Day 70 / Day 29 of ATID – Bangkok
After disembarking our overnight train, we headed back to the hotel we had originally checked in at in order to commence the IndoChina tour with G Adventures, Bangkok Centre Hotel. After checking in, we went back to the street side restaurant near the station next to the above hotel that we had all had our first dinner together on the evening of the day our tour started for breakfast, which was quite nice.
Oh, the breakfast was really yummy by the way. And I’ve had similar at other restaurants in Asia after that day so although I can’t remember the exact location of the restaurant, that doesn’t much matter. Also, to be honest, you can put this together at home and I fully intend to do so at some stage. Maybe those of you reading this who are more health-orientated than I am are already aware of the wonders of the concotion which is simply chopped fresh fruit, muesli/granola and yoghurt (preferably the lush Greek sort, maybe with a dash of honey added to the mix). SO GOOD. Dave had some kind of variation of a cooked English breakfast type thing! (There are variations on this throughout Asia, we had our first in China!)
Once we finished, the group headed back to the hotel. We couldn’t check in to our rooms yet as it was still a while before 2pm and they unfortunately weren’t ready earlier, so Dave and I and a few others headed to the pool. We ended up spending ages in it / sitting by it and ordered lunch (sandwiches and suchlike) from the hotel restaurant. It was SO GOOD to take a break from constantly being on the go, I must say!
And afterwards when we were in our room, yes our intention was to go sightseeing for the day but when I happened to fall asleep for three hours straight, Dave didn’t bother to wake me and to be honest neither of us felt too guilty having ‘squandered’ the day as we still had two or three days to go in Bangkok and would have plenty of time to sight see during those. When we met the rest of the group later I felt we had definitely made the right choice as apparently lots of them got caught in a torrential downpour whilst sightseeing whilst I was happily napping. Haha! Sorry, that was a little mean of me…
In the evening we put on our Glad Rags and headed out for a final evening meal together (via foot) at the Rivervibe restaurant (where Dave and I had been the evening before we met everyone else in Bangkok), which was rather lovely. We all talked about our favourite bits and so forth and so on. Oh and at the end after we’d paid the head person of the restaurant who had been helping serve us and get our orders right realised he had undercharged someone / given back too much change and sheepishly asked us to check if one of us had a little more money than we should have had. Obviously nobody could remember and so he was going to let the issue go (with many apologies) but the group banded together and just split the cost of the missing difference which was pretty amazing. We were lucky with the group we travelled with!
After we all headed via taxis to the (?in)famous Khaosan road which Dave had already experienced on a previous trip to Thailand but I had not. Erm, it was quite interesting but don’t think I’d like to visit every evening! Loads of stalls and things selling everything and anything from shirts to snacks (more expensive on this road than elsewhere though), loads of reps trying to get you into their bars etc, and loads of PEOPLE so it’s easy to lose companions (and likely wallets) in the crowds so if visiting, stay safe! Also at one point we just saw a whole load of people sitting in low chairs outside a spa thing getting foot massages, all casual. Was pretty bizarre/cool!
After a few drinks at some sort of (very loud) live reggae bar thing Dave and I headed back to sleep (yes despite our three hour nap the loud reggae was a bit too much and we felt we needed Even More sleep by the time it got to around 12ish). Did have the unfortunate experience at this point of realising we didn’t have enough cash for a taxi but was pretty easy to find an ATM and fix this issue so that was fine!
Day 71 / Day 30 of ATID – Bangkok
We rose late-ish but managed to catch the end of the breakfast buffet (where I cobbled together – yup – yoghurt, fruit and granola mmmm) and also our tour facilitator so were able to say goodbye to her.
Afterwards, we checked out but left our main bags in the foyer as we wouldn’t be able to check into our booked hostel until later on in the day. We headed out with a couple of friends who I know we will stay in touch with (had met them on the tour) – now without the aid of a tour facilitator dun dun dun! Yep, it ended on this day – to somewhere called the Golden Mount, first stop on our touristy checklist. We walked as it was only a half hour walk but my goodness it was hot and we all vowed (Dave didn’t take tooooo much convincing!) to get a taxi to return to the hotel!
I found the climb up – it is all steps, mind – pretty exhausting but quite worth it for the sprawling views of the city below. There were various interesting things to look at on the walk up such as that statue above, which I thought at the time was a scene from the Buddha’s life but have since remembered that I think it was he who cut his hair off, not sure where the above lady comes in, maybe a follower? Let me know if you happen to know!
Also – it was very confusing as to which point you were supposed to take your shoes off here. At the top there is a bit where you go inside a building and wander round – from in here there are steps to the very top, where you can see the main golden dome structure and the awesome views – there is a bit on the history of the place and a place to worship in the building, however guide-less and not having done enough reading prior, we couldn’t work out which bits were the main ‘temple-y’ bits and so just took our shoes off before going inside that building at the top, like everyone else was doing. Even though at the entrance there was a weird speaker saying things like ‘don’t take your shoes off’.
Erm, anyway, I wish I’d listened to the speaker and kept my shoes on because once you climb the steps to the very top and step outside – where the golden structure is – every step is basically torture because it is on stone ground that has had the sun baking on it for ages. After hop skipping around and taking a few photos we made a hasty retreat.
There is a temple you can see from the Golden Mount that we visited straight after (it’s a few minute walk). I realise now that in all our hop skipping we did not actually get a decent vaguely zoomed in photograph of said temple from here though we should have!
Before making the walk across, we saw some weird/interesing things on our descent, which, be aware, takes a different route to the one up (this confused me!!).
Also, after our descent, we spent some time reading the boards opposite the stairs leading up, which give some information on the history of the place.
The temple we then visited near to the Golden Mount is known as Wat Ratchanatdaram. I will be honest the heat and walking both were, by this point in our travels, getting to me quite easily. You’d expect the reverse as I got aclimatised, but no. I think this is purely because the tour we had taken up until this point was so fast paced. As such, I did a lot of sitting around whilst Dave and the others did some exploring!
The grounds of Wat Ratchanatdaram boast the famous Loha Prasat which is the magnificent central building, unique in architecture and appearance to the area and inspired by similar temples built first in India. As I was quite shattered I did not note all this in detail whilst there but I DO remember walking around Loha Prasat and thinking it was like a well designed maze – the layout follows geometric patterns. There were also a few cool technological interactive bits, too, for information on the architecture.
There is a coffee shop on/near the grounds of Wat Ratchanatdaram (difficult to know exactly where they end) which did some awesome waffles/crepes! It’s been commented on by a relative that I talk a lot about food on this blog so I won’t disappoint – I had a banana chocolate waffle, it was reasonably priced and was amazing.
After this, we flagged down a taxi (this took several attempts outside this temple, as compared to I think it would take in other bits of Bangkok – all the roads are wide, well maintained and not crowded in this part of town) and haggled a deal to be taken back to the hotel to pick up our things and be transported to our hostel. Dave and I had booked our hostel of choice way in advance, and our two friends from the tour had done so a few days in advance on our recommendation. I’m not sure we got the best possible deal but to be honest, at about $2 (US) each, we decided we couldn’t be bothered to haggle further in the heat. The taxi ride turned out to be interesting. The driver talked A LOT and was extremely friendly. I was a little disconcerted but Dave told me later it had been the same with pretty much most of the drivers he had encountered on his previous visit to Thailand. We also caught the rush hour traffic of Bangkok.
Our hostel was the Laksameenarai Guesthouse, pretty close to Khaosan road. It’s a sweet little hostel – the building is in the style of a traditional Thai house. It is very tucked away on a narrow side street inaccessible by vehicles, however good instructions were provided on our booking confirmation e-mail. Also it is near to a Boots (!!!) and a convenience store plus there are some good restaurants on the narrow side street. Dave and I had a private double room and although we shared the loos/showers with others they were really clean throughout our stay and we never once had to queue.
The intense heat had cooled to a more pleasant temperature by the time we were all checked in and so we decided to walk to Bangkok’s famous flower market. Apparently the best time to visit this 24 hour market is actually just before dawn to which I say HA HA HA…
I am not a flower expert or enthusiast (I think they’re pretty, obviously, don’t mind them as a gift etc but that’s about it) but perhaps if you are it is worth going pre dawn? Anyway, we saw flowers. Lots of them. That’s unfortunately all I took away from the experience. The experience was free, however, so I’m not complaining.
There is also a lot of fresh fruit on lots of stalls being sold all along the road here, so we picked up some bananas and apples (we also managed to leave half of them in the fridge at the hostel when we left for Phuket but I think the friends staying in the hostel polished them off for us!) on the way back.
The evening saw us dine at an Italian restaurant next to the hostel (can’t remember the name sorry!). It was a little expensive but the pizzas were baked in a stone oven and really really good! We were joined by a couple of other friends we had made from the tour here, and the six of us had a great time.
Day 72 / Saturday 23rd May: Bangkok
I would happily have lain in on this morning but given my three hour nap a few days prior this was not an option if we were to complete our sightseeing of Bangkok before leaving for Phuket the next day!
Our hotel was about a twenty minute walk from the Grand Palace and we braved the walk in the heat – it wasn’t too bad, to be fair, but would have been better if we got the right entrance first time. It has about a zillion entrances but you can only actually enter via one. Guards at the others will direct you however because the walls are so vast and large and immense that if you end up at the wrong one, even if you go in the pointed direction, it will feel like ages before you get to the right one. I have no useful tips for this, sorry 😦
Also if random taxi or tuk tuk drivers try to tell you the Grand Palace is closed they might be lying. Best to check with your accommodation.
Now Dave had warned me beforehand and we had warned our two new friends that the Grand Palace is REALLY STRICT about what you can wear – I cannot remember the exact rule but here’s a link (scroll down). It’s a bit more complex than standard temple dress (shoulder covered, covered 2/3 or more below knee). If you don’t adhere they make you wear hideous trousers and/or shirts which you will sweat in. A lot.
Walking around the Grand Palace, especially when a little bit delirious from the heat, is a bit mental. There are lots and lots of colours, much sparkle, and the whole thing feels a bit like a crazy fantasy land. The grounds encompass shrines, temples, places of residence and a couple of museum-type areas. It is definitely very impressive and worth seeing despite the hefty entrance price (about US $10). Also make sure you wear a hat or bring an umbrella, there’s not a lot of shade.
I wouldn’t give the Palace more than a couple of hours unless you’re really keen. I’m not sure there was a huge amount to read in English, either, to be honest. Also, some parts of it were closed when we were there – you can probably check this info online or with your accommodation. Oh and there’s not a lot of food/drink being sold at the Palace either. Take plenty of water! Possibly stalls are banned? Apart from milk. Cartons of milk of a certain brand WERE being sold. Dave had some.
After we finished at the Palace we walked (again, not tooooo far) to Wat Pho. Entrance is far more reasonable here (and you get a free little water bottle!) and the grounds are pretty stunning, again, many colours, feels like a miniature fantasy land. Lots of pretty turret type things here.
The famous bit (do this last) is a giant golden reclining Buddha. To my disappointment we could not view the Buddha’s feet that day, but apparently these are really quite something.
After this it was time for the last Bangkok attraction of our stay, Wat Arun (this link tells you the way we got to it – you need to cross the river – the public ferry is REALLY cheap, like 3 Baht, and the pier is near Wat Pho).
So Temple 2 of Bangkok (day before) Wat Ratchanatdaram was very geometric and looked quite square and bold. Temple 3, above, was pretty much what you might expect of a Thai temple. Wat Arun was still something else – very Indian-Hindu-Temple-inspired. As such, these three temples are a good three to visit if you want the ‘top three’.
Unfortunately a lot of Wat Arun was closed off and under some sort of construction during our visit but we had a wander round the bits we could nonetheless and could definitely get a scope for the style of the place.
Once we got the ferry back, we lingered around the pier on the other side for a bit before deciding to bite the bullet and risk eating at one of the super-cheap food stalls there. We had some noodle soup and it was really quite good – and we didn’t get food poisoning after, win!
Then we walked back to the hostel to chill out for the majority of the evening before heading to the nearby Bombay Blues restaurant. We went with the two friends that had been staying at the hostel and that we had been exploring Bangkok with. Unfortunately our two other friends from the tour got stuck trying to get to / back from the Sky Tower so we were unable to say goodbye to them in person. Note – we did not do the Sky Tower as Dave had done it before and been underwhelmed and I wasn’t particularly desperate to do so.
Bombay Blues was cool, all red lighting and floor seating, very hip. The food wasn’t too bad, not amazing, but worth going for the vibe.
Next stop: Phuket!
Thanks for stopping by 🙂