Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Day 10 - Top 3 Bangkok Attractions

Bangkok tourism overload today! We spend about 12 hours in the blazing heat of Bangkok visiting as many tourist sites as possible, including the 3 most popular spots - Wat Pho, Wat Arun, and the Grand Palace. Many of these places require visitors to dress in respectful clothing, including sleeved shirts, closed-heeled shoes, and pants that cover the knees.

We started early in the morning since we wanted to try and visit all the popular attractions in the morning before it got too hot outside. Also, many of the most popular tourist sites had operating hours that only left a short window of opportunity to visit. After breakfast, we took the Skytrain from our hotel to the Saen Saeb canal, where we took an express boat through the canal to a stop near the Grand Palace. The water in Thailand is filthy and it was an interesting experience riding these canal boats because they barely stop at each pier for long to wait for stragglers so you have to be quick to jump on the boat before it leaves for the next stop. Travelling through the canal at high speeds means lots of splashing of dirty water, which you have to dodge by covering your face or making sure tarp is held up on the sides of the boat to block the water from coming into the boat. 

After we got off the canal boat, we took a taxi to the Grand Palace, which used to be home to the Royal Family before they relocated to Dusit. The Palace is the resting place for the sacred Emerald Buddha, a small figurine of around 45 cm that is considered to be the palladium of all of Thailand. The entire Palace grounds hold many temples, some of which are gilded beautifully with shimmering gold, and almost all the walls on the inside are painted with very intricate and detailed murals depicting scenes of the many lives of Buddha.

The closest attraction to the Grand Palace was the Wat Pho, and we were refused a taxi ride for the first time because the taxi driver insisted on NOT using the meter, but negotiating a taxi fare on the spot. I think it was because the distance was so short, that he didn't want to bother using the meter. With so many taxi drivers available, we just took the next one. 

Wat Pho is Thailand's biggest and oldest temple. The main spectacle of this site is the biggest reclining Buddha in Thailand. It is 46 meters long and is housed in it's own temple. Wat Pho is also considered to be the birth of traditional Thai massage, and there is a school on the temple grounds where tourists can get massages for decent prices.

We then took a quick ferry ride over the Chao Phraya River to reach Wat Arun, a temple most known for the multicolored tiers decorated with thousands of pieces of broken porcelain, much of which was donated by the local people. The climb to the highest accessible tier was steep, and it didn't provide the best views of the city, so I don't think it's worth it to climb up if you are scared of heights.

Getting the top 3 attractions out of the way, we proceeded to one last temple - the Wat Indrawihan, which houses a 105 foot standing Buddha, before heading to Khao San Road, which is known as "backpacker" central because of all the foreigners walking the streets and all the cheap guesthouses and hotel rooms you can reserve. There was a sort of "hippie/counter culture" vibe when I walked through the street. Dreadlocks, piercings, tattoos, and flowy genie pants were popular there. It seemed like it would be the perfect party scene once night hit. With all this sight-seeing, I think I'm due for a night out drinking soon...

Outside the entrance to the Grand Palace and the rainclouds hovering above

The Grand Palace - The Phra Si Rattana Chedi, which is believed to contain a piece of the Buddha's breastbone.

The Grand Palace - An example of the Murals painted on the walls

The Grand Palace

Wat Pho - The statue of the reclining Buddha

Wat Arun

Wat Arun - A Closeup of the broken pieces of porcelain

Wat Indrawihan

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