15.01.2013 - 15.01.2013 34 °C
Today we had a plan to see some of the main sights in Bangkok. We didn’t have much of a walk yesterday as we were just too tired from Sundays mega journey. For breakfast we went to a small café round the corner that specialises in Roti’s and other Indian style dishes. We had a Murtabak, a pastry type parcel stuffed with whatever filling you choose, we had spicy chicken.
Our main plan was to see the Grand Palace and the Emerald Buddha, probably the top sight in Bangkok. The first sight we had of the palace was from the other side of a small park that we walked through on our way. The first thing you notice is the golden chedi of Wat Phra Kaew, then all the ornate roof tops including the Grand Palace itself. The whole complex is surrounded by a high white wall with large wooden doors. The area around the palace is immaculate, there were several people cleaning the paths and sweeping up, a vast contrast to other parts of the city. When we got there a man stood outside a non-tourist entrance told us that is was closed until 1pm. We have read about scams in our guidebooks where people tell you that the sights are closed and try to lead you off to other things to part with your money. We thanked the guy and quickly walked off. We made our way around the walls looking for a tourist entrance to the grounds. We got to the other side of the walls without finding an entrance and stumbled across another temple, Wat Pho, home to the reclining Buddha. We decided whilst we around this side to go on here first.
Funnily enough when we were crossed over the road to enter another man appeared to tell us that Wat Pho was closed until 1pm, but he could take us to another sight in his tuk-tuk for only 20 baht. We thanked him and walked off. The temple surprisingly was not closed and we paid the entrance fee, 100 baht each, which includes a free bottle of drinking water, and went inside. We were amazed by how ornate everything was. The roofs of the buildings, the courtyards, the windows and doors, everything was decorated with statues, and jewels. There are more chedi here (which are like huge pointed columns), they are mosaicked and multi-coloured. The main attraction of this large temple complex is the afore mentioned reclining Buddha. We knew from our books it was large but we did not expect it to be as vast as it was. It is a huge golden Buddha that only just fits in the building it is housed in, made of golden leaf and mother of pearl it is 46 metres long and 15 metres high. It was amazing and worth the entrance fee alone. The feet are elongated and the soles are decorated with patterns made of mother of pearl. The vast size of the image is hard to describe or photograph but it is extremely impressive. We made our way round the rest of the complex, there are smaller temples with different Buddha statues, and each temple is equally as ornate. You have to remove your shoes before entering all the temples and outside each one is a shoe rack. By the time we had finished looking around it was Midday and sweltering, so we made our way to the Grand Palace. Around the streets of the palace vendors set us their stalls, drinks, hats, lunch, souvenirs, spices, boat trips, just about anything you want really and drivers continually ask 'you want tuk-tuk?', 'where you go?'.
We walked around the other side of the perimeter walls, low and behold it was not closed until 1pm. Anyone coming to Bangkok really needs to be careful of these people, we have read about them but still did not expect to see them so obviously stood outside the attractions. Why no-one moves them on is beyond us but there is a speaker that warns you and a sign near the entrance that says ‘be aware of wily strangers’.
The complex of the Grand Palace is even more decorative than Wat Pho. There is a wide cobbled entrance lined with trees that leads you to the main area. There is a very strict dress code here, both shoulders and knees needed to be covered, and this includes men. We had come prepared but many had not and were made to wear ridiculously bright trousers and skirts. We were given the thumbs up from the guards and did a small high five to congratulate ourselves. The entrance fee for this complex is 500 baht each (£10) which is close to extortion and has taken us firmly over budget but we could not come to Bangkok and not see the main attraction. The first thing we went to see is the temple of Wat Phra Kaew. The temple is covered in jewels and shines brightly in the sun, there are dozens of statues around and smaller buildings each one more decorative than the last. It is a very impressive sight. There is even a scale model of Angkor Wat. We walked around the complex admiring how beautiful it is, there are huge gold chedis and bowls full of water lilies. We went in the largest temple, after taking our shoes off, through a doorway lined with golden jewels. Unfortunately you were not allowed to take photo’s but inside there was a large golden shrine, chandeliers and intricate wallpaper and roof decoration. There were lots of people inside sat down and when we got out we checked our map and discovered the reason. Inside was the Emerald Buddha, we had missed it. Luckily we could just go back in. The Emerald Buddha sits atop of the golden shrine; it is very small, only 75cms, hence why we had missed it. It was wearing a golden cloak; apparently they change its outfit according to the seasons. The temple it is housed in is entirely mosaicked in gold and is unbelievably beautiful. From here we made our way to the Grand Palace.
The palace is a former royal residence, the interior is closed to the public but the outside is staggering. It is a vast and impressive building, white with wooden shutters and an extremely ornate roof; it sits on the back off a small courtyard or trees and statues and a manicured garden. The only part of the interior that you could go in was a small weapons museum, which had entrance on the ground level and was under the palace. At either side of the palace are huge buildings you can go inside that have ornate halls inside for ceremonies. On the way back we went into a museum showing some of the original buildings that stood in the complex as well as some facts about the Emerald Buddha but it is not very well lad out and does not have very good information on its artefacts. We also saw a textile museum that was dedicated to the Queen of Thailand and had exhibits of her actual wardrobe and showed you the different style of Thai dress and how they make the silk. Chelsea loved it as the clothes were gorgeous and you could buy expensive silk scarves from the gift shop. The textile museum is much better than the museum inside the complex and is housed in a lovely marble building with chandeliers and jazz music (and air-con).
By the time we had done all this our feet were hurting, the heat was not showing any signs of letting up and we were all out of money so we had a steady walk back. On the way back we walked down a street full of Del-Boy like dealers with stalls selling what looked like small antiques. There were lots of people looking at the stall; even a few monks were having a browse. We made our way back to the guesthouse to rest up and figure out a way to go out tonight for as cheap as possible.
We went out later tonight and Bangkok at night it fun. We ate outside at a street vendor and had a walk around the streets. In Bangkok the main streets have names and there are small lanes that branch out of these called Soi's, sometimes they have names, often they are just numbered. The Soi that we are staying on is small and at the end street vendors and market stalls set up at night with tables and chairs. We walked along the Soi's browsing the market stalls and taking in all the sounds and flashing lights, losts of the bars on this street are relaxed where people sit and talk or people watch. We decided to walk down Khao San Road at night. It is really fun, loud and proud. All the bars blare our music and girls dressed in beer uniforms either Chang or Singah keep people topped up at their tables. The bars are loud and all compete for business, one is called the We do not chek ID bar. haha. The shops pour out onto the street and at every angle people tout for business for sex shows, bars and trips. Street vendors walk down the street with their carts selling noodles, kebabs, bbq food, fruit shakes and there were even vendors selling bugs, spiders and scorpians on sticks. At the end of the street tuk-tuk drivers gather and tout for business as you exit, 'you want tuk-tuk?', 'For you my brother only 20 baht'. It is really an assualt on the senses but it is extremely lively and fun and we enjoyed it. We looked in the stalls and walked back round to near our guest house and had a cheap beer at a bar.
We have extended our stay in Bangkok as we are going to buy our visa for Myanmar tomorrow so we will be in search of the Myanmar embassy and some pristine US dollars to take with us. If anyone can direct us please feel free to help as we need new US dollars with no creases, folds or marks at all. We are really enjoying Bangkok so far and ignoring our dirty and sore feet there are loads more sigts to see