What a lot of Wats!

Well, i have arrived!! Touched down yesterday in the early hours of the afternoon, temperature 28 degrees . . . toasty! I decided to locate the airport bus, which cost me 100THB and dropped me at the top end of Khao San Road. The ordinary bus would have been a little bit cheaper, but after a 13 or 14 hour flight and no real sleep, it wasn’t worth the hassle!

For those of you interested the Shambara Boutique is an excellent hostel. The rooms are spotlessly clean, the staff are friendly, towels are even included and the air con is very effective (if not a little too much so, i woke up freezing in the middle of the night under my little thin sheet!) It’s got a lovely little courtyard where they serve drinks and food (i looked at the menu this eve and you can get stir fried red snapper with red pepper sauce for 90 THB – not much over 1 british pound!

I started my day early this morning – set out at around 9am with the intention of packing the day full of Wats : The Grand Palace, Wat Phra Kaew (the temple of the emerald Buddha), Wat Pho, and Wat Arun. I decided to to take the boat down the Chao Praya river, as the docking station was only a short walk from my hostel. Not long after i set out, i was stopped by a tuk tuk driver (i obviously looked lost with map in hand!) He asked the usual “Where you from?”, “How long you here?” and “Where you go?”, to which i answered the latter with “The Grand Palace.” His response to that was that it was closed until 1:30 : “speceeal Boodah day” he said. He proceeded to mark a number of other temples on the map that were however, open. Hmmm, now maybe a first time Bangkoker would have believed him but i had my suspicions. So i decieded to go with my original plan : i took a very pleasant (and very refreshing after the pollution of Bangkok’s roads) boat journey down to Tha Cheng, and surprise surprise, the Grand Palace was not closed, but it was under serious reconstruction, so a lot of the main part was covered in scafolding!
The Grand Palace
The Grand Palace was consecrated in 1782, the first year of Bangkok rule, and today is a pilgrimage destination for devout Buddhists and nationalists. The 94.5 hectare grounds encompass more than 100 buildings that represent 200 years of royal history and architectuaral experimentation.
Wat Pho
Wat Pho houses the largest reclining Buddha (46m long and 15m high) and the largest collection of Buddha images in Thailand. It’s also the country’s earliest centre for public education. There’s a reputable massage school on site.
Wat Arun
Wat Arun is the third triumvirate along with Wat Pho and Wat Phra Kaew. It’s named after the Indian God of Dawn, Aruna. The most prominent feature of this Wat is the 82m high prang (Khmer style tower), and some spectacular sunsets can apparently be seen as the backdrop to the temple if viewing it from the opposite side of the Chao Praya river.
I intended to try and catch one of these sunsets. I was told the sun set at around 4pm, so based on this fact i arrived at the temple just before 3pm. However, but 3:45 the sun was still very much high in the sky so i decided to head over to Chinatown instead. I hailed a tuk tuk and we settled on the price of 60THB, not sure whether that’s good or bad but i managed to barter him down from 100! I just love Tuk tuk’s – especially when you get one with a crazy driver who weaves his way in and out of the traffic at high speed! Well, i’m not insured for winter sports on this trip so i’ll have to get my thrills somehow!!!

In three words CHINATOWN IS CRAZY!! You thought Khao San Road was manic, well treble it and treble it again! Moreover, Chinatown is on a much larger scale. If you fancy sampling lots of strange unidentifiable food then this is the place to come. If you have a bad sense of direction then this is not! I managed to get completely and utterly lost! Being the stubborn person that i am, i decided that i was going to un-lose myself, but after over an hour of not recognising any street names and not seeing a single white person, i had to give in as soon as i spotted what turned out to be two American guys sitting on the pavement with a map in hand. So thanks guys, i’d probabaly still be in Chinatown if it wasn’t for you!

I’ve had my staple Phad Thai and fresh pineapple and papaya this evening from one of Bangkok’s numerous street stalls so i’m off now to wash it down with a Singha beer in many of the bars down here on Khao San Road . . .

Entrance to most of the Wats around the city is 20THB, with the exception of The Grand Palace, which is 250THB. This does however include entrance to Wat Phra Kaew (the temple of the emerald buddha)

If you’re in Thailand at this time of year, sunset is at 5:30/5:45pm

Photo is of a strange creature who forms part of the decorative temples at The Grand Palace, Bangkok

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