I thought it’s about time I share more on our recent Bangkok trip with you guys. We had loads of fun and some of you may benefit from our itinerary, put together by a local, no less! It would also be a good time to showcase the best photos from the trip.
Luis, V, and I took a late afternoon flight on Friday. We stayed on a hotel called Evergreen Place, right in the center of Bangkok. It used to be a service apartment, so each room has a living room, a bedroom, a kitchen, a bathroom, and a balcony. Wait, that’s not a room, that’s a suite! The building and furnitures were old, but they were clean and well maintained. There is a Stadium skytrain station within walking distance, and Siam Square and MBK are just around the corner. In short, it was in the middle of everywhere.
Because we flew there in the late afternoon, we only got there in time for supper. There were a lot of street food vendors outside the alley of the hotel, but we didn’t want to risk it. Our stomachs, after all, are used to food with high hygiene standard in Singapore, and I did pay attention when my ex-colleague Michiel recounted his experience of contracting a severe stomachache in his travel to Indonesia that he had to be hospitalised. For a week. Said he could have died.
So we had Pepper Lunch. For supper. In Bangkok. *sigh*
B, our friend and local guide, picked us up the next morning at the hotel right after we finished our breakfast and we went straight to the Royal Palace complex. On the way, we passed a street which is a close replica of Champs-Elysees in Paris! B said the King of Thailand visited Paris and loved the street so much he ordered it built in Bangkok. I’ve seen the real Champs-Elysees, so it was quite interesting to see it in Bangkok!
Since it was Vesak day, a ceremony was taking place and tourists were not allowed in, so B changed the plan and we went to Wat Arun first instead. Wat Arun was on the other side of the Chao Phraya river, the biggest river making its way through Bangkok. We had to pay a few Baht to cross the river on a small boat. The temple was marvelous on the outside, all carvings and colorful tiles. We could climb up the temple, but it was not easy. B said temples are purposely built that way, because the climb to the heavens is meant to be difficult. We braved it anyway and got as far up as we could.
The next stop was Wat Po. Wat Arun and Wat Po are the temple of the dawn and the temple of the dusk. They’re facing each other on opposite sides of the Chao Phraya. The outside of Wat Po wasn’t as eye-catching as Wat Arun, but as soon as you step into the temple, you would be wowed by the giant status of the reclining Buddha. To see the Buddha from all sides, you have to walk around the perimeter of the temple! The sight was so extraordinary that people generally forget to admire the paintings which covered the entire inner wall of the temple.
We then made our way back to the Royal Palace complex to check out the Emerald Buddha temple. The Buddha at this temple is much smaller. B said the prince of the royal family would come there every season change (Thailand has a long summer, a rainy season, and a brief winter) to change the outfit of the BUddha. Yes, even Buddha wears season-appropriate fashion! It was here that V lost his Nike running shoes. In Bangkok, to enter certain temples people have to leave their shoes outside. According to the officials guarding the area, it was safe to do so, but V’s shoes disappeared! And we were inside for only 10 minutes! V was furious, but there was nothing we could do, so we spent 15 minutes or so looking around in case someone moved them, however unlikely, then accepted the fact that they were clearly stolen and bought a pair of sandals nearby. Believe it or not, the guy owning the store said people lose their shoes in the temple everyday! Buggers! The officials were probably in on the job!
I should also tell you, girls are usually only allowed in temples if they wear appropriate clothings. This means no short skirts or shorts! I was wearing cropped jeans, but they too weren’t allowed in some temples, so I had to rent or buy a sarong. I think this is a blatant money-making scheme, so next time I go to Bangkok, I’ll make sure I bring my own!
By then it was time for lunch. We went to a seafood restaurant nearby, but B complained that they had changed their menu and the quality of the foods had deteriorated. We didn’t really care, we were starving and wolfed down everything we ordered in minutes.
In the afternooon, our itinerary was not less packed. We went to the Vimanmek Mansion, the summer palace built by King Rama the 5th. We had to leave our belongings before entering the mansion, including our cameras and phones, so we didn’t have any photo of the place. Palaces and mansions always have a strange, distant feel about them, remnants of an era long gone. It’s amazing to imagine how the royalties live those days, with such opulence and yet air of restrictions. It’s not a world I would be happy in. King Rama the 5th, for instance, had 400 wives! We saw pictures of some of his wives, wearing what we now perceive as male clothings, with their hair crew-cut. It’s unreal. They’re like people from storybooks.
To enter this mansion, I had to buy a sarong as they did not rent any, so I chose a bright-colored one which I liked and wouldn’t mind using in future occasions. This is me and B in our sarongs, posing while having traditional corn-flavored popsicles. We have the same in Singapore called ice potong (cut ice, literally).
B took us to Arts of the Kingdom next. It’s like a museum housing the most valuable artworks commissioned by the Royal Family. Again, no photography was allowed here and girls must wear dresses (or sarongs). Armed with audio guided tour sets, we spent about 1 hour looking at the most exquisite screens constructed from shimmery green beetle wings, palanquins of gold carvings, magnificent wood carvings and silk embroidery, intricate table settings used by the Royal Family, and more! What’s more unbelievable was the fact that all of those were made by farmers and villagefolks. They were trained and paid to produce the artworks as part of the initiatives of the Royal Family to help and provide to the poor.
Dinner was seafood in Chinatown, and it was easily the best meal we had in Bangkok. Trust a local to pick a place and order for you! Stay tuned for day 2 and 3!