We decided we couldn’t go all the way to Thailand without spending some time in Bangkok. We only had one full day so the night before, with the help of Tripomatic, we planned our route that would take in several of the “must see” sights plus some other interesting locations along the route…
We started off early with a taxi ride out to the start of our planned itinerary, the Marble Temple. Being early it was fairly quiet and it was nice to sit for a few minutes listening to the prayers.
We walked from the Marble Temple to the popular backpackers haunt, Khao San Road. It felt like a very long walk as the temperature was rising (we saw 38°C on one sign) and we were dressed in appropriate attire for temple visiting, i.e. long trousers, covered shoulders and feet.
Khao San Road is basically a road (doh!) selling all sorts of cheap rubbish including any form of ID you care to illegally buy. Anyone fancy a FBI pass, degree certificate, or UK driving license? This is not a destination in itself, but at least it gave us somewhere to stop for a cold drink and to people-watch on route to the Grand Palace…
The Grand Palace
We had contemplated getting a Tuk Tuk to the Grand Palace, but every driver we spoke to said the Grand Palace was shut until 2PM because of daily prayers. We’d heard that this was a popular scam to encourage you to accept their offers to visit several other venues (at extra cost) before eventually making it to the palace. So we ignored them and decided to continue our walk.
Entrance to the Grand Palace is quite expensive by Thai standards, ฿500 each, and the clothes police stop anyone going in who are not appropriately attired. Fortunately for un-prepared tourists you can easily hire, from typically entrepreneurial Thais, colourful long trousers or sarongs at the entrance.
The Grand Palace is amazing, well worth the entrance fee! The mosaics covering every inch of the buildings are so bright and colourful. The mind boggles at how many millions of man-hours of work were required to construct and maintain it all.
Being Bangkok’s most popular destination it is very busy, but not difficult to explore as the complex is massive and well spread out allowing one to simply move from one area to the next with the help of the complimentary map/guide.
Photography inside the buildings housing a few of the key artefacts, including the Emerald Buddha, is strictly forbidden. One of the guards thought I’d sneaked a few shots and asked to check my camera on the way out! Thankfully, for once, I’d followed the rules and I didn’t get thrown in jail…
After the Grand Palace we walked along to the river to check out the busy river traffic. This is another popular tourist destination, there were plenty of trips along the river and canals but we didn’t really have time for these, plus we’d done the long-tail boat thing already at Railay. Of course we found time for lunch and some of Thailand’s famous street-food…
Hot on the heels of Obama and Clinton, who visited less than two months ago, our next stop was Wat Pho. Wat Pho is a very short walk down the river from the Grand Palace.
Where the Grand Palace’s walls were covered in brightly coloured mosaics of mirrors and gold, Wat Pho’s walls were mainly covered in flowers and colourful tiles. But like the Marble Temple and the Grand Palace there were lots and lots of images of Buddha to see, including the massive 50 metre long Reclining Buddha…
There were many many more likenesses of the Buddha. (I can certainly report that it is possible to see too many Buddhas in one day! Without any exaggeration, we must have seen thousands upon thousands of the crossed legged fella during our day!)
After all that we were very hot and sweaty, knackered with sore feet, and in dire need of some relaxation back at our hotel. Having passed on a ride on a Tuk Tuk earlier we decided to take one back to the hotel for the full Bangkok travel experience…
The Tuk Tuk was initially great fun diving in out out of the lines of traffic. The driver was going to considerable effort to slow down and point out all the sights we passed, or he diverted to specifically pass, luckily we’d agreed a fixed price for the journey so these diversions were simply added interest. He even managed to get a little lost while taking a short-cut through a hospital, this was rapidly remedied with a tight u-turn. On our journey we saw shops selling twelve feet tall Buddhas, more temples, Tuk Tuk repair shops, long-tail boat engine shops, an undertakers (!?) with very ornate coffins on display, and loads more! However, when we got near the commercial heart of Bangkok, where our hotel was, we hit long lines of static traffic. Being low down in an open vehicle in a carbon monoxide atmosphere was not a pleasant place to be.
Our recommendation is to use a Tuk Tuk for nipping between tourist destinations, but to avoid them for travelling longer distances.
There are a few other things we’d have liked to have seen in Bangkok, such as the floating market, but we’d certainly seen enough images of Buddha to last a lifetime! (At least this lifetime.) Bangkok is an amazing vibrant city, well worth the effort!
Series - Thailand
- Climbing in Railay, Thailand