the second stamp, part two.

Our second full day in Thailand was equally busy.

Our first stop was Chatuchak park. There was a free butterfly garden there, something Kara and I both loved as kids. Since we were on a budget, the word "free" sold us instantly. Since it was a Buddhist holiday the park was actually quite full, mostly of Thai families. As we were headed to the butterflies we saw dozens of people on bikes go zooming by. There were too many bikes for everyone to have brought their own so we decided to investigate after we saw the fluttering insects.

While there weren't a ton of butterflies, the garden was dripping with stunningly beautiful orchids.

After we left the butterfly garden, we set out to find where the bikes were coming from. After asking a few park employees we finally found a small market just outside the gate of the park where you could not only eat some delicious food, but also rent bikes. As it turns out, the bikes were only 20 baht for as much time as you wanted. Kara did have to hand over her ID as collateral of sorts but once we'd paid our ridiculously cheap fee, we were able to collect our pink Hello Kitty bikes.

The only downside is that we weren't really given a choice of bike and the bikes weren't adjustable so we were both stuck with bike seats that were a bit too low. Unwilling to be deterred by low bike seats we set off on a small loop through the park. When we got back to our starting point we decided to keep going since both of us were still feeling good & we had time to spare. Off we went on a larger loop.

While we were riding we were both struck the difference between this park and American parks. Not only were there plenty of bikes available for next to nothing, the pools also rented swimsuits and towels and workout gear was scattered throughout the park (including a few weight machines & free weights). The emphasis on physical activity was widely felt throughout Thailand even though there were very few gyms. Instead, people went outdoors. They rode bikes, went for runs, and just generally spent time moving around outside. As much as I love my country, we could definitely take a leaf out of the Thai book and start making it more convenient for people to be active.

One of our favorite finds was a little "amusement park" that we found. Set off from the path was a little area sponsored by Toyota where you could ride your bike through a miniature town, complete with working traffic lights. It reminded both of us of Safety Town, a program we went to when we were little that taught kids to be safe on roadways. Kara made a very keen observation: it doesn't take much to amuse human beings. This little area delighted everyone, including adults. There was something so fun about that little town.

After we returned our bikes, we decided to head for the subway. While there were traditional cabs available, there were also motorbikes that would take you for half the cost. Naturally we selected the motorbikes (sorry Mom). We each climbed onto the back of a bike and were rushed to the train station, a short ten minute drive away. While I've ridden Vespas, I'd never been on a motorbike so it was quite the experience for me. It just felt right to take the motorbike since they were such a huge part of life in Bangkok.

We found our way to a canal and hopped a water taxi to the Temple of the Golden Mount. This water taxi was a bit different, since it was mostly locals. The locals wouldn't really wait for the boat to stop before climbing onto the edge of the boat and hopping on to the dock. I was amazed at their balance! I would have fallen right into the canal haha.

The Temple was packed with the faithful since it was a Buddhist holiday. We started the climb up the mountain, merging into the stream of people.

The whole way up we could hear the clanging of these giant bells that people would ring as they walked by. The bells are apparently rung for good luck and the noise they made filled the entire area.

When we reached the top of the mount we were greeted by the giant Golden Mount itself. Even more impressive is the view from the top. The entire city of Bangkok spreads out below you and you can really get a feel for how vast it is along with how blended the past and the present are there.

We climbed back down from the temple and set out for the river again.

We ended up back at the same stop we had visited the day before, this time with an eye towards seeing the Grand Palace. We were hoping for a view of the palace since we wouldn't be able to pay the entry fee. In our quest we ended up walking around almost the entire building, which is ringed in high white walls. As we neared the entrance though the sky turned black and the wind started to really pick up.

After snapping pic through one of the side entrances, we hightailed it towards our next destination: a flower market.  The wind increased as we went and we had to stop and turn our backs into the wind to prevent the dust from stinging our eyes. Everyone on our side of the street was doing it so it looked kind of like a scene out of a horror movie as we all stood facing backwards, frozen in place,

Unfortunately we didn't make it to the market before the rain started. We rolled up our pants to keep from completely soaking them and scurried through the rain. When we got to the market we both giggled like crazy as we shook our umbrellas and headed inside.

Due to the rain, many of the vendors had packed up already so we weren't able to see much. We did see vegetables being sold in bulk out of giant straw baskets. You could have easily fit either of us into one of those baskets!

After wandering around for a bit, we found our way into a little waterfront mall where we bought some coffee and sat to dry out a little bit. Once we were dry we realized that we were both exhausted from a very active day and decided to head home. We picked up some street food along the way and sat in the room munching away.

Bangkok is an amazing city and I would love to go back some day. The people were smiling and friendly, the food was phenomenal, and the city was beautiful.

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