Thailand Times – Trip 1

I have begun my big adventure. I’m on my way around the world.  First stop was Thailand. The currency is Thai Baht and you get abot 44 baht for 1 pound.

I arrived into Bangkok and successfully navigated to my hostel on Kaoh San Road. This area of Bangkok is famed for being the backpackers party scene. Hostels (a.k.a. guesthouses) cover the area. I staued in one just off Kaoh San Road called the Rainbow guesthouse. It was sub par. The mattress was like rock, the dorm was not clean, the bathrooms were not a pretty sight, the beds felt (and sounded like) they would collapse any second and there was a hole in the wall. However, I was only paying 200 baht per night so really, what was I expecting? I spent 2 days and 3 nights at the hostel. I would not go back.

Day 1 in Bangkok was spent having a jolly walk to Dusit. Dusit has a zoo and palace gardens you can look at. I didn’t fancy the zoo and I couldn’t find the entrance to the gardens. All in all, I walked about 7km in the blistering heat for no sights.  On my trudge back, I found a temple to go in so I did. I now know it was the Wat Benchamabophit. It was actually quite pretty and I sat for a while cooling down. It wasn’t a bad view.

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The temple itself was imposing and ornate as you can see.

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After cooling down, I got a cab back to Kaoh San Road. The trick with cabs in Bangkok is to make sure the driver flicks the meter on. If they don’t, make sure you challenge them about it and get the ride on the meter. Cabs are relatively inexpensive so long as you don’t fall for the fixed price cab scam.

I spent the evening on Kaoh San road. I ate 50 baht worth of noodles and drank beer. Kaoh San Road is as advertised: party street for backpackers.  I tired of it pretty quickly and retreated to bed as the walking of the day had left me somewhat tuckered out.

I did some more walking on my second day but it was not as extensive as the first day. I sauntered to the Grand Palace. The King and Queen of Thailand are truly loved and revered.  It is not acceptable to speak in a derogatory or insulting manner about them. The Grand Palace is a complex of many temples, shrines and buildings enclosed within a high white wall. You must be appropriately dressed to enter the palace. Full length trousers/skirts and shoulders covered are essential. You can hire the correct clothing for free when you place a 200 baht deposit per item (this is what I did). Entry to the Palace is a hefty 500 baht. An audio guide is 200 baht for 2 hours hire. I honestly think it’s over priced. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a spectacle to look at but that’s all you can do, look at it.  There is no signage explaining any of the significant buildings, there’s no real information provided by the map you get and actually navigating to the buildings can be tricky as sign posts that are present don’t seem to go where you expect them to. Nevertheless, I would recommend paying up, all be it begrudgingly, and going to see it.

I muddled around the main complex and found the jewel in the crown of the palace, the emerald Buddha. It’s housed in the grandest building.

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The Buddha itself is perched atop a tall column of offerings and is quite small but, seeing as it’s made entirely of emerald, that makes sense when you think about it. No photography is permitted inside the emerald Buddha temple.

There are also plenty of other buildings to look at.  All are gilt and/or glittering. I particularly liked the one that looked like a gigantic Hersey’s kiss.

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Some of the tiling mosaic work is gorgeous too.

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And some of the guardian statues have faces I only see in nightmares.

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They seem more cheerful when they sparkle more, don’t you think?

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After you’re done in the main complex, you head down an alley of smaller buildings. These are throne rooms and a couple of museums. I liked the museum cataloging the renovation of the main buildings.  You aren’t allowed to take photos of the exhibits but it was fascinating to see the original versions of what I’d just looked at in the main area.

There’s also a museum exhibiting lots of Queen Sirikit`s outfits over the years. It also describes briefly the work she has done to introduce fabric making as a viable trade in rural Thailand.  Again, no photos allowed but an interesting walk round.

The Grand Palace complex is definitely worth looking round but I do begrudge paying £12 (plus another £5 if you take an audio guide) for the privilege.

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