This, then, is my journey: Tokyo to Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok to Pattaya Beach, back to Bangkok, west to the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, back to Bangkok and Pattaya Beach, then back to Bangkok for a final time, south to Kuala Lumpur, and finally returning Tokyo. The name Bangkok means ‘place where Thai olives grow along the river,’ and is what foreigners called the small trading city before it was the capital. At that time, the area was called the Ayutthaya Kingdom and was ruled from Ayatthaya until it fell to the Burmese Kingdom in 1767. King Rama I established Bangkok as the new capital city, building up the other bank of the river and naming it Krung Thep Maha Nakhon—City of Angels. Actually that’s an abbreviation. The full ceremonial name, written in the ancient Indian Sanskrit and Pali languages, translates to: The city of angels, the great city, the eternal jewel city, the impregnable city of the god Indra, the grand capital of the world endowed with nine precious gems, the happy city, abounding in an enormous Royal Palace that resembles the heavenly abode where reigns the reincarnated god, a city given by Indra and built by Vishnukarma. Interestingly, Los Angeles, CA was founded in 1781, right around the same time!The first Rama and the House of Chakri began to rule the Kingdom of Siam in the late 1700s. Their strong leadership is credited with Siam’s distinction as the only Southeast Asian country never to fall under colonial rule. In 1932 the People’s Party, a group of civilians and military officers, ended 150 years of absolute rule with a bloodless revolution and helped establish a constitutional monarchy with an elected legislature. This marks the end of Siam and beginning of Thailand. The Thai people today love their king and queen, honoring them with life-sized photos and paintings all over the city. Then in 2006 a military junta took over and declared martial law. Political unrest has continued, most notably with the deadly April 2010 “Red Shirt” protests. We did not see any red shirts last month, but I think there was an apartment bombing. We saw it on the news from our hotel. But here’s what we did see: thunderstorms rolling toward the mountains across fields of waving palms. Tiny waterways packed with boats and lined with tin-roofed shacks. Men climbing ladders propped against palm trunks. Mango and durian trees heavy with fruit. Rice fields flooded with water reflecting the feathery fronds rimming the borders. Stray dogs snoozing along most streets. Rainwater completely obscuring feeder lanes to the highway. We saw Siamese rooftops jutting up into the clouds across waterlogged fields. Water buffalo grazing in the bushes. Shanty towns in the middle of the city. Flower markets heaped with marigolds. The markets in Chinatown piled high with blue-bellied crabs and lobster claws, dried snakes and sea horses, durian slices and fresh pomegranate juice. We passed tiny boats full of stuff on their way to market, sliding serenely along the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok. We fed catfish and elephants. We saw the Temple of Dawn across the muddy river, rising into the towering cloud bank above. We saw water sloshing inside functioning buildings along the river. But most importantly, we saw each other—and that’s the point of any port call.