What wat is wat?

Bangkok Travel Blog

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Busy street corners

We decided to stay in Bangkok for 3 more days as we couldn't get a cheap flight to Hong Kong for another 2 weeks and there are still things we wanted to see. It has really taken this last week just to get a bit more used to it. It's very hard to describe and the photos cannot convey the intense heat, humidity, smell and sounds of Bangkok. It is so busy and we have had to get used to being quite forceful when touts and drivers grab your arm and try to get you to go with them.

 

Where we are staying is quite a walk from some of the places we wanted to see so we decided to try out the river taxi.

River boating, Bangkok style
I was impressed that I managed to find out where it stops and we made our way through a ramshackle part to get to the 'pier'. Our river taxi looked abit like a barge with it's top cut off and you had to hop over the side and mind your head and you got in. Lisa unfortunatly got paranoid about losing her flipflop and tripped, landing in the lap of an unsuspecting Thai man! The canal is narrow and very very dirty, the water was splashing up all over the side, so some plastic had been tacked up to prevent passengers from getting too wet. We knew where we wanted to get off but didn't know how we would know when we got there, but were actually not given a choice as it seemed to terminate and everyone got off, including us (and I discovered that I can't do these things gracefully and FELL off). We had no idea where we were on the map, and a woman who came over to help us tried to get us in a tuktuk (of course) so we were lost and once again, who do you trust? Luckily we found a friendly 7/11 shop and asked behind the counter! We were nowhere near where we wanted to be but found the right road and walked down.
River houses, with ornate temples just behind

 

Near where the boat stopped is the Golden Mount, a manmade mount with a giant golden pagoda on the top. Inside are many old Buddhist relics, statues of the Buddha himself and flowers and dragons. The main reason for us going up was for the roof which you could walk out onto with the giant pagoda on it, looking out over the city. It was a very strange view, a mix of shacks down towards the canals, with beautiful, ornate temple roofs interspersed. We couldn't help but wonder about how the money is distributed if many people are not living in houses, but the temples are all covered with gold.  The Golden Mount is housed in the grounds of Wat Saket, a large temple encircled by Buddhas. The temple is very ornate, and we sat outside in the grounds for ages enjoying the quiet tranquility.

Loha Prasit - the metal castle

 

Just across from the Golden Mount is Loha Prasat or the Metal Castle, whose spires are made entirely of metal. This is the only castle of it's type in the world. As we approached we saw that we had arrived at the same time as over 100 school children so spent a little time outside waiting for it to be quieter. We have noticed in Bangkok that there are hundreds of stray cats and dogs, largely ignored by everyone. A couple of times cats have come up to us while we have been eating and it has been very hard not to stroke them, they have this way of looking at you! We haven't had rabies jabs so even being licked could be problematic, but it is difficult. Outside the Loha Prasat were about 15 cats/kittens of different sizes and in various states of disrepair. The people running the food stand outside were putting down huge bowls of rice for them to eat which I suppose is why they were congregating there.

Once we got inside we walked around, it was abit of a maze, finding Buddhas at every intersection. In one corner was a Buddha who was on a hollow stand which was slightly raised off it's plinth. We saw something round the back and when we investigated we saw 3 kitten, no more than 1 month old sheltering. They looked quite ill and were very nervous, one had most of it's tail missing already. It was very sad.

 

The top of the castle gave good views again across the city, the black spires contrasting against the colourful roofs of the temples surrounding it. As we left the area and went back outside we met another English girl which was very nice! It was such a relief to talk to someone else who understood, as we haven't seen that many other English people around.

Flower seller at the market

 

On Saturday we went to Chatuchak Market, the biggest market in Bangkok. I have honestly  have never seen a market like it in my life, we walked for over 4 hours and didn't see it all. The most distressing part of the market was the animal section where baby rabbits, kittens and puppies were sold in terrible circumstances. Some stalls were not so bad, with fans and water bottles, but some had such young animals that their eyes were still closed and they couldn't walk, it was terrible. We had to turn a blind eye in the end, there really was nothing we could do.  The market was so huge however that there was something for everyone. We bought a few souveniers and enjoyed the majority of the stalls with art, crafts, clothes, flowers, silks, so many things!

 

Again we found some English speakers and had a few (too many) beers with them.

The Grand Palace
It was really nice to hear that it's not just us finding it hard! They reiterated what we had been saying to each other, that no one ever mentions the 'not so fun' parts, and if they do it's as part of an amusing anecdote. All of them were ill in some way or another, one guy had even had dysentry...... Oh we're gonna have fun.

 

One day left and we still hadn't gone to the 2 main temples. We started off at the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew, otherwise known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. I had thought that I was quite conservatively dressed with ¾ length trousers and a white shirt, but apparantly my trousers were still too short and I had to go to the 'dressing room' and borrow one of their many sarongs. Luckily they weren't too bad, some people had to borrow trousers and shirts which were very odd colours and shapes! Once we got through the gates we were completely taken aback by the spectacle.

Crazy gold covered walls
Everywhere you looked there were buildings, columns, statues all tiled the most amazing colours, in fact it was so much that it almost lookd like a theme park! The mosiac work was on walls, doors, columns, roofs, it all appread to shine as a lot of it was also mirrored. It was very busy but we managed to find a quiet spot  to sit round the side of one of the halls where we coud enjoy the view without 101 other people barging us. Wat Phra Kaew is a shrine to the Emerald Buddha, the most revered in Thailand. The Emerald Buddha is encased high up with extremely ornate gold surrounds, the whole of the wall is covered with other Buddha figures and general 'goldness', there was a small area at the front for monks and the rest of the floor space was for the public. Quite a few people had come to pray, but there were obviously a fair few tourists too. The actual Emerald Buddha (which is actually jade) was pretty small and in a glass box with lights on it, I think you possibly have to be a Buddhist to fully appreciate it's significance.
Big Buddha!

 

Nearby Wat Pho is home to the 'reclining Buddha' or as every tuktuk driver called it 'big Buddha'. It houses an enormous buddha, 46m long and 15m high, reclining to illustrate his final enlightenment. It really was huge, quite a sight! The building it was housed in didn't have room for anything other than the Buddha but there was a normal temple next to it, the oldest and largest temple in Bangkok. Again the buildings were more ornate than anything I've ever seen, they are incredible.

 

So that was Bangkok. Absolutely the craziest, smelliest, hottest, most unforgiving place I have ever been.

Scary bearded man, no jokes please

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Busy street corners
Busy street corners
River boating, Bangkok style
River boating, Bangkok style
River houses, with ornate temples …
River houses, with ornate temples…
Loha Prasit - the metal castle
Loha Prasit - the metal castle
Flower seller at the market
Flower seller at the market
The Grand Palace
The Grand Palace
Crazy gold covered walls
Crazy gold covered walls
Big Buddha!
Big Buddha!
Scary bearded man, no jokes please
Scary bearded man, no jokes please
Bangkok
photo by: Deats