Thailand – Country No.4 – Bangkok part 1

Our arrival in Bangkok is late at night. Knowing our hotel is right next to a station, we headed for the airport line. The line was closed forcing us to settle for the taxi rank instead. The guy gives us a price and we just accept it, despite large signs warning to pay the meter fare instead of any given price. We know he’s probably ripping us off but we don’t care by this point.
The hotel is large and grand looking. We check in without issue and gleefully find the room large and comfortable. All good after the claustrophobic room in Hong Kong and thankfully no sign of ‘Ladies of the night’ either.
We slept well in our new found comfort and, despite the cacophony of horns and sirens from the streets below, woke up late. In an attempt to save money we got breakfast snacks from the 7 Eleven across the street.

We decided to head to the Grand Palace, the number one thing to see in Bangkok, according to TripAdvisor. The trains here, whilst not complicated, are not as simple or cheap as China. Here the lines are owned by different companies so changing lines often involves a long walk to a nearby station and a second ticket machine.

We emerged onto a street where a ‘helpful’ taxi driver insisted we listen to his advice. He tells us that the Palace is closed for prayers for the next hour but he would kindly take us to the pier for a boat ride instead, bringing us back to the Palace at a more aroriate time. In all our travels, taxi drivers tend to be the least honourable people when you’re a tourist. I don’t mind when they are actually offering you something in return for your money, sometimes getting in a tuk tuk will result in an awesome adenture that ony local knowledge can provide. However, once in Ho Chi Minh City, we had one switch out a 200000 dong note for a 20000 note. That’s just outright robbery, but I learned to always count out money when you pay. In the Caribbean they show you a picture of a tranquil, empty beach and promise take you there. They actually take you to a large resort where you have to pay for a sun lounger, and the driver gets a kick back for delivering you. A guys got to make a living but at least be upfront about it.

Needless to say, we said no thanks and carried on. It turned out we were right, a quick Google confirmed everything he told us was text book scam material. We walked up the road and found the entrance. It had temple rules to follow so H had to cover her shoulders with a free ‘shawl of shame’ given to innapropriately dressed women as they enter. Once we paid our 200 baht fee, we roamed the area filled with shrines, Buddha’s and many statues of warriors, people in yoga poses and animals. It becomes apparent that this was not the Grand Palace after all. We were in fact at a temple, named Wat Pho. It’s famous for hosting a gigantic reclining Buddha statue. It’s really quite remarkable. We stopped to observe people being tutored in the art of meditation. Instead of sitting crossed legged, they were walking incredibly slowly taking the smallest of steps. I don’t want to make of it as they seemed to be having a genuine spiritual experience and I respect that fully. However, it did conjure up an image of Drax from Guardians of the Galaxy in the scene where he is convinced he’s moving so slowly that he turned invisible.

Around Wat Pho there are a host of other things going on. We saw one guy getting a hot oil massage on his back, provided by another guys feet. There were regular massages and the slightly more bizarre hammer and chisel massages that look horrendous. The whole site is worth a look rom the statues with top hats to the beautiful reclining Buddha itself. Inside that hall you can purchase coins to drop into a series of pots. I believe it is considered lucky to do so. It must provide a great deal of donated money to the temple as people were lining up to parcipitate, that can only be a good thing.

We were still tired and catching up with ourselves so we called it a day and sauntered back to the hotel, stopping off for a katsu curry on the way, continuing our trend of sampling different interprepatations of foods that belong to a different nation to the one we are in. Also, we love Japanese food.

Once more we have utilised the power of Klook, the day trip and travel app geared specifically for Asia, and have booked ourselves onto a tour that leaves early in the morning to visit the ‘Death Railway’ and the bridge over the River Kwai some way out from Bangkok.

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