Nautica diary: We tour Bangkok and then set sail for the Gulf of Thailand

Day 2: Bangkok, Sailing

ABOARD OCEANIA’S NAUTICA — Our guide, Tee, said Bangkok has about 6 million legal, permanent residents, but is actually home to about 16 million people, including temporary residents, students and others without official status. He said many new high-rise buildings are sprouting with condominiums to house those millions even though most Thais would prefer to live in a house with a garden. With the price of real estate so high they must live far out in the suburbs to afford a house.

The Golden Buddha Temple in Bangkok’s Chinatown shelters this gleaming icon
The Golden Buddha Temple in Bangkok’s Chinatown shelters this gleaming icon

Sounds a bit like home in the U.S. Bangkok is indeed a huge, sprawling, traffic-choked city, but you know you’re in a foreign country by the language, the faces, the architecture —especially the older buildings, the ratio of two- and three-wheeled vehicles to cars. And with a temperature topping out at 104 Fahrenheit and humidity near 90 percent you know you’re in the tropics.

Our first Oceania shore excursion required enduring this heat and humidity — most of us on the tour were scrambling for shade and perspiring profusely before the day was done. We also had to maneuver through jostling swarms of like-minded tourists, but there was a pay-off. We visited the must-sees of the city: Temple of the Golden Buddha, The Grand Palace with its Temple of the Emerald Buddha, a river and canal tour, and a jewelry market. At least while we were on the water we weren’t being swarmed and we got a bit of relief with a breeze.

Visitors approach the Temple of the Emerald Buddha
Visitors approach the Temple of the Emerald Buddha

It wasn’t, perhaps the most auspicious beginning for the cruise, yet it’s what you get in Bangkok in April. Our guide and driver were very good, and the sights unequivocally worth enduring the discomfort.

And the ship? Well, no hardship here. Our stateroom is comfortable, the bed especially so. The Nautica’s size suits us with a capacity of less than 700 passengers (or guests as they say), and a shallow enough draft and sufficient maneuverability to come 40 kilometers up the Chao Phraya River and dock near the center of the city.

Buddhist religious tradition and the site’s popularity are reflected in the hundreds of visitors’ shoes outside the Temple of the Emerald Buddha
Buddhist religious tradition and the site’s popularity are reflected in the hundreds of visitors’ shoes outside the Temple of the Emerald Buddha

Our dinner yesterday and our breakfast today were both taken in the Terrace Café, an informal, buffet-style dining room on the pool deck. We must say it’s as good a buffet as we’ve experienced. This evening we’re looking forward to dinner in the Grand Dining Room.

After returning from the Bangkok excursion we performed our mandatory lifeboat drill before setting sail for the Gulf of Thailand. And tomorrow we’ll be going ashore at Ko Samui in southern Thailand where we hope to learn enough about Thai cooking to maybe host a Thai dinner when we return home.

We’ll report more on the ship and our cooking class tomorrow.

April 5, 2013

 

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