(Day 258 to 264)
05.08.2010 - 11.08.2010 39 °C
We arrived in Bangkok and were dropped off at the famous Khao San Road. Well-known Khao San road is a little heaven for backpackers with cheap accommodation and food stores dotted along the street. We made our way to Rambuttri Road where we were to stay the next 5 nights, which was meant to be slightly quieter but as alive as its well-known cousin up the road.
Our guide book describes Bangkok as follows "Manic, thrilling, dynamic, exhausting, overpowering, titillating – the one thing Bangkok is NOT is boring!"
and I have to say that we couldn’t agree more with this statement. A truly bustling city, Bangkok and its many sights kept us busy!
"Manic, thrilling, dynamic, exhausting, overpowering, titillating – the one thing Bangkok is NOT is boring!"
Transport is largely reliant on Tuk Tuks and Taxis (which are cheaper than Tuk Tuks by far) that’s when you manage to find one who agrees to put his metre on rather than trying to rip off tourists (we’re to well travelled now to fall for their game)! The metro system (BTS Sky train) sadly only operates in the east of the city, but the boat taxi system on the Chao Phraya river – which borders on the west side of the attractions was cheap as chips.
We started our exploring with what we called “Buddha Day”. Reclining, Emerald, Standing and Golden Buddha statues (which are called images here) exposed in various magnificently shiny and timeless temples / shrines kept us entertained for the whole day. In most places we had to both borrow “Temple attire”, shirts with sleeves and sarongs/long pants – even though I had bought a pashmina for my shoulders, as this was still insufficient cover. It has to be said that we had an average of 40 degrees daily and long clothing every day was out of the question!
The Standing Buddha found at the temple complex of Wat Indraviharn – is 32 metres high and is covered in gold mirror mosaic.
The Emerald Buddha lives in the main sanctuary of Wat Phra Keo, which is found on the grounds of the Grand Palace. This statue of a sitting Buddha is in fact made of jasper (a type of jade) and is just 75cm high. It was discovered accidently when it’s covering stucco started flaking off. We weren’t allowed to take pics inside so below is one from the internet.
The Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho – We arrived at this temple soaked to the bone after getting caught in a nasty and very sudden downpour with absolutely no shelter in sight! This enormous gilded statue is 45 metres long, has a huge smile and its feet are incrusted with mother of pearl designs.
The Golden Buddha at Wat Traimit. Martin and I were lucky to see this one as we arrived just after closing time. We sneaked in anyway after a tip from the ticket lady and made it to the 4th floor of this holy place in time to see it before they shut the doors. This statue is 3m of solid gold, weighing 5.5 tons – and at today’s value its worth $140 million! It was, like the Emerald Buddha, discovered by accident when some of its stucco cover cracked off ; was thought to have been disguised to keep it safe from the Burmese.
The Grand Palace’s many temples and shrines were also a sight of wonder, it is impressive how well kept this place is, so squeaky clean and shiny it still is!
The following day was spent at Chatuchak week-end market. This is the largest market in Thailand and covers over 1km with 5000 stalls and an estimated 200,000 visitors each day. It sells anything and everything from clothes to pets and we spent a staggering 6 hours exploring and shopping! At the end of the day having some money left over from the self-allocated shopping budget, we treated ourselves to a well-deserved foot massage! Bliss!
On one of our evenings, and after – much – nagging (since Colombia!), I finally managed to drag Martin to the cinema in a huge shopping mall called MBK, where we watched Inception (very good by the way!). It was fab to do such a “normal” thing with popcorn and all, but the reason I mention it is because just before the start of the movie, the national anthem started and we all had to stand up for its duration whilst watching a clip of the King and Queen of Thailand. It’s all the more clear specifically throughout Bangkok how much the monarchs are adored and respected. Every school, train station and official building has huge images of them in full regal gear at their front entrance.
On one of our excursions we also visited the impressive Vimanmek Palace which is believed to be the largest teak building in the world, constructed without a single nail.
Our last day in Bangkok was spent at the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market outside of Bangkok. Although very very touristy – there are more tourists than locals on the river – this was still an interesting morning and must have been even lovelier when tourist-free.
After 5 days of fascinating chaos, we took a westbound train to the calm town of Kanchanaburi.