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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 was kind enough to actually have a room ready for me (thank you, Royal Orchid Sheraton). When I got up to the room, I immediately dropped everything, stripped down and got in the shower. I briefly considered burning the clothes I wore in India but decided that might be a bit dramatic – however, they could really use a good washing. The shower was divine. I felt much better when I got out but it was still so early that I thought I should probably lie down for just a little while before rallying to go take in the sights. You know, perhaps just rest my eyes a bit. I got in bed around 8am and when I woke 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. I head downstairs to the hotel’s lobby bar (which is rocking with a band and a really intoxicated convention group) where there is free wi-fi and I order some dinner while updating the website with pictures from India. I was back in bed by midnight with my alarm set for 6:30am to get an early start.
First (Conscious) Day in Bangkok
Though I had the best intentions of getting up early, it didn’t really happen. When the alarm went off at 6:30am, I still couldn’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 and see what I wanted 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). The boat ride was lovely and only took about 15 minutes. My first stop after getting off the boat was the beautiful Wat Phra Kaeo. Let me tell you, these Thai people really know how to build a temple. Every building within the grounds was ornately bejeweled and sparkling in the brilliant sunlight. It was hard to decide where to look, everything drew your attention. I spent almost an hour wandering around there before checking out the Emerald Buddha inside. Then I moved on to the Grand Palace next door.
The Grand Palace was the home of the Thai Royal family up until 1946. It was architecturally stunning as well, but it was harder to be impressed after seeing Wat Phra Kaeo. My final stop on this side of the river was 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 that 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 was 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 was refreshed and ready to see the last temple on my itinerary, Wat Arun, Temple of Dawn. Wat Arun is on the other side of the Chao Phraya River but a convenient boat ferries you 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 decided it was time for a little shopping. I’d read that the Chatuchak weekend market was the place to go if you were in Bangkok over the weekend (finally I’m in town on the RIGHT day for something) so I hopped 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 was enormous and it was really hard to navigate without a map (which I did 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 had about 2 hours so I took in what I could. The prices were indeed really good but it was so crowded inside the market that it was almost impossible to get around. I spent most of my time there in a human traffic jam trying to get from one building to another (fortunately it was mostly local Thai people there so I could easily see over everyone’s head).
I finally gave up and grabbed a cab to one of the real shopping malls off Sukhumvit Road. I spent a couple of hours browsing in the fancy shops there but after seeing the much cheaper prices at the market, my heart just wasn’t in it. Everything in the mall was 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. 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!
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