn a lot when you meet people from other cities and countries).

And Kim made a very special friend of her own.  🙂

Wat?

Bangkok is not only a modern city of around 12 million people- it’s also steeped in history and thus has all the accompanying historic buildings and architecture. This town has been around since at least the 1400s, when it came under the rule of Ayutthaya (another great place we visited on a separate day). And it became the capital of Thailand in 1782 after things got messy with Burma. So you can tell that there’s going to be some interesting history remaining amidst the new buildings and train systems

 

In an odd parallel with Los Angeles, the locals actually call Bangkok “Krung Thep”, or City of Angels.  I suspect that Bangkok had the name first, though.

There are many gorgeous, ornate Wats (temples) to visit around the city. Kim and I had a Wat day where we sampled some of the best, as well as the Grand Palace.

A bonus was that to get to them, we had to take the river boat, so we fit a little cruising sight-seeing in, too.

All told, we saw the Grand Palace (which maybe deserves an entire day to itself), Wat Pho, and Wat Phra Kaew/ Temple of the Emerald Buddha that day. I think we saw another one, too, but honestly it’s a little blurry post-wat, so I’m not sure.

By the end of the day of walking around beautiful gilded buildings in the burning hot sun, you get a little Watted out, so luckily we saved Wat Arun for a separate day. That was wise- it deserves its own day. (That’s a hint about a future post- maybe for the highlights reel in a month!)

The mix of different styles of architecture and decoration at the Grand Palace was impressive. It was actually created as the residence for the Kings of Thailand/Siam, so they started building it in 1782, but then spent years adding to it after that. That probably explains all the different styles present in this huge complex. I have no explanation for the little blue men, however.

It’s a good educational experience to see how people worship and give differently in various cities and countries. Here they buy little bits of gold leaf to rub on to the Buddha statues. It sometimes makes for a rather saucy Buddha, with all his gold streamers fluttering in the breeze.

Each of these Buddha temples does not sit lonely by itself, of course. That’s part of the reason it’s hard to keep track of how many you’ve seen on a Wat Day.

The wats are usually part of a larger complex with other assorted buildings and stupas and gardens and statuary and I don’t know what else. Like this ancient stone guardian who looks like a character out of a fantasy novel. Would you rather have some of these guys guarding your house, or some of the scary little blue guys?  Tough call… but I’ll go with the stone wizard guy.

Even after we’d seen the Grand Palace complex, the other Wats continued to impress. The Reclining Buddha of Wat Pho was pretty incredible. It’s 15 meters tall (49 feet) and 43 meters long (141 feet). And as you can imagine, it’s really difficult to fit in one photo. But you’ve got to love the detail on the toes! .

That’s one of the fun things about visiting these temple complexes: finding all the little details- intricate gold carvings, mirrored walls, gold Buddhas draped in saffron robes, all the decoration.

 

 

It’s so colorful, and a beautiful way to spend the day.

 

 

By the way, Kim and I discovered that our own version of “Wat’s on first” does not, in fact, ever get old.

🙂