London to Bangkok and Durga pooja

The flight is only half full and they seat everyone in the front and back of the plane. Apparently it’s to do with distributing the weight equally when the flight takes off. The middle half is empty. The lady seated in front of us has got all four seats to herself. She tells me to join her and insists that I take the three seats while she just occupies her one seat. A lovely Scottish lady who now lives in Doha. I decide to get some sleep. We have a very long journey ahead of us. We are on our way to Bangkok. When we reach Doha our connecting flight to Bangkok is already boarding.

Another six hours of flight and we are starting our descend into Suvarnabhumi airport at Bangkok. At first glance the ground looks like any other major city. Demarcated fields give way to high rise buildings with a river snaking through it, but then I see water logged fields extending for miles. Thailand is the second largest exporter of rice.

After immigration clearance and collecting our luggage we meet York, our guide, and the rest of the tour group. Traffic in the city is unpredictable, but it is not too bad today and we reach our hotel without too much trouble. Some of us are going for a traditional Thai dinner and dance show this evening.

They pick us up promptly before six. The city is a mixture of the old and the new, the east and the west. High rise concrete and glass buildings make up part of the city, with the skyline railway network connecting the stations. An elaborate temple in the midst of this reminds us that we are not in Dubai or New York. In other parts small shops with shutters line the streets. We reach our destination a little bit earlier than anticipated and have time to explore the neighbourhood.

Across the road stands one of the eight Hindu temples in Bangkok. It seems like a function is going on. It is lighted up and we can hear prayers being chanted. As we get nearer, I wonder if I am in India. The chanting is in Sanskrit. Around the temple entrance stall holders are busy selling flowers and other prayer ingredients. The Sri Maha Mariamman Temple also known as the Maha Uma Devi was built in 1879. Inside, Durga Pooja is going on in earnest. We do a quick round of the Gods and return to our restaurant.

The tables are low and give the impression that we need to sit on the floor, which is the traditional way to eat thai food, but the space under the table is hollow to rest our feet. After the drinks are ordered the food is served. Sour and spicy seafood soup, followed by rice and Thai green curry, with stir fried vegetables, spring rolls and a batter fried fish dish. This is followed by fruits and tea. The dancers come on the stage around eight and give us a rendition of scenes from the ‘Ramayanam’.

It’s been two very exhausting days and we have an early start tomorrow and I need to get some sleep.

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