Bangkok

A friend of mine from work was coming to Bangkok so Anong and I booked some airplane tickets to visit her (thanks for the hospitality Jackie!).  During the day Anong and I explored Bangkok, visited temples, and sampled the many options for food in the city.  In the evenings we met up with Jackie and her friends for dinner and drinks.

On the 17th, we arrived in the afternoon.  Getting from the airport to the city isn’t too difficult but it does take some time…  We flew into Don Mueang Airport which means we had to take the A1 bus to the Mo Chit Bus Station which connects to the BTS (Sky Train).  Once in the sky train station it was pretty easy to figure out how to get to Jackie’s place.  I think it took about 2.5 hours to get there though.  Once we got off the BTS is was a 20 minute or so walk.  It didn’t take us long to find some street food.

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If I go to Bangkok again I think I will try flying into Suvarnabhumi Airport which I think connects to the subway and BTS which would save lots of time by avoiding the bus ride.  A little later in the evening we all went out for dinner at a Thai restaurant then met some other friends for drinks at a place called Small’s Bar.   They had a pretty cool rooftop seating area.

The next day was a gruelling tour of all the wats (temples) in Bangkok.  Well, not all of them but we went to 7 or 8 wats and a couple other shrines so it felt like we went to all of them.  But first Anong and I went to a yoga studio for a nice morning workout.  It was interesting trying a new yoga studio with different teachers and a different style of yoga.  Anyone in Bangkok should check out Roots8Yoga.

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Now for the wats!  I think the first place we went to was called Chao Pho Suea Joss House.  I can’t recommend going there.  Once we got close to the entrance a few ladies selling incense, candles, and other things start quickly talking to us and showing a price list of various things.  Anong is discussing various things with them.  This is all happening in Thai so I’m not really sure what is being discussed.  I don’t have a good feeling about this but I thought I’d just let Anong do her thing since it’s important to her  and it seems they agreed on an offering tray with a few things on it for around ฿200 which didn’t seem too bad.  So we go in side, light the prescribed number of incense sticks at each spot, burn some candles and do our thing.  Meanwhile some dude is talking over a loudspeaker and some lady is following us around seemingly explaining various things to Anong but this is all unusual to me so I ask why is this lady following us around.  Not getting a clear answer I just go with the flow.  About 10 minutes later we walk out and back to the stand that sold us the tray of things and they tell us it’s ฿790!  What!?  Being in a little bit of shock I just pay it unsure of what service they provided for 10 minutes that was worth ฿790.  After explaining to Anong that I don’t like being taken advantage of and that we can not spend ฿790 at every wat we go to we were on our way.

For any visitors to Thailand, here’s the standard operating procedure when visiting temples.

  1. You can bring your own incense and candles.  But if you use the incense and candles at the temple, they usually suggest a donation of ฿5 to ฿20.
  2. More popular temples will have vendors selling flowers outside.  Flowers will cost between ฿25 to ฿100 but none of this money goes to the temple so skip it.
  3. When going inside the temple, take off your shoes.
  4. When inside, light incense, say prayers, burn candles, take pictures.  Pictures are almost always ok.  Just be quiet and reverent.
  5. There are usually 1 or 2 monks inside the temple.  It’s ok to talk to the monk and you can get a blessing from the monk.  It’s not required but a ฿20 donation is appropriate.
  6. There will be other donation boxes inside the temple.  Donate any amount you feel is appropriate.

The next stop is Wat Phra Kaew.  It’s inside the Grand Palace and is one of the most popular tourist spots in the city.  Outside they have a recording that plays every minute or two to remind people the palace is open every day and to be suspicious of anyone approaching you.  Apparently a big scam is to tell tourists the palace is closed today then take them on a tour of gem and tailor shops with high pressure salesmen.  It’s nice to see something being down to cut down on the tourist scams.  The price to go inside was ฿500 for tourists!  Thais are free.  Thanks Thailand for yet another reminder that although you are happy to take my money, I am not really welcome here and do not belong.  Still feeling sick from the last experience it was an easy decision to wait outside while Anong went in.  It was so crowded that Anong wasn’t able to take any pictures so I feel like I didn’t miss anything.  Here’s a couple pictures I got while I waited.

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Before Wat Phra Kaew we saw this:

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Mother Earth Squeezing Her Hair. A shrine to Queen Patcharindra who set up access to clean water for the people.

And this:

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Next was Wat Pho.  ฿200 to get in (free for Thais).  No thanks.  Here’s a picture of the ceiling over the bench I sat on while waiting outside.

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After Wat Pho we went to Wat Arun.  Wat Arun had lots of interesting things to look at.  Most of which can be seen without paying a fee.  There is one section that does have a fee but it’s a more reasonable ฿40 so I ended up paying that and got a few more pictures.

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IMG_0858After Wat Arun we bought some boat tickets and rode up and down the Chao Phraya River (Thai: แม่น้ำเจ้าพระยา) and saw a few more temples.  Note the “Ch” is pronounced with a ‘J’ sound.  At this point all the temples started looking the same so here’s a few more pictures:

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Done with the temples!  Here’s another street food picture.  They are making Kanom Krok.  My favorite Thai snack / dessert:

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On the 19th, I went to yoga in the morning.  After yoga we relaxed then headed out on the BTS to explore Bangkok a little bit.  We did a little shopping at MBK but didn’t buy much.  Walked around, and ate some food.

On the 20th, we went to see the Erawan Shrine.  It’s a statue with four faces.

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Then we went to China Town.

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Durian Gan Yao!

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Of course we went to more wats!

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Painting on a ceramic pot.

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This is a solid gold statue of Buddha. This picture cost me ฿40

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The temples in China Town reminded me of Hong Kong.

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The durian was delicious.

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Then we ate pizza at Via Vai.  A guy we were with is friends with the owner so we got this extra fancy pizza.  We drank red wine and ate some more normal pizzas.  Best pizza I’ve had in Thailand so far.

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 And on our last day, we just went to the airport.  Back on the BTS to Mo Chit.  Then take the A1 to the airport.  It was a bit of an adventure finding the bus station and the bus.  I learned that Thai people are happy to give you directions even when they don’t know the location of where you are trying to go.  The bus stop didn’t list the A1 bus so I was pretty sure it wasn’t going to come here.  Anong asked someone and they said walk up to the next spot about 100 feet away.  Still no indication that the A1 bus would come here and nobody can explain to me why it comes here when it’s not listed as stopping here.  Eventually a #29 bus comes.  I’m not sure how but Anong quickly figured out it also goes to the airport and we confirmed it with the bus driver.  So we get on the bus and about a half mile up the road pass another bus stop with clearly marked sign for the A1 bus.  Eventually we made it to the airport and got to the gate 20 minutes before boarding.

Bangkok was a fun city.  I’d like to go back to sample more of the street food and see some of the other areas.  I was really amazed at how much food is in the city.  There are many restaurants but the sidewalks are packed with food vendors at all times of the day.  I was also pleasantly surprised with the taxis.  I’d heard horror stories about taxis not using the meters, over charging, and refusing to take you to where you wanted to go but the couple times we took a taxi we did not have any of those problems.

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