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We land in Bangkok at 5:30am and I am sleepwalking through the blissfully clean airport. I got maybe two hours sleep on the flight from India and I’m just praying by some miracle that I’ll be able to check into the hotel this early.
I am still wearing the clothes I put on in Dubai two days ago and I’m desperately in need of some sleep. I make my way to the train station and purchase a ticket into town for 100 Baht (roughly $2 US), I think I’m gonna like this town.
When I finally arrive at the hotel, it is almost 7:30am and the hotel is kind enough to actually have a room ready for me (thank you, Royal Orchid Sheraton). When I get up to the room, I immediately drop everything, strip down and get in the shower.
I briefly consider burning the clothes I wore in India but decide that might be a bit dramatic. However, they could really use a good washing.
The shower is divine. I feel much better when I get out but it’s still too early to head out and explore. I decide to lay down for just a little while before rallying to go take in the sights. You know, perhaps just rest my eyes a bit.
I get in bed around 8am and when I wake up…it was 6:30pm.
Oops. I have missed an entire day of Bangkok. But obviously, I needed the sleep.
I decide not to stress about it. After all, I still have a full day tomorrow before leaving for Phuket on Monday so I’m sure I can get it all in.
And honestly, sometimes on a 30-day whirlwind trip around the world you just need to sleep.
I head downstairs to the hotel’s lobby bar. It’s rocking with a band and a really intoxicated convention group. I order some dinner while updating the website with pictures from India.
I’m back in bed by midnight with my alarm set for 6:30am to get an early start.
First (Conscious) Day in Bangkok
Though I have the best intentions to get up early, it doesn’t really happen.
When the alarm goes off at 6:30am, I still can’t pull it together. I have no idea what time zone my body thinks it’s in (Bangkok is 13 hours ahead of East Coast time). But apparently yesterday’s snooze-fest wasn’t quite enough.
Eventually, I make it out of the hotel around 9:00am. I took the time last night to go through the little guide book and figure out the best way to cover a lot of ground. So I have a good plan to see what I want to see in the most effective order.
Luckily, all the major temples and the Grand Palace are in generally the same area upriver from my hotel. And there is a “tourist boat” that takes you there for about 30 cents U.S. (I’m starting to realize just how cheap things are here).
Wat Phra Kaeo
The boat ride is lovely and only takes about 15 minutes. My first stop after getting off the boat is the beautiful Wat Phra Kaeo.
Let me tell you, these Thai people really know how to build a temple. Every building within the grounds is ornately bejeweled and sparkling in the brilliant sunlight.
It’s hard to decide where to look, everything drew my attention. I spend almost an hour wandering around before checking out the Emerald Buddha inside.
Then I move on to the Grand Palace next door.
The Grand Palace & Wat Pho
The Grand Palace was the home of the Thai Royal family up until 1946.
It’s architecturally stunning as well, but I’m tougher to impress after seeing Wat Phra Kaeo. My final stop on this side of the river is Wat Pho – The Temple of the Reclining Buddha.
Wat Pho is Bangkok’s oldest and Thailand’s largest wat (temple) and is still considered Bangkok’s oldest university. It has long been a renowned center of learning.
The temple’s main attraction is the giant Reclining Buddha, which represents the dying Buddha in the position he adopted to attain nirvana (I must admit, he does look comfortable, but nirvana?). The statue is covered in gold leaf and the feet are Mother of Pearl.
Beautiful and my favorite thing I have seen so far today.
Discovering Thai Massage
The best part of Wat Pho is the fact that they have a Thai massage school next door. The school offers a 1-hour massage for 250 Baht – about $7 US. I have read that this is the thing to do around here so, of course, I check it out.
It turns out to be the best (and by far the most economical) massage I have ever had and I’m glad I made time in my tourism-packed day for it. If I were here for a week, I would go every day.
The school has a “group” massage room but I was the only customer in there during my massage. So it might as well have been a private room.
After being pleasantly kneaded and pulled like a pretzel for an hour, I am refreshed and ready to see the last temple on my itinerary, Wat Arun, Temple of Dawn.
Wat Arun – Temple of Dawn
Wat Arun is on the other side of the Chao Phraya River but a convenient boat ferries me across the river for only about 20 cents.
Wat Arun is the tallest and most visible temple in Bangkok. King Taksin chose it for his royal temple and palace as it was the first place to catch the morning light.
After spending an appropriate amount of time appreciating the Temple of Dawn, I decide it’s time for a little shopping.
The Chatuchak Weekend Market
I’d read that the Chatuchak weekend market is the place to go if you’re in Bangkok over the weekend (finally I’m in town on the RIGHT day for something). So I hop in a cab for the 20 minute trip over to the market (by the way, a 20 minute cab ride across town was about $3 – this city is a steal).
The market is enormous and it’s really hard to navigate without a map (which I do not have). It encompassed endless buildings all packed full with stands selling everything from food to clothing to household items to live animals.
It must take the entire weekend to see it all but I only have about 2 hours so I take in what I can.
The prices are indeed really good. But it’s so crowded inside the market that it’s almost impossible to get around. I spend most of my time there in a human traffic jam trying to get from one building to another. Fortunately, it’s mostly local Thai people at the market so I can easily see over everyone’s head, ha!
I finally give up and grab a cab to one of the real shopping malls off Sukhumvit Road. I spend a couple of hours browsing in the fancy shops there. But after seeing the much cheaper prices at the market, my heart just isn’t in it.
Everything in the mall is as much or more than at home, no deals here. So, to sum up, I spent almost 4 hours shopping today and bought absolutely nothing.
But all in all, it was a pretty amazing day exploring the beautiful city of Bangkok.
Perhaps there will be a less crowded market when I get to Phuket tomorrow. My flight leaves at 9:00am and I am really looking forward to getting back to the beach!