Wat Arun from the river
I arrived into BKK late the previous night and was suprised how easy it was to make it to my hostel. I'd originally planned to take the Skytrain then walk to the hostel but it'd been such a long day that all I wanted to do was crawl into bed so opted for a taxi instead. Rather than stay on the ubiquitos Kho San road I'd plumped for a new hostel called Lub*d in Silom (it's Thai for a good nights sleep apparently) and I was pleasantly suprised when I arrived as it's a really cool and funky hostel, the likes of which I'd expect to see somewhere in Europe or Australia maybe. I was too tired to be too overwhealmed and after sweating my way up four flights of stairs I said hi to my new roomies then passed out.
I'd last been to Thailand 5 years ago as part of my last round the world trip but it had only been for a few weeks and my itinerary here had been somewhat dictated by my boyfriend at the time, and as it just so happens he hated Bangkok
with a passion so I never saw it for more than a few hours, I was hoping to rectify this on this trip.
Entering the Royal Palace
I only wanted to spend a day here initially as I was planning to end my trip with more time in Bangkok at the end, so plumped for a day exploring the best of Bangkok's Wats and the Royal Palace. After fuelling up on breakfast at the hostel I then asked one of the staff the best way to get to the river to catch the ferry, she advised me the quickest way was to jump on the Skytrain which wasn't too far away or I could walk it in 15-20 minutes. I'd initially favoured the walk but soon enough the humidity was making me crave a nice air conditioned carriage so I decided to check out the Skytrain which proved to be a simple and effective way of getting down to Central Pier. When I arrived there I had a few touts try and push their river cruises but after I politely declined they left me alone and even pointed me in the direct of where to buy tickets for the Chao Praya Express Ferry.
I'd timed it right as I had just enough time to get a ticket and jump on one that was leaving. Although its labelled as a tourist boat there did seem to be a few Thai people using it. I ended up using river transport for the vast majority of the day and have to say I really enjoyed it as a mode of transport and as a means of getting to see any sights located on the river it's a cheap and effecient way to get around if the Bangkok traffic is snarled up. I'd been in two minds whether to bother with Wat Arun but as soon as we passed it on the ferry I knew I was definitely going.
After leaving the ferry at Tha Chang I head towards the old royal district of Ko Ratanakosin home to Wat Phra Kaew and the Royal Palace. I'd come prepared for the modest dress code required; Thai fishermans pants and a light cardi to cover my shoulders and my trainers as I'd also read that closed shoes were preferred (flipflops would have been ok I found out later), and I went into one of the entrance buildings where you can rent appropriate clothing for inspection.
I thought I'd ticked all the boxes when the guard asked me to drop my trousers, by which he ment get them to sit as low on my waist as possible so that they covered more of my calves. Inspection passed I picked up my ticket and decided to head in the opposite direction to everyone else and head for Wat Phra Kaew. I nearly almost gasped outloud when I passed into the main courtyard at the dazzling array of colour, what a photograhers wet dream! It was a good job I'd backed up and subsequently emptied my memory card as I was off like a Japanese tourist. I'd forgotten how simply stunning Thai temples are, in the case of this one I marvelled at the giant pairs of mythical giants guarding the temple, the gold leaf coveted chendi, the beautifully restored murals, mythical creatures a-go-go and of course the piece de resistance, the Emerald Buddha (it's actually made from Jade but close enough).
I almost missed it and had to go back inside the temple again as it sits high atop a gold altar which helps it to blend in with all of the other gold and other gilded decorations. After my mind had done enough boggling I left the temple complex to explore the grounds of the Royal Palace (also known as the Chakri group of buildings) and surrounding buildings, namely the Phra Maha Monthian group and the Dusit groups of buildings, all of which were still highly impressive in their own right. Although these two highly decorative groups of buildings made the somewhat less decorated palace seem quite austre in comparison. There were a few museum housed inside these buildings that I could have visited but none of them interested me a great deal so I headed off to go and check out the Amulet market.
Tales of Buddha
Along the way I dipped into one of the side streets called Trok Tak Wang, a narrow alleyway that seems in a works of it's own. You walk along boardwalks and see children playing or sitting on the steps as washing hangs overhead and the necessities of daylife play out as you walk past, often catching glimpses into peoples houses as they leave doors and windows open for ventilation.
After returning to the main drag I made it to the Amulet Market, I was overly impressed by it so didn't really linger too long there. The random stalls selling false teeth did catch my eye so maybe I'll go back and try and sneak a photo when I return.
I'd wanted to visit Wat Pho
before lunch but my stomach had other ideas and I knew I'd only rush through it if I didn't eat first; I'd already read up on a good place nearby called Rub Aroon in a restored shophouse where I got my first reaquaintance with Pat Thai, although the food and the service were good I can't say too much for the friendliness of the staff as they seemed a bit dower.
Restoration work in progress at Wat Phra Kaew
With the grumblings quiet I headed over the road to Wat Pho, I wasn't sure if I'd still feel the wow factor after being so blown away earlier but as this was home to something I'd wanted to see for a long time, the Reclining Buddha, I expected big things and big I got, both in size and the impression made. I think this was my favourite of the temples I visited as the 46m long Reclining Budda would have sealed it for me on it's own. Then there's also the sitting and standing Buddhas in the complex as well, add that to the fact that there are far less people around that at the Royal Palace and you can actually find your inner Zen, that said one photo of the reclining Buddha required some serious patience as you had to time it to perfection to avoid people walking infront of the shot.
I almost forgot to mention that the Reclining Buddha is a staggering 15m high and the soles of it's feet are beautifully inlaid with mother of pearl, in fact the building it's housed in feels too small for the Buddhas size and you almost expect it to stand up and break through the roof like Alice in Wonderland. After a couple of laps to make sure I hadn't missed anything and that I'd photographed it to death i headed back down to the river to Tha Tien and took a 3bt(!!!) ferry to visit Wat Arun on the otherside of the river. Wat Arun is also known as Temple of The Dawn as it is named after the Indian god of dawn Aruna. Although not as brightly coloured as the previous Wats I'd seen that day it still was impressive in it's own right from it's sheet scale as well as the decorative figures that adorned it and I was glad I hadn't missed it out.
I'd also intended to try and fit in a visit to the Golden Mount but I was done for the day and decided I'd go when I got back. It took a while for a public ferry to arrive heading in the direction I needed and when one did finally arrive it gave a whole new meaning to sardines in a can, I didn't mind it though as I liked the experience of rush hour Thai style, beats the Tube in London anyday!
I was definitely taking the train back as I was pretty tired by now and after getting disorientated on leaving the station when I got off (I had to ask directions to get me back on track), I made it back to the hostel and crashed out waiting for the girls to arrive to see if they wanted to get dinner. Maggie had already eaten across the street so I went out with Erica when she got back.
Window detail - Wat Phra Kaew
We'd planned to try somwhere a few streets away but by now the heavens had opened so we just ended up at the same place Maggie had been, which as it turned out did a mean Tom Yum soup.
I'd really enjoyed my first day in Bangkok from the hostel, the places I'd visited, how easy it was to get around and how hassle free it was to the food I'd tried and the people I'd met. I couldn't for the life of me workout why my ex had hated it so much, although in his defence I've read Bangkok has undergone some quite drastic improvements in the last five years. Oh well I loved it and I can't wait to experience again at the end of my trip. Sukhothai beckons tomorrow!
Bangkok Sights & Attractions review
Sightseeing in Thailand's Capital
I didn't know what to expect when I visited Bangkok after some friends had given it such a bad rap when they'd visited 5 years ago, I get the feeling … read entire review