South-East Asian

Adventures 1999-2000

Episode 1: Bangkok

Temple God, Grand Palace

Grand Palace

Read Next Episode: Ayuthaya to Chiang Mai
November 26, 1999 Bangkok

Here we are in Bangkok, playing tourist once again. We are staying in the Sukhumvit Road tourist region of town in a good hotel & are finding it easy to find a taxi or tuk tuk to take us around. Tuesday we went to the Vietnam embassy the first day to arrange a visa for next month. This takes 4 days to process so we will leave here Saturday. Our tentative plans have us staying 2 weeks each in Northern Thailand, Laos & Vietnam, but things could change. The first place we visited in Bangkok wa s the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew (a Wat is a buddhist monastery). We spent at least 1.5 hrs wandering around this huge complex of ornate, baroque style buildings that were once the home of the King. It doesn't look quite real, with all the gold and beautifully coloured buildings. The only disappointment was they closed the Wat with the famous emerald Buddha just before we were entering. This is an active Buddhist temple & ceremonies were starting.

The next day we took a taxi to the Chao Phraya river & boarded the express taxi boat for a 6 Bhat (24 cents) trip up the river. You get a good view of several other Wats plus a view of river life. On the return trip we stopped off at Wat Pho, and since it was lunch time started looking for a suitable res taurant. We weren't brave enough to buy from the many sidewalk vendors in that area so we ended up on a main road wondering which way to go. A Thai man approached & suggested a Thai restaurant a distance away, as well as another Wat and a Bangkok export exposition. He also haggled with a tuk tuk driver for us so we decided we had nothing to lose & got in. The driver took us to a small local restaurant and while he waited, we enjoyed quite a good inexpensive meal. He next took us to Wat Intharawihan with one of the largest standing Buddhas. What made it most interesting for us, besides the large golden Buddha, was the wall surrounding an adjoining temple building. It was a bookcase like structure filled with beautiful porcelain urns, which we decided were burial urns of the faithful. Next the driver took us to what I decided was the hook, a jewelry store. But if our good samaritan was looking for a commission, he lost. Finally we returned to Wat Pho, all for 50 Bhat ($2 CAD). This was another interesting site with a gigantic reclining gold Buddha plus other temple buildings. Leaving there we took a water taxi across the Chao Phraya (2 bhat) to Wat Arun on the other side. This Wat is covered in ceramic pieces from Chinese dishes used as ballast in trading ships. The guide book said we could climb up the Wat to get a good view of Bangkok, but unfortunately that is no longer allowed. It was interesting anyway. We returned across the river again & walked several blocks to find a reasonable taxi back to our hotel. We ended up walking on a street filled with food vendors and flower stalls and vendors. Very colourful & not for tourists. Got a taxi & returned in the worst traffic yet. It was near 5 PM & I guess is commuting time as it is everywhere, but we did manage in reasonable time.

Today we traveled to the National Museum. We spent several hours exploring the huge display of Thai history & art & artifacts. Gave us a good perspective on the monarchy & the area we will be visiting next. From th ere we went to the Vimanmek Mansion, the home of King Rama 5 in early 1900's. We had a tour through the 81 room mansion, made entirely of teak & beautifully furnished & decorated with the many gifts given by other nations.

Tomorrow we get ready to travel again, this time by train & pick up our visas. Our first stop will be Ayuthaya, the ancient capital of Thailand. We will look for another email spot in Chang Mai, so stay tuned.

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