01 Oct - 29 Oct 2014 Bangkok

S̄wạs̄dī or Saluton Bangkok… 
Crossing the Pacific east to west, re-adjusting to Southeast Asia's time zone, temperature, humidity, food and beer and exploring the Thai Indian side of Bangkok's cultural diversity at Phahurat, often known as Thailand's Little India, where Sikhs, Tamils, Hindus, Muslims and Thais live together and die alone.

“It is not for me to judge another man's life.
I must judge, I must choose, I must spurn, purely for myself.
For myself, alone.”
(Hermann Hesse)

Adding another lazy month to the good practice of our tried and trusted "Aiya Routine" (e.g. coping with trans-Pacific jet lag and trying to understand the mysteries of the international date line, keeping physically fit with semi-daily laps in our sport club’s sparkling swimming pool, feasting on lekker vegan Thai food, washed down responsibly with ice-cold Thai beer, socialising with like-minded travellers from the East and from the West, and exploring a few unknown corners of Bangkok, which never ceases to amaze us; see also our previous visits [1], [2], [3], [4], [5] to the Aiya Residence & Sport Club, our Thai home-away-from-home for many years) and fine-tuning our travel plans for this year's segregated overwintering in Asia: (i) Konni's relaxing beach-and-dive dream in the Philippines and (ii) Matt's challenging hike-and-photo schlepp in Nepal and India.

“The reason some portraits don't look true to life is that some people make no effort to resemble their pictures.”

Enjoying an unobstructed 360-degree view over Bangkok's chaotic skyline of high-spirited hotel towers, high-rise office towers and highly venerated temple towers from the 84th floor of the 304-m-tall BaiyokeTower II Observatory and Revolving Roof Deck (admission: THB 300.- or US$ 9.20 per person), currently the tallest tower in Thailand, but only the 83rd-tallest building in the world, and trying to locate the visible and invisible landmarks of Bangkok's cultural diversity.

Matt: Discovering Bangkok's colourful and friendly Little India, an ethnic neighbourhood surrounding Phahurat Road in Phra Nakhon District, with the welcoming 1932 CE Sikh temple Gurudwara Siri Guru Singh Sabha in its middle, and a busy centre for the trading of cloth, fabric, garments, textiles and wedding souvenirs, Indian herbs, spices and processed food products as well as religious paraphernalia like statues and pictures of Indian deities, feasting hereafter on dirt-cheap but delicious pure-vegetarian Indian food and browsing the nearby Sampeng Market, the divide between Chinatown and Little India, mooted to have more pickpockets than anywhere else in all of Bangkok.

"Your mercy is my social status."

Matt: Purchasing a non-extendable 6-month double-entry tourist visa for the Republic of India (requirements: print-outs of the downloadable on-line visa-application form, copy of passport with Thai arrival stamp, two photos, THB 2,250.- or US$ 70.- per person in cash, return air ticket not necessary) from Bangkok's well-organised India Visa Centre +6626641200 which issued the visa within five working days - friendly and surprisingly painless.

Konni: Purchasing an extendable 59-day single-entry tourist visa 9a ("temporary visitor for pleasure") for the Republic of the Philippines (requirements: application form, one photo, copy of passport, copy of both in-bound and out-bound air tickets, THB 1,050.- or US$ 32.- per person in cash) from the relaxed Philippine Embassy +6622590139 in Bangkok which issued the visa within 24 hours - friendly and without any bribes.

Matt: Leaving friendly and vibrant Bangkok, Thailand’s most populous city, thus taking the arctic BTS Sky Train from Wong Wian Yai  to Mochit Terminal Station (THB 42.- or US$ 1.30 per person) and thereafter the super fast a/c express bus A1 (THB 30.- or US$ 0.90 per person) to Bangkok’s revitalised Don Mueang International Airport, flying hereafter uneventfully and without suspicious sneezing with Thai Air Asia (“Now Everyone Can Fly”) in an Airbus A 320-200 to Kuala Lumpur's new KLIA 2 and with Air Asia X (“Now Everyone Can Fly Xtra Long”) in a dirty and fly-infested Airbus A 330-300, crammed to capacity, to Kathmandu's Tribhuvan International Airport, consistently rated as one of the worst ten airports in the world, for THB 5,010.- or US$ 162.30 per person, one way, all inclusive, booked over the internet way back in February 2014 CE, changing my watch from Thailand's Indochina Time (GMT/UTC + 7:00 hours) to the peculiar Nepali Time (GMT/UTC + 5:45 hours), buying an extendable 30-day single-entry tourist visa on arrival for Nepal (requirements: application form, one photo, US$ 40.- in cash) from the airport's friendly immigration guys, a straightforward and painless process without any hassle, and taking an unmetered small taxi for the negotiated deal of NPR 300.- or US$ 3.05 from the airport to the Om Tara Guest House +97714259634 in Thamel, Kathmandu's backpacker ghetto with over 2,500 Jenga-like hotels, guest houses, restaurants, trekking agencies and souvenir shops jammed into half a dozen narrow streets, rivalled only by Bangkok's notorious Khao San Road.

Konni: Leaving our Thai home-away-from-home, the well-tried Aiya Residence & Sport Club on the Thonburi side of beloved Bangkok, saying goodbye to our good friends Laine & Matthew and her little daughter Rosamund, taking the arctic BTS Sky Train from Wong Wian Yai to Mochit Terminal Station (THB 42.- or US$ 1.30 per person) and thereafter an a/c city bus no. 510 (THB 17.- per person) to Bangkok’s revitalised Don Mueang International Airport, flying uneventfully with Thai Air Asia (“Now Everyone Can Fly”) in a very cold Airbus A 320-200 from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur's new KLIA 2 for THB 2,280.- or US$ 70.-, one way and all inclusive, changing my watch in mid-air from Indochina Time (GMT/UTC + 7:00 hours) to Malaysia Standard Time (GMT/UTC + 8:00 hours), flying hereafter from Kuala Lumpur with Malaysia's Air Asia (“Now Everyone Can Fly”) in another seemingly unbreakable Airbus A 320-200 to Cebu's Mactan International Airport for MYR 240.- or US$ 73.- per person, and doing my last leg with Cebu Pacific Air ("Why Everyone Flies") in an ever reliable ATR 72-500 turboprop for the steal of just PHP 1,322.- or US$ 29.- from Cebu to Dumaguete, the hop-off point to Siquijor Island, my relaxed sun-and-beach destination for the next months.

For Raoni, Tien and Ronja:
Bangkok ist eine riesige Stadt in der ein netter Koenig und viele Millionen Menschen leben. Der Koenig und die meisten anderen Thailaender sind Thais, d.h. ihre gesprochene und geschriebene Muttersprache ist thailaendisch, ihre Hauptreligion ist der Theravada-Buddhismus und die haeufig scharf gewuerzte thailaendische Kueche ist die mehr oder weniger beliebte Landeskueche. Soviel zur Landes- oder Mehrheitskultur (mainstream culture), die Thailand zum bewaehrten Ziel fuer viele Touristen und Reisende aus der ganzen Welt macht, auch fuer uns. Dabei wird jedoch manchmal uebersehen, dass es in Bangkok auch noch andere sprachliche, religioese und kulinarische Minderheiten (ethnic minorities) gibt, die ihre eigenstaendigen Beitraege zum kunterbunten Charakter dieser grossen Stadt leisten. Zu ihnen gehoeren u.a. Chinesen, Inder, Vietnamesen, Burmesen und immer mehr Abendlaender. Die meisten von ihnen leben zweisprachig und pflegen inmitten der thailaendischen Hauptkultur ihre eigenen Sprachen, Religionen und Essgewohnheiten.
Wir haben uns diesmal etwas naeher in Bangkok's Little India umgeschaut, das uns an Toronto's Gerrard Street East erinnert und wo wir (nichtbiertrinkende) Freunde unter den vegetarischen Sikhs haben, die man leicht an ihren kunstvoll gebundenen Turbanen (dastar) erkennen kann, und mit denen wir viele gemeinsame Werte teilen. Diese Kopfbedeckung samt dem ungeschnittenen Haar drueckt entsprechend dem Selbstverständnis des Sikhismus die Weltzugewandtheit, den Stolz, und den Respekt der freundlichen Sikhs vor dem Leben aus. Der Turban darf zu jeder Zeit und an jedem Ort getragen werden. Manchmal wird der Sikhismus mit dem Hinduismus oder dem Islam gleichgesetzt und aufgrund ihrer Kopfbedeckung werden die Sikhs auch haeufig mit Muslimen verwechselt. Die friedlichen, familienbezogenen und toleranten Sikhs lehnen jedoch Askese, Aberglaube, Okkultismus, Nonnen- und Moenchstum sowie jedes religioese Spezialistentum (wozu auch Priester und Imams gerechnet werden) ganz entschieden ab, da sie jedem Menschen, Frauen wie Maennern, das Potenzial zusprechen, das Spirituelle direkt in sich selbst und zusammen mit anderen im aktiven Alltag zu erleben. Die meisten Sikhs in Bangkok sind Nachfahren von tuechtigen Migranten aus dem Punjab, wo sie in Amritsar ihren goldenen Haupttempel haben. - Welchen sprachlichen und kulturellen (Migrations-)Hintergrund haben Eure eigenen Eltern und die Eltern Eurer kanadischen Freunde? 

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