Love/hate

Bangkok Travel Blog

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Wat Arun
Bangkok: big, noisy, polluted, sweaty, touristy pain in the arse. I have a love-hate relationship with the place that I don't think is unusual. As the train pulled into Hualumphong Station it was love. I hadn't felt so excited to arrive anywhere since I first landed in Asia. Left my backpack in left luggage and set off into the city. Made an abortive attempt to get a Cambodian visa (the embassy had moved); paid a quick visit to a striking  Hindu temple called Sri Mariamman, and walked through semi-familiar territory towards the river. Skirting the Red Light area a few massage touts pestered me, tempting me with full frontal business cards. Classy. All around were shops with no Thai script on them anywhere: Boots, Subway, 7-Eleven; massage parlours, 'English' pubs and beauty salons.
Bangkok from the river
I didn't stop.

A tourist boat - complete with annoying commentary - took me upriver to Soi Rambutri, where I found myself a dingy twin room that would do for a couple of days. After a shower and a leisurely lunch I walked out to Wat Intharawihan, the first temple I'd visited when I was first in the city. I'd left my map in my room and the place took some finding. Didn't do a lot else with my day.

The next morning I set out to visit the Jade Buddha. Finally: I'd missed him the first time and it hadn't bothered me all that much but I'd been to so many of his former homes by now I felt I had to go and have a look. I was going to walk from the backpacker ghetto to the Royal Palace but muscle memory took me to the boat pier, so I got a boat. Zipping up and down the river on a thirteen Baht ticket might be my abiding memory of Bangkok: it's not an attractive city by any stretch, but from the water you could convince yourself otherwise.
The 32m Buddha at Wat Intharawihan - first temple I visited in Asia


Somehow I got off at the wrong stop for the Buddha palace; I found myself at the dock for the cross-river ferry to Wat Arun, so I crossed the river. It was yet another wat but a fairly impressive one as these things go. A class of schoolkids in their ridiculous uniforms hung around practicing English, asking foreigners to write their names in their exercise books. Indulged a couple of them, then got a boat back across the river, and bought my ticket to see the Buddha.

High up on a dais he sits, looking down at the worshippers (and tourists) below. He's only a couple of feet tall, dressed in clothes that are personally changed by the king three times a year. Only his green face is visible under these garments. His throne is ornate, but that doesn't cover it: imagine 'ornate' and multiply by ten. Ten times more gold, ten times more silk, ten times more precious stones. The chapel is packed and you can't take photos. He was a disappointment, but one I wouldn't have missed. Not everything can live up to its billing.

Walked through the streets of Bangkok to the station, picked up my backpack from left luggage, and got the bus to Soi Rambutri. Using public transport in Asia made me feel like a pro.
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Wat Arun
Wat Arun
Bangkok from the river
Bangkok from the river
The 32m Buddha at Wat Intharawihan…
The 32m Buddha at Wat Intharawiha…
A monk attends to the huge statue
A monk attends to the huge statue
Outside the chapel of the Emerald …
Outside the chapel of the Emerald…
Bangkok
photo by: Deats