Bangkok

Bangkok Travel Blog

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Cindy is happy eating Tod Mun on the Chao Pryha river

Well we ended up spending the next four days in Bangkok which is an incredible city filled with strange smells, noises and sights.  I hadn't been here in over twenty years and as much as things have changed, some remain the same with an incredibly chaotic mix of everything from uber-chic high-rise hotels to riverside huts in squalor and anything in between.

8/23/06

The first morning we decided to take the boat across the river and wander around a bit before going to the Lao embassy to get a visa.  After walking through alleys and eventually making it to the BTS to take the Sky Train out towards the Laotian embassy, we ended up meeting a man who worked at the BTS and struck up a conversation.

Street Vendor selling flowers in Bangkok
  He ended up "helping" us out (in quotes because on occasion, it is questionable whether help is help or mis-direction here) and waited with us in the pouring rain to get a tuk-tuk (a sort of motorcycle taxi contraption so named because of the noisy two-stroke engine and the sound it makes) to the TAT office where we could more easily get our Lao visas.  The ride was somewhat harrowing in the rain with nine gazillion scooters zooming around us but we made it and paid our money to get the visa.

That night we had cocktails on the Executive floor (so those of you who know me, this is why I go out of the way to remain a HHonors Diamond - basically they kiss my ass :-D including lots of nice rooms and free cocktails) and met this hilarious kid Tong who, for a Thai guy just finishing college, is way to western but pretty funny.  He ended up chatting with us for quite a while and kept plying us with cocktails to continue the conversation. 

Wanting to get out into Bangkok rather than sit in the hotel, we headed out and grabbed a cab for a nice riverside dinner at a seafood restaurant including Som Tam (one of my favorite Thai salads of chopped green papaya, dried shrimp, peanuts and a lime based fish sauce ��" yum), Tod Mun which are sort of a fish/shrimp type fritter with a tasty sweet/spicy sauce) and then a whole barbecued fish with the requisite Singha beers).

Bangkok Grand Palace
  Pretty tasty!

We strolled home through the warm, busy night past food vendors and night markets and passed out in our short lived luxury at the Hilton.

8/24/06

The next day was the day to go visit the Grand Palace and so we hopped on the river boat and headed north.  The Chao Phyrha is not the prettiest of rivers, actually it is brown and muddy, but life teems alongside of it with the bizarre mix of gorgeous Wats (temples), crazy speeding long boats, barges, shanties, etc. and it is always an entertaining way to try to cool down from the heat (yes it is hot and humid here!).

New!  this should launch in a separate window but if it doesn't hit back after viewing the video.

Bangkok Grand Palace Temple Guardian Closeup

Cruising down the Chao Phrya River in Bangkok

We started walking to the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Khaew and were stopped by a pseudo-traffic/parking looking guy who started rambling on and on about how the Palace was closed until 2:00 p.m. today and we should take a tuk-tuk to see some other sites (he gets a commission for this somehow).  Luckily, we knew about this practice and wandered off towards the Palace, getting barraged by multiple touts offering guide services, telling us the Palace was closed and generally trying to confuse things.  The best thing to do is ignore it all with a smile and show up at the gates - if someone with a rifle tells you it is closed, then perhaps you might want to believe them ;-).

The Palace was indeed open and it is a very impressive tour on huge, beautiful grounds.

Naga heads at the Bangkok Grand Palace
We ended up renting the Audio Guides which actually were pretty helpful in describing a lot of the buildings and ceremonies and stuff. The whole place is covered with very ornate Stupas covered in gold and encrusted with mosaics made of mirrors and brightly colored stones. One of the highlights is the Emerald Buddha which is actually carved of Jasper and has been all over Thailand and Laos.  At one point, it was supposed to be hidden in a stucco statue then broken open after invaders were gone.

After the Palace we walked to Wat Pho which houses The "Reclining Buddha" - a massive statue with a huge golden head and feet inlaid with mother of pearl. To give you an idea of the scale, the Buddha is about 150 feet long and 50 feet tall! The grounds at Wat Pho are very pretty too so we walked around for quite a while.

Next stop was Wat Arun, the temple of the dawn on the other side of the river.

Temple Guardians holding up the Stupa at the Bangkok Grand Palace
Wat Arun is really impressive (I remember liking it last time too) with very geometric spires covered in mosaics actually made from old Chinese plates and tiles, apparently leftovers and ballast from merchant ships. It was hot as hell but enjoyable nevertheless.

After a rest, we thought we would try out the relatively new BTS metro which was fast, nice and clean. We made it to our stop and managed to actually find the major street we were looking for without getting killed by traffic, not bad for the first full day in Bangkok. Even more surpassingly, we were able to find the Soi (a Soi is basically an alley) we were looking for....incredible considering our luck and relatively poor senses of direction!

We proudly strolled down the Soi looking for the Le Lys restaurant run by a Thai woman and her French husband only to discover the sign that they had moved - see the pic below. Friggin figures - the first time we ever easily found our destination and it decided to move :-(

We ended up settling for a small place with reasonably good food where we thought the girls appeared to be ''working" in more ways than one.

Temple Guardian at the Bangkok Grand Palace

8/25/06

Guess we should have taken Ambien once more - we both were wide awake around 4:00am (which for those of you in California is 2:00 pm) and couldn't fall asleep to save our lives so we got up for an early breakfast and headed out to do an MP3 based walking tour we found on the Internet at www.travelfish.org which is a great travel site focusing on Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.

The tour was of some of Bangkok's lesser known sites including Wat Mahan, the Tiger God Shrine and surrounding neighborhoods, Wat Suthat, the Giant Swing and Democracy Monument.

Temple Demon Closeup - I love these guys

I had listened to just a bit of the stuff at home and heard directions like "walk west from Wat Mahan" so we both bought little compasses at home, but unfortunately, it was so hot the day before that the glue holding them on to their clips melted so we lost them both - back to our bad senses of direction. Once we kindly dismissed the supposed History teacher who informed us that Wat Mahan was "closed until 2:00pm but he knew someplace to take us" we got oriented (ha ha! oriented in the orient - Honey is that derogatory?) and walked to Wat Mahan.

Wat Mahan is a really nice, un-touristed temple and we were the only non-locals there, quite a contrast from Wat Phra Kaew. Outside the temple are a large number of plastic buckets filled with foods and toiletries that are offerings for monks. Inside were a large Buddha and several monks blessing the devout and a cool money tree made from folded up 20 and 40 bills.

The Tiger God Temple is in a very old Chinese neighborhood with very colorful and ornate dragon carvings.

Bangkok Grand Palace Temple Guardians
Inside is a typical Chinese temple with dark wood, colorful carvings and so much burning incense smoke that they have two large fans blowing the smoke out through holes in the ceiling.

The next few stops were through a quaint old neighborhood and past an old wood palace, now a school. There is actually a wealthy man in the area that collects Austin Healeys and other old cars and we saw several vintage mini coopers on the street. Around the corner is an entire street of shops selling monk's accessories, as well as tons of Buddha's of various sizes wrapped in Saran wrap to protect them from the traffic fumes.

Wat Suthat is another large complex with very ornate and beautiful carved doors and the largest bronze Buddha in Thailand. The wall paintings were very pretty too and I liked the elephant mosaics on the roof a lot.

The Giant Swing is a tall, red, wooden monument that has roots in India - something about Brahma swinging down to earth.

The giant Sleeping Buddah at Wat Pho
Apparently there used to be a ceremony where teams of four men would push the swing with a bag of 1-12 coins in it while one of their team tried to bite the bag of coins. Unfortunately, many men were killed doing this - perhaps that's where the term "biting it" comes from...seems like a heavy price to pay for roughly 35 cents!

By the time we got to the Democracy Monument it was very hot, we were sweaty and traffic was bad, so we gave it a quick look and then walked to Khao San Road, home of the budget traveler in Bangkok. This is the area I stayed in years ago and today is a crowded, touristy place with to many pierced travelers and too much noise (do I sound old?). We hopped in a cab with the funniest old cabbie who decided that I speak Thai (maybe 10 words) and spent the next 20 minutes telling us the cost to take a cab from Bangkok to about every beach city in Thailand.

Not wanting to give up easily, after a brutal three mile, one hour taxi ride to pick up our Laotian visas, we navigated our way to the supposed new location of the Le Lys restaurant and turned with trepidation onto Soi 7 and there it was!

We walked in and were sort of greeted by a French man, presumably the owner.

Stupa spires at Wat Pho in Bangkok
We all know how well I get on with the French, and he did somewhat have the requisite arrogance, but we settled in for an excellent meal. We started with....well Singha Beer of course... two appetizers, a spicy, lemon grass salad with little deep fried fish and a ground pork and tomato dip with vegetables. For the main course we had a pork and Acacia leave curry (one of their specialties) and stuffed squid in tamarind. Full, content and proud that we actually finally found the restaurant, we walked home to our last night of luxury.

8/26/06

So we changed plans and decided to take the seven hour bus to Sukothai today. I am sitting here writing this on my HP iPAQ (which is doing a pretty awesome job of recognizing my handwriting, especially considering how bumpy this road is) listening to Audioslave, Pink Floyd and the Violent Femmes (weird mix I know).

Riverside Dock and longboat on the Chao Phrya River

Earlier today, Cindy had a one hour foot massage while I went to an Internet cafe to start the travel blog and check email before heading to the bus terminal. It took a while to figure out that you had to buy food tickets to pay for lunch instead of just paying the vendor. The bus is reasonably comfy and has at least weak AC and we should be there in 90 minutes.  We found a nice looking place recommended by the Travelfish site called Lotus Village so we shall see, update in tomorrow's entry.

loa kawn!

Danaviking says:
Really great pictures! Love the colours!
Posted on: Feb 21, 2007
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Cindy is happy eating Tod Mun on t…
Cindy is happy eating Tod Mun on …
Street Vendor selling flowers in B…
Street Vendor selling flowers in …
Bangkok Grand Palace
Bangkok Grand Palace
Bangkok Grand Palace Temple Guardi…
Bangkok Grand Palace Temple Guard…
Naga heads at the Bangkok Grand Pa…
Naga heads at the Bangkok Grand P…
Temple Guardians holding up the St…
Temple Guardians holding up the S…
Temple Guardian at the Bangkok Gra…
Temple Guardian at the Bangkok Gr…
Temple Demon Closeup - I love thes…
Temple Demon Closeup - I love the…
Bangkok Grand Palace Temple Guardi…
Bangkok Grand Palace Temple Guard…
The giant Sleeping Buddah at Wat P…
The giant Sleeping Buddah at Wat …
Stupa spires at Wat Pho in Bangkok
Stupa spires at Wat Pho in Bangkok
Riverside Dock and longboat on the…
Riverside Dock and longboat on th…
Wat Arun - Temple of the Dawn
Wat Arun - Temple of the Dawn
Another view of Wat Arun
Another view of Wat Arun
Temple Demon holding up Wat Arun
Temple Demon holding up Wat Arun
Bells at Wat Arun
Bells at Wat Arun
Colorful longboat on the Chao Phyr…
Colorful longboat on the Chao Phy…
Monks Accessory Shop with the pai…
Monk's Accessory Shop with the pa…
This is the famous Le Lys sign tha…
This is the famous Le Lys sign th…
Yummy appetizers and Singha Beer a…
Yummy appetizers and Singha Beer …
Bangkok Restaurants, Cafes & Food review
Le Lys is the restaurant that we unsuccessfully searched for at their old location before finally finding it another night.  It is owned by a cou… read entire review
Bangkok Hotels & Accommodations review
Bangkok Millenium Hilton
OK so it is probably beyond most people’s budgets (unless of course you are a lucky Hilton Diamond member like me and can use points J), but this is… read entire review
Bangkok
photo by: Deats