Day 2: Bangkok
Bangkok Travel Blog› entry 4 of 7 › view all entries
August 26th, 2006 – by: janeroehrig
Today we received another very nice surprise from our hotel: a beautiful heart made of roses!
We decided to take a water taxi (which is more like a bus) to visit Rat something-or-other, which is the area around the palace and Wat Pho. The water taxi is cool and refreshing and costs about 15 Baht (50 cents). I could ride it all day long!
Sidenote: The weather here is stifling. It is super hot and humid. We can't believed that we lived in Houston for 5 years, but I guess we got used to it. We sure can't seem to get used to it here.
We stopped at a market on the way to the palace for some spicy beef. Mark advised us that it is safe to eat off the street vendors. And the vendor's food is delicious and very inexpensive. An entire plate of spiey beef with Thai peppers, onions, vegetables costs about 25 cents.
On the way to the palace, we were stopped by 4 or 5 people who told us that the palace was closed. I had read in a guide book that this is a scam. I read that a man may try to stop you from visiting the palace and then take you some place to shop where you will be over charged for jewelry or silk clothing.
When we got to the palace, a man in uniform stopped us and told us that the palace was closed for a special ceremony and would not reopen for 3 more hours. I told Chuck I thought this was the scam but the guy was standing right there at the gate and he was wearing a uniform! Many tourists turned away or got into taxis with plans to return later.
The funniest part of this is that the "guard" was standing right beside a sign that said: "The Palace is open daily from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Do not believe people who tell you it is closed."
So, we "tourists" began to consult our guide book. Talk about a dead giveaway! The "guard" circled a few other Wats on our map and told us that we could trust a tuk-tuk driver who was also wearing an official shirt and badge. Of course, the "guard" found us a tuk-tuk driver almost immediately and Mr. Tuk-Tuk told us that he would take us the the Wat of the Golden Dome and to a few other miner Wats for 40 Baht (about a dollar) and that he would have us back at the Palace by 2 p.m. when it re-opened.
Manny, our tuk-tuk guy, zoomed in and out of traffic and nearly got us killed several times but he seemed to know what he was doing.
We hiked to the top of the Wat and took many pictures of the amazing view of the city. (pics to follow when I find a computer with USB)
When we returned to Manny and his tuk-tuk, he pointed to two more Wats and told us again to take our time. One of the Wats was on our list of things to see--the Marble Buddha, so we took advantage of his advice and went to take a look.
When we entered the temple, a man approached us and asked us to sit on the floor and talk to him while he waited for his girlfriend. He told us that he worked for the World Bank and that he just returned from Washington DC. He said that he was also in China talking about inflating the value of the Yuan.
So of course, we asked Manny to take us to the lapidary to see these amazing gemstones at bargain prices. Once we arrived, the "manager" began showing us his jewelry and his sales pitch sounded surprisingly just like the guy we met in the temple. He told us he exported to Tiffany's, that gold was such a great investment, etc. etc. Can you say "sucker?" Of course, we caught on and didn't buy anything.
Unfortunately, we were now prisoners on the tuk-tuk with Manny. He zoomed us off to a silk factory and then begged us to go to one more jewelry story for "10 minutes. Pleeeaaseee." He showed us "vouchers" he accumulated from the various vendors that he could redeem for cash from the "guard" at the palace. We offered to pay him, but since we had no idea where we even were, we went along with him and told him that we would spend 10 minutes only in the next store and that if he didn't take us to the palace, we wouldn't give him a dime. So off we went.
We finally arrived at the palace, which, of course, had been open all along.
The palace was amazing. It was very ornate and was an example of traditional Thai architecture. On the palace gounds is the Wat containing the famous emerald Buddha, which is really made of jade and not of emerald.
We read in a guidebook that there is only 1/2 meter park space/person in Bangkok. What we did not read, however, is that there is probably 150 meters Wat per person. Wat's are EVERYWHERE and they are beautiful.
Unfortunately, in Bangkok at least, you need to "dress appropriately," which means that Chuck needed to wear long pants and I had to wear a sweater. So here we are in 100 plus degree heat in long sleeves wondering around from one Wat to another.
After a quick shower (almost pointless in this heat and humidity), we took a boat from our hotel and went to the Shanghai hotel for a great traditional Thai dinner, right on the river!
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