DISCLAIMER – This blog post is going to be a little different to what I’ve posted in the past, in that it’s not at all cheap and cheerful. While it is possible to visit Thailand on a budget, I travelled with ‘Patch Adams’ (who you may remember from my Iceland post – https://planeemoji.com/2015/06/11/elves-fish-and-fart-water-a-weekend-in-reykjavik/ ) and both of our families, hence why the hotels etc. were a lot fancier than usual. Hopefully, the actual content of the trip will still remain relevant for those of you wishing to travel on a smaller budget.
As this was such a big trip, I have decided to separate it into two sections – one for Bangkok and one for Phuket. Keep your eyes peeled for the second instalment coming soon!
Upon arriving in Bangkok and checking into our hotel, we decided that the first thing we would do would be to explore the river that was literally on our doorsteps, the Chao Phraya River. Our hotel ran a boat shuttle service along the river to various stops in the city.
As we were getting our bearings, we decided the best first step was to go out and eat something (obviously). We found a random restaurant and ordered pretty much everything on the menu. As a lover of Thai food, I started off by ordering dishes that looked familiar to play it safe. We had Red Thai Curry with shrimp, Pad Thai, satay chicken with peanut sauce, pepper chicken and all the rest. While at the table we were able to plan out exactly what we were going to do in the coming week, and it was going to be packed, just how I like it!
Our hotel had recommended a mall called the MBK Center to us, which was easily accessible by Bangkok’s metro system, known as the MRT. MBK is eight stories high and links to another mall called the Siam Paragon.
One thing we noticed was that the weather was slightly temperamental, which was not something we had expected from Thailand. We were told that Thailand only has three seasons; summer, winter and rain. While the seasons change every year and depend on the area you are visiting, the rainy season generally spans between November and May. The rain didn’t really bother me as it was intermittent and nonetheless very warm, but it may be something to bear in mind if you’re looking to visit.
Now firmly settled in, we began our day of temple running! First stop was the amazing Temple of the Golden Buddha (Wat Traimit). We decided to book a tour, so we had a guide driving us to the different locations and giving us all the gossip on Bangkok.
The Golden Buddha was absolutely beautiful. It measures three metres high, is made of 18 karat gold and weighs approximately 5.5 tonnes!
The next stop was the Temple of the Reclining Buddha (Wat Pho). This temple houses a statue of Buddha in a lying down pose, which measures 46 metres! It is actually insane how large this statue is, you can’t even see the whole thing without walking its perimeter and it was one of the most mind bogglingly brilliant things I’ve ever seen. Nothing like I would have ever seen in Europe, that’s for sure!
Aside from the Reclining Buddha, Wat Pho is the oldest temple in Bangkok, being established even before Bangkok actually existed. It has a vast complex depicting many different images and sculptures of the Buddha.
Both of these temples can be very crowded, so the best thing to do is to arrive as early as you can. I certainly would not have missed either of these locations off my Bangkok fungenda – they’re about as decadent, magical and beautiful as it gets.
It seems that there is nothing the people of Thailand love more than their royal family. There are pictures of the King and Queen of Thailand everywhere; in shops, in restaurants, on billboards etc. The love for the King and Queen is so strong that insulting them can have dire consequences, as can be evidenced by the country’s controversial ‘lese majeste’ law. Two students were jailed earlier this year under this law so be warned!
The current king, Rama IX, is the longest reigning monarch in the world. He was born in 1927 and has been on the throne since the age of 18. His wife is Queen Sirikit and although they’re both in their 80s, they look unbelievably good.
Anyway, as the royal family are so revered in Thailand we had high hopes for the Grand Palace. A couple of things to mention –
- Dress appropriately. I was wearing a sleeveless top and was asked to cover up using some overalls they had provided. A male member of our party was asked to wear some overalls to cover his shorts! Although rules are rules, the overalls looked N-A-S-T-Y so maybe just cover up beforehand and you won’t have to wear a pink smock shirt that makes you look like dinner lady.
- Beware of tricksters. We were told to watch out for fake guides selling tickets outside the palace, as well as people trying to tell us that the palace was closed for an event (it wasn’t, and we are still not sure what they stood to gain from stopping us entering).
- Take bottles of water!
- Get there as early as you can (however, with a guide we managed to skip the queues!)
The Grand Palace is still in use for official events, such as when foreign presidents come to visit, but it is no longer the official residence of the King. It is made up of several buildings and courts, and also houses the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.
While I’ve been to my fair share of palaces, I’ve never seen one that looks so luxurious. There is gold EVERYWHERE. From the mosaicked walls which glisten as they catch the sun, to the sculptures and the towering spires – everything just screams decadence and immaculate beauty.
The day ended with an evening dinner cruise down the Chao Phraya River. This was a relaxing and fun way to spend time with one another, and provided not only a lovely buffet, but some very unique entertainment. There was some singing, some dancing, and a lip syncing drag queen!
Our final day in Bangkok was a day for markets.
The first place we visited was the Maeklong Railway Market. This market is literally built around the railway tracks, and when a train approaches everyone just makes way! Sounds like a health and safety nightmare. The market sells mainly fruit, vegetables and sea food. While this was all very fascinating and the location was certainly an unusual one, the most vivid memory I took away was the stomach churning stench of fish. I am very au fait with the smell of a Morrison’s fish counter and have to say I tried my best to remain polite and poised, but it’s a whole new level when you’re burying your face into your hair and choking back vomit. Needless to say, we were pleased when we could eventually get out of there and wind down with some refreshing coconut water.
We then got a bus and a boat over to one of Bangkok’s most famous attractions – The Floating Market. There are a few different floating markets in Thailand, but we visited the most famous, Damnoen Saduak. This market is actually about an hour outside of the city and so we took a guide with us in order to make the most of the trip. The water is crowded with different boats, taking shoppers or sales people across from one side to the other. The banks are lined with small stalls that sit at water level and so if you feel like buying something, the whole transaction takes place from the comfort of your little boat.
The market can be very hot, so it’s best to arrive early and avoid the heat (although the boats do provide some straw hats to keep the sun off your face). There is also a range of market and food stalls on dry land, along with the snake handlers! I decided to be brave and wrap a python around my neck #yolo #BRITNEY
Our final day in Bangkok ended with a quick dinner at Billion Beef in Siam Paragon (try the beef noodle soup!) before heading back to the hotel to pack for the next leg of our Thailand journey – Phuket!
Stay tuned for the next instalment but for now, thanks for reading.
~ Plane Emoji