My deepest apologies for the delay in posting photos from our trip to Southeast Asia. I had the intention on posting images each night, but after our first late night and the jet lag, I quickly realized that I was being too ambitious. So, without further ado, I bring you the first leg of our trip, Bangkok, Thailand.
We spent three nights in Bangkok. The first we stayed by the airport because we got in around midnight and the public transport was already closed. On our first day, we met up with a friend and former co-worker of Dennis’s who grew up in Bangkok but moved to the US about 20-some years ago. He just happened to be in the city visiting family the same time we were there, so he graciously offered to be our tour guide during our stay.
Our first trek in Bangkok was to the more touristy areas. We took a water taxi to get there. These boats travel up and down the Chao Phraya river, carrying tourists and locals to various docks along its banks. It was a pretty convenient way to travel and was pretty cheap too.
Our first sight was Wat Arun or the Temple of the Dawn. (“Wat” is Thai for temple.) This temple was built between 1656 and 1688 and is known for its central tower, encrusted with colorful porcelain tiles, which I believe were left over from Chinese trade boats. The steps up the central tower were extremely narrow and very steep. Later in our travels we learned that many of the central towers were reserved for the monks and the steps were made steep to make it more difficult for commoners to access the rooms.
Our next stop was the Grand Palace, which was amazing to see. The palace and surrounding temples were well maintained and were covered in gold-colored, glass tiles. The roofs of the buildings were made of porcelain tiles and looked like wet fish scales in the bright sun light. The royal mansion was an awesome sight as it stood tall over all the other buildings. No tours were allowed inside since the King and Queen of Thailand still occupied the mansion.
For lunch we walked through a nearby street market and grabbed some Pad Thai. It was a good thing we found some cover, because the skies opened up and unleashed one heck of a thunderstorm. A few cracks of thunder erupted directly overhead, and it made me seriously question the safety of our shelter made from metal poles and tattered tarps.
After 30 minutes of torrential rains, we made our way toward Khaosan Road, or what is also known as the backpacker’s area or ghetto. This part of the city is a little more rundown but is filled with shops, restaurants and bars that are cheap and always filled with people. On our way there were walked past the anti-government demonstrations occurring in Bangkok. At the time, these were peaceful demonstrations, but as the week went on they became more violent. I heard on the news days later that there were a few deaths reported when the protestors clashed with the local police. Thankfully, we had no problems.
After sunset, we headed back to the river to take a taxi to Asiatique, a large shopping district, for dinner with some friends. We had a great time, but were exhausted from jet lag and spending the day walking around the city.
For day 2 in Bangkok, we actually headed about 50 km outside the city to Wat Bang Phra where our friend wanted to get a tattoo by monks. Apparently, the Wat is famous for these types of tattoos and the monks use traditional bamboo tools instead of a tattoo gun we are used to here in the US. There was also a little market in the area full of local farmers and their goods and crafts.
Inside the museum at Wat Bang Phra was a dead monk lying instate. That was a little creepy as he looked almost mummified. I can’t remember the name of the monk, but he was apparently a pretty enlightened and respected monk.
After walking around the area for a few hours, we headed back toward Bangkok, stopping for boat noodles which had some beef blood as a thickening agent. They were really good and I am glad that I didn’t know it was beef blood until after I finished them. We also stopped for dinner at a restaurant outside the city and had some of the spiciest food of our entire trip. Thankfully, we had plenty of beer to wash it down, 12 liters to be exact!
Our flight the next day wasn’t until later in the afternoon, giving us enough time to visit Chinatown and Wat Traimit, home of the famous Golden Buddha statue. The story goes that the sold gold buddha statue was covered in plaster and housed in a smaller Wat to prevent it from being stolen. It wasn’t until hundreds of years later, while it was being moved, that it was discovered to be sold gold. The statue is over 9 feet tall and weighs over 5 tons. The value of the statue in today’s US dollars is around $250 million. It was truly an amazing sight to see.
Our last stop was the Bangkok train station to look around. It was a neat station with some old, historic engines still in use today. After our quick walk through the station, we hopped on a tuk tuk (motorcycle taxi) to the sky train station and headed for the airport.
Bangkok was an amazing city. It reminds me of New York City. It is a fast paced city full of people, noise, good food, and amazing sites. We enjoyed our time there and were extremely grateful to the hospitality showed to us by Monchai and his friends. They made our stay in Bangkok a memorable experience that we will not forget.
I hope you enjoy some of the photos from the city!
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