After class on Monday, my roommate, a classroom friend, and I decided to go to the biggest aquarium in Thailand. This aquarium sits in the basement of the BKK mall in the province Siam. The entrance fee is large, 900 Baht a person for walking through. However, we were able to get in for half that due to student passes from Mahidol. If you plan on going and are taking classes, try to remember some sign that you're a student. The aquarium wasn't too large when compared to the double building Monterey Aquarium, but what was inside made it worth the money. A series of interesting fish met us in the first entrance. One was prehistoric and something I had only seen pictures of, easily making it one of my favorite fish in the aquarium. There was also a portion that had four shark eggs, each at different stages of development. As we walked further in, we came to a section that had open tanks, dark lights, and fake trees and vines everywhere. It was a room designed to look like a rainforest, complete with a small boat at a dock on the biggest tank where they must do the feedings. At one point there was even a cave to walk through that contained spiders and other "cave animals." One of the tanks in this room stood at the base of fake dinosaurs and another tank had fish with large jaws lined with sharp teeth. The largest tank in this room had a large assortment of fish. This fresh-water tank included a stingray as wide as I am tall, about 5 feet six inches, and a fish just as long. There was a large touching pool and a ray tank across from it. Further down we came to a tank containing penguins and one with Asian Otters, which were adorable to watch as one lay in the water while another tried to clean its head. Lastly, there was a shark tunnel. The sharks inside were fat and large, not simple little tiger sharks like I was used to. Some of these sharks showed battle scars, like on that had a chunk missing from its lower gills. Walking through this tunnel was worth the money all on its own. The aquarium also has an option to sit in a clear bottom boat on the shark tank that I walked under, though I think you'd see a lot more by going through the tunnel, and a swimming with the sharks portion if you want to pay extra. On this trip we also found out that the cupcakes that had seemed so tempting were relatively new in Thailand and that our friend from class had never had one before.
Tuesday I went to meet the same friend who took us to the floating market. First she was planning on taking us to China Town, which is supposedly one of the biggest and oldest China Towns. However, we discovered that we had in fact never been to Wat Phra Kaew. Though I said we had been there on our first weekend, we found out that the temple we had been to was actually Wat Arun. My friend told us that if we have never been to Wat Phra Kaew, we might as well have never been to Bangkok. So after renting a shawl to tie around my "cut off pants," or capris since tight pants and things higher than the ankles are forbidden and girls have to wear skirts, we went to buy our tickets. We entered the first part of the walled in structure, leading to the temple of the Jade Buddha. The outside courtyard shows two highly decorated buildings that sparkle due to the floor to ceiling colored glass plates lining the exterior of both. The interior of the walls surrounding the temples are covered with highly detailed pictures, each depicting one of the Lord Buddha's past lives. Every entrance to the courtyard is guarded by a pair of large demonic looking statues with the skin being cream, blue, green, or purple. The colors of these statues contain different meanings, though I don't know what they are. There is also a miniature Angkor Wat at the temple, signifying the continuing conflict over the ownership of the ancient temples that lie in Cambodia but whose entrance is in Thailand. In the main temple in this complex lies the Jade Buddha, who wears a robe of gold. There are three robes for three different seasons and at the start of each season there is a ceremony where the King changes the robe. Though the grounds are enormous and there are many beautiful buildings, the last one I'm going to talk about is the Grand Palace. This is a very Western styled palace where a ceremony takes place for each new government. The grounds are covered with military personnel and those on guard duty stood while tourists took pictures next to them, just like the British guards in London.
When leaving the Wat Phra Kaew, we sat in traffic for probably close to an hour, barely moving. We decided it would be best if we took the sky train to our bus stop and let my friend head home. While waiting for rush hour, which is about three hours long if you're lucky in Bangkok, we went to a knew bar. There is a bar next to the sky train called Rock Bar. Though the drinks are expensive, the atmosphere inside the bar is dark and cozy, with pictures of bands around the brick walls. Before the band starts playing, there is a projector displaying rock music videos on in front of the stage. This is my favorite bar that I've been to. Though it would be nice if drinks were cheaper, it's still a place to visit.
Wednesday we went back to Koh San, this time to buy presents. After meeting with our friend who owns the shop there, he showed us the way to the flower market. This market only opens in the evening, when the sun isn't so strong. There's a block of flowers lining the sides of the road, making it so busy that cars can barely pass. Many of the flowers are strung together to form the flower blessings placed on the shrines for the ancient spirits and the Lord Buddha. On the walk to the Flower market we passed the symbol of Bangkok, two large ted pillars connected at the top. On New Year’s a swing is hung from the pillars and individuals swing on it for the ceremony. The tour of Bangkok at night ended with our friend taking us to a temple where we witnessed the prayers of Buddhist monks. The Chanting was calming all on its own, but added to the image of the monks sitting as a group in front of the Buddha reading the chants out loud, it was the most relaxed I'd been since arriving in Thailand. Our friend told us that this temple, Wat Bowonniwet, is where the King is ordained as a monk. Each King must be a monk at some period in time.
On Thursday, I left early to my internship, hoping to get there with enough time to see the museums at the hospital before they closed. Of course, I forgot that Friday was Mother’s Day along with the Queen’s Birthday and traffic seemed worse than usual. After sitting in one spot for twenty minutes, I finally got to my stop and switched buses, luckily to a faster one. When I got to Siriraj Hospital, I looked at the map and decided to go to the Anatomy Museum. I arrived to see preserved body parts in tanks on display. The entrance hall had the torso and head of a body cut into thin layers so you could see the insides. There were jars with ears, tongues, stomachs, arms, and every other part of the body on display, each displayed differently. Bodies of children and adults were cut open and on display, including that of a boy whose head was four times the size of a normal skull. A very interesting part was a adult figure that showed the capillary system throughout the body, followed by one with the muscular system and one with the nervous system. The creepiest part of the exhibit was the mass number of fetuses. Most of them seemed to have been aborted due to deformations, such as the heart being outside the body. The worst part was that some of the bodies were positioned in a way that it looked like they were banging on the glass keeping them contained. A section of this museum also had conjoined twin fetuses. These were very interesting because of all the different kinds of conjoined twins, but also the part that disturbed me the most. Walking through the exhibit literally made me shiver, and I wasn't alone. I passed two girls in their teens, one holding the arm of her friend. When they accidently backed into one of the cabinets they both squeaked and spun around.
My internship was at the continuity clinic again. This time the professor for the medical students was much more open to talking with me. She told me that most of the patients in the continuity clinic were healthy and only came in for basic check-ups while young. As if to emphasize her point, all but two of the kids that came in today were babies where their development was being checked using the same system as last time. The babies were so cute and the medical students seemed to enjoy playing with them. When I mentioned the amount of personal care given to each patient, including the concern for their emotional and mental well-being, she told me that the hospital had just started the personal relationships ten years ago, largely because Siriraj is a university hospital and teaching in such a way allows the students more hands on experience. I asked how the patients paid for the clinic and she told me that it depends on the patient. The healthcare system in Thailand is that each hospital has a list of names of the people that can go there for free, usually depending on where one lived. However, many of the patients at Siriraj are not on that list and pay to come to Siriraj because it is a better hospital than the one they are listed under. This listing system only really applies to the lower and middle classes because the upper class usually goes to private hospitals. I also found that medical students in Thailand only spend six years in school after graduating high school before they are able to find work. The most interesting case today at the clinic was a boy of thirteen, I didn't realize that the clinic saw individuals so old. In this particular case, the boy was obese. At first it seemed that the problem was because he could cook for himself and there was no way for someone else to regulate his diet. However, there is also the suspicion that there is a chemical imbalance or something wrong with his brain, when asked what grade he was in he couldn't answer.
My internship ended early and I was able to go to another of the museums before it closed. The main attraction at this museum was the homicide section. There were pictures of wounds from suicides, blunt drama, car accidents, and close range gun wounds. Further in, the wall was lined with murder weapons from old cases. Every type of bullet, blades of various sizes and shapes, chains and ropes, were all on display. There was evidence from murder cases, two mummified bodies of rape murderers who were sentenced to death were next to the mummified body of Si Quey, the most famous serial killer in Thailand who became a bogeyman to children. There were also poisonous snakes and damaged organs on display. The damage done to these organs, including the liver, brain, hearts, and lungs, were done in murders and accidents mainly. There were even lungs that died from pneumonia and livers that suffered alcohol poisoning. The museums at the hospital are some of the most interesting things on display I have ever seen.