One more than Murray Head. Check and mate!
I probably didn’t do Bangkok justice – I only had one non-travel day in this city, and I spent that in Ayutthaya. I don’t regret that choice – Ayutthaya was amazing. But my last day in Bangkok was bit of a rush, trying to make the most of what time I had with little room to just decompress. Still, I saw everything I wanted to, so I’m happy.
After checking out early and putting my belongings into storage, I walked through the sidestreets and alleys to Silom, taking a different stroll from the previous day. Mostly to see a different part of the city, but maybe partially to avoid stray dogs. The blocks I walked through were a lot livelier than those I found yesterday, but I still seemed to be the only tourist present. Lunch yesterday was ordered in English, and dinner the night before had the prices written down – but today I had to use what little Thai I managed to teach myself on the flight.
Since that turned out to only be “hello” and “thank you”, all of my negotiation took place by having the vendors enter numbers into my pocket calculator. But hey, I got to say “hello” and “thank you,” which has to count for something?
Breakfast ended up being a chicken sausage wrapped in a crêpe, served with fruit juice. I never found out what fruit said juice came from, but I wish I had – it was ambrosia.
After all of my time in Bangkok having been in the older riverside areas, Silom was an interesting contrast. It was a lot more developed, almost indistinguishable from Tokyo or even Auckland, other than the Hindu temple of Sri Maha Mariamman. I didn’t stick around too long before heading back to the river.
Next destination was the Grand Palace, and the plan was to get there by riverboat. The ticketer tried to push me into buying a ride on a longtail boat at a cost of 1,500 baht. Even by NZ standards that price was expensive, so I pushed back for a ticket on one of the cheaper river taxis. The vendor basically yelled at me to hurry up and get on the next taxi, which was getting ready to leave. I rushed to embark even though the vendor hadn’t named a price, figuring it would still be affordable given that most of the passengers were local. It certainly did work out cheaper – not only was the fare 15 baht, but they forgot to even charge me!
I arrived outside the palace complex, where a tuktuk driver was kind enough to warn me that the complex was full that day. I could still get in, but I’d have to wait at least an hour before they’d start letting visitors in again. Of course, there were quieter temples which few tourists get to see, and he’d be happy to take me there. I thanked him for the offer, then went to join the queue.
Five minutes later I had my ticket, so after picking up an audio-guide I headed into Wat Phra Kaew – the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.
The temple complex was stunning on the outside – the amount of detail in Thai architecture never ceases to amaze me. The temple itself was rather crowded on the inside, and whilst the Emerald Buddha was impressive I found myself more interested the building themselves.
The Grand Palace was fascinating – in addition to serving as an excellent museum, the building itself was an interesting mix of traditional Thai architecture and Western influences. As interesting as the exhibits were, I was aware of my limited time and decided to start walking towards my next destination.
I headed south towards Wat Pho, the temple of the reclining Buddha. The statue inside was impressive, but the complex itself couldn’t compete with Wat Phra Kaew. Wat Pho was known more as a site for Thai massage – since that wasn’t on my radar, I left shortly after.
Wat Pho actually had several Chinese statues scatterd around, and I found it somewhat baffling to learn that they were only brought to Bangkok to serve as ballast on visiting trade ships. The statues were really well done and had a lot of character, which I suppose explains why there were kept!
It was getting late and I had to decide – Wat Arun, Wat Traimit, or skip both to catch up an Australian friend who coincidentally was in Bangkok the same time as me. I had a quick catch-up with John from Brisbane online, where we planned to meet for dinner that evening on my way to the airport. Meeting at a later hour gave me a bit more time, so after weighing up my options I chose Wat Arun, the Temple of Dawn.
I initially disregarded Wat Arun when I set my Thailand itinerary. The photos I’d seen before did interest me, but with limited time I considered it to be missable. Wat Arun was promoted as Bangkok’s main Khmer-inspired Wat, many of which I’d seen in Ayutthaya the day before.
That all changed when I saw it from across the river. I decided to give Wat Traimit a miss, crossed the river, then climed Wat Arun.
I headed back to the hostel to pick up my luggage, then tried to get online so I could contact John and confirm our plans. I turned on the data for my Travel SIM – no signal. Great. I tried accessing the hostel wifi as plan B, but my phone could not manage a stable connection. The staff were good enough to let me use a hostel computer despite my having checked out, so it worked out fine – I got the restaurant address, rush-packed the rest of my luggage, then headed off to catch up with John.
After more delicious food and a few beers, I had to head off. I used up the last of my baht on a taxi, then made it to the airport with plenty of time to spare. Next destination – Austria!