17.01.2013 - 17.01.2013 32 °C
We were a bit slow getting up this morning, so we decided to use what was left our morning to try and find the US dollars we need for Myanmar. For some reason we are not aware of, the people of Myanmar only accept brand new, unblemished dollars. This means, no folds, no stains, tears or even bank stamps. We have researched already on the internet where we could get the dollars in Bangkok so we went their first.
When we got there the place was closed until 11:30, we didn't have long to wait so we went and had lunch across the street. We were lured in by a very persuasive Thai man, given a plate of rice each and then had to choose from vast amount of curries all on display. It was very good, but probably a bit too early in the morning for a giant plate of curry. We had a walk and then went back to the travel agent. Fortunately they told us that they can do brand new US dollars, unfortunately they only accept cash as payment and the rate was not great. We tried a couple of banks until we found one that also had brand new dollars, with a better rate. At first they also said they only accept cash as payment. The problem we have is that our withdrawal limit for a day is not a lot, and every time you take your money out of an ATM in Thailand you get charged £3. (We did not know this upon arriving, and it is by far the worst thing about the country). We explained this to the lady at the bank and she was about to let us pay by our card to get the dollars when she asked us for our passports......they are at the embassy. So this will have to wait until tomorrow evening.
By this point we were quite stressed out so went to spend the afternoon sightseeing. The extortionate fee we paid to visit the Grand Palace also gets you into another site further up town. We walked there, calling for a fruit shake on the way, and managed to find our way and only getting lost once.
We were surprised when we got there as we thought the sight we had come to see was Vimanmek Mansion. It turned out to be a collection of sights that aren't mentioned in our guide book. The first is a large impressive building, Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall; there is also a support museum for the mansion and an 'arts of the kingdom' exhibition. We took a couple of photos of the large building from the outside, when we got inside the grounds there were sign everywhere saying photos were prohibited and you even had to leave your camera in a locker before entering the sights.
What our guidebook also fails to mention (or if it does we did not read it correctly) is that you have to cover up, Ladies to the knees, gents to the ankles (who knows why this is). It is fair to say we were 'inappropriately' dressed and we had to buy sarongs to cover up for 50 baht each, as they do not rent them out like every other place we have been. Once dressed in our newly owned sarongs, and possessions locked away in a locker we went to the throne hall building first. Before we could go in here we were searched and had to go through a metal detector. By this point we were fairly perplexed and could not see why all this security and other measures were necessary.
The throne hall building is incredible; it is a large white building with a great dome in the middle, reminiscent of a Victorian building in England. Inside is very decorative, all the walls and roof is painted with different scenes and everything is gold. There are several artefacts inside from the royal history, golden thrones, golden model boats, even the seats used for sitting on the royal elephants were golden and encrusted with diamonds. In spite of this the building is far more impressive than its contents in our opinion. There were several floors to the building with a variety on show and when we entered the building we were given our free audio guide that explained what they were. There was also a school trip within the building at the time which was very loud, and they also found the sight of Liam in his sarong hilarious.
Once we had done the hall, we went onto see a small museum, a photography exhibition (which just contained photos of irrigation works) and then the Teak mansion we had originally come to see. The mansion is made entirely of Teak, and is apparently put together without screws or nails. It is a very pretty building, sat in the grounds of a stream and has a very colonial feel to it. We were caught in between a couple of Thai tour groups throughout the building but we still enjoyed the visit. We walked round the rooms decorated as they were when the house was lived in, and the furniture and decor had an old European style apart from the dozens of elephant tusks on display in each room, and the hunting room with old guns, elephant feet and what looked like rhino horns.
When we had done we had had enough walking so much to the joy of Chelsea jumped into a golf cart, (free tourist shuttle) that took us back to collect our possessions and then jumped in another Tuk-Tuk outside the grounds to take us back to our guesthouse.
We went out for tea quite late, and fancied a change to noodles and rice. We headed down Khao San Road, where there is plenty of food to choose from and decided to graze on what was on offer on the street. We decided on a large slice of pizza and a chicken kebab from a couple of stalls. The kebab in particular was delicious. We had another walk round to marvel at the sights of Khao San Road, until Liam was fed up of being asked if he wanted to buy a suit and we went for a drink before coming back.
The mansion we went to see was alot better than we expected and made the entry fee to the Grand Palace seem a lot more reasonable. We didn't expect all the other sights and we enjoyed looking around them. The throne hall especially and Goldmember would agree...'i like gold' (Chelsea found this particular gag hilarious and sat chuckling to herself and repeated 'I like gold' in the voice of Goldmember the wholetime we were there) Tomorrow we plan to see another one of the big temples in the city, Wat Arun, and then head into the more up market bit of the city before picking up our Visa's for Myanmar.