In roughly three weeks I'm officially celebrating my second year in Thailand. I reckon I should come up with something on this blog to mark the occasion, well basically just for the sake of it.
OK, let's say for the sake of nostalgia. You know me and nostalgia are like thisclose. LOL.
What better way to honor my two years in this city than to dedicate a number of posts to Bangkok, a place that I call my home. It's quite obvious in this blog that I have this big love affair with the City of Angels. I'd marry it if it were possible.
So for the coming weeks I'll write about the different aspects of the city that has made it more endearing to me.
I shall start this "series" with the Chao Phraya River.
On my first morning in BKK, the view of the river captured me right away.
From my building, the Chao Phraya is only about three minutes away via the temple grounds. I was quite surprised how wide it actually is, at least in that stretch near my building. Looming nearby is the majestic Rama VIII bridge with its signature pylon and golden suspension cables.
A few days later, I braved riding the commuter boat, which I recorded in this post: "Found in the route were barges, bridges, markets and pubs cantilevered on the murky water, more piers, canal exits, and some smaller boats that have shorter routes. The roof of a number of wats (temples) and the spires of the Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn), together with towering hotels, are only some of the more majestic sights along the river."
Regular days on the river are usually a frenzy of crisscrossing commuter boats, speeding long-tail boats loaded with tourists, slow tug boats, and occasional men in jet skis (jing jing!). The many bridges spanning it are usually clogged with vehicles.
Taking over in the evening are garishly-lit boats brimming with tourists snapping pictures of the Wat Arun and Rama VIII bridge. Oh, don't get me started on the loud music playing from those tourist boats.
Soon enough, I developed a close affinity to the river, making it a point to take the boat on Friday afternoons as a ritual of sort. I love being soothed by the bobbing boat along with other weary commuters.
Late afternoons on the river are always spectacular. The golden roofs of the Grand Palace for instance are best viewed during this time as it glimmers in the sunset. Often I find my self going to the pier near the temple to just watch the sun slide in the horizon and slather the sky with different shades of orange and red. Or if I'm in the mood for walking I head off to Phra Arthit (about twenty minutes by foot from my building) to observe people, sometimes to read, or more of watching the sunset.
In the many months I've been observing the Chao Phraya, I noticed that it has it moods as well. In the dry months, it turns grayish and the water is relatively low, revealing the spindly legs of the piers that dot its banks. In the wet season, the water is muddy and it usually rises to even flood some parts of the city.
As a city absorbed in rituals, I've seen the Chao Phraya decked in resplendent rowers during the Royal Barge Procession, or glimmer to the small floats that people release on the Loy Krathong Festival.
But what amuses me most among these rituals is when, on no particular occasion, people feed the pigeons infesting the piers (or at least the pier closest to my building). Below the piers are humongous fish that live on a daily diet of stale bread (what did I tell you about carbo-loading?!). This feeding ritual is part of merit-making among Buddhists, I heard.
Whenever I have friends coming over to BKK, I try my best to bring them to the Chao Phraya because I think that the river shows them a good slice of life in the city. I'm quite lucky that they love the Chao Phraya as much as I do! (Gosh, otherwise I would feed them to the pigeons, no?)
I think for any visitor to see the real Bangkok, he has to see the river. Bangkok is practically born along the banks of the Chao Phraya and since then the river has served more than just commercial or touristic purposes but it is also one of the epicenters of Thai culture and rituals. The city and the river are pretty much inseparable.
And personally, the Chao Phraya would always be a main part of my life in Bangkok. It is a constant source of fascination and inspiration as the river constantly changes and there are always new things to discover. Also, over and over again, it has served as my refuge from the craziness of the city and the madness of my own mind.