The blog is not finished! But after the Theft (yes, capital letters), the want/need to update the blog took second fiddle to dealing with the Theft and just finishing the trip sans computer. Since being home, it's been hard to get that motivation to complete it. But I will. Ever so slowly. Please be patient!

Monday, October 3, 2011


Days 292-298, September 15-21, 2011

While my previous post on Bangkok focused on the sleaze that is quite prevalent, I did mention that there is much more to the city than just sex. While many people can’t get past those first few initial impressions, I found that by allowing myself more time to slowly explore I was able to see some of the major sites, as well as one or two minor ones, without feeling rushed by the need to escape!

Here is a little composite of some of the sites I managed to get to in that first week in Bangkok:

The Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha
IMG_2924This was the very first place I visited. My one advice to everyone is to completely ignore any and all people that tell you as you walk towards the entrance that the place is closed(this goes for every temple and museum). More often than not it is a scam to get you to a shop to buy things.

The Grand Palace is enormous and one can easily spend a IMG_2978few hours inside exploring. Or less if you’ve seen temples and such already. The entrance fee is a bit steep(400Baht) but that gets you into the Temple and the Palace. The Temple complex is huge, though that becomes normal as a Wat(temple school) is more than just one building. The central temple, the one housing the Emerald Buddha, requires you to enter shoeless(another aspect I have to get used to). The Buddha itself is tiny but I was still stunned speechless from all the colours in the entire area.

The Grand Palace itself, the building of the Royal Family(when they decide to stay there) is pretty dull in comparison. But it’s still enormous. I spent maybe a tenth of my time at the Palace as I did in the temple complex.

Wat Pho – Temple of the Reclining Buddha
IMG_3044Fans of the Amazing Race would recognize this place as the location of the final “Fast Forward” task in the very first season. Once again, people tried to tell me the place was closed. I silently cursed myself for not taking a picture of the Hours of Operation sign when I had passed it earlier in the day as that sign clearly stated it closed at 6pm, not 3pm as the people were trying to tell us. I think that’s the only thing that annoyed me about Bangkok, but not enough to make me hate the city. The price of the temple here was a cheap 50Baht

IMG_3041The Buddha in this temple complex is the largest statue of the Buddha in the reclining position. And when they say it’s the largest, they mean it. It’s absolutely enormous. Not sure if it’s completely made out of gold, but I wouldn’t be surprised. The soles of the Buddha’s feet are made from Mother of Pearl. My only complaint, and this totally puts me in line as a tourist, is that the building the Buddha is housed in is too small to get a picture of the entire statue. Oh boo hoo for me.

Wat Arun – Temple of the Dawn
IMG_3117Across the river from Wat Pho and the Grand Palace stands Wat Arun. From afar, it doesn’t look nearly as bright or as colourful as the former two, but once you get close you see that there is colour, but faded in such a way that it gives it a much more natural, subdued feeling. This one only cost 50Baht as well.

When I was here, there was only 30 minutes left before they closed. To get to the temple, one IMG_3098has to grab a direct ferry from near Wat Pho. It’s cheap, 3Baht, and takes maybe five minutes. Inside the temple, the thing that sets this one apart is that you can climb the tower of the temple. The stairs are steep though. The final set you climb have steps that are over a foot high. Basically, for me, I had to lift my legs higher than my knees to reach the next step. It was worth it though, and going up was way easier than going down.

Wat Benchamabophit – Marble Temple
IMG_3217For a mere 20Baht, you can visit this absolutely gorgeous temple complex only a fifteen minute walk from the infamous Khao San Road(see below). The cheap price is probably a reflection of the lack of tourists that come here. The more tourists, the more popular a place, the more expensive the entry fee tends to be the rule.

This particular temple was a must for me as, back in University, my friend Chelle and I would spend Tuesday mornings, after grabbing a cheapo breakfast from Louis’ Pub downstairs, watching The Amazing Race in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Ally Centre(LGBTA Centre). That particular season went back to Thailand and had their pit stop at the Marble Temple.

IMG_3246It’s a small complex compared to Wat Pho, but I can honestly say I found it much more gorgeous. An entire temple made from white marble? Hard to argue against that type of beauty. And the lack of people around just made the entire place that much more serene. But the best thing of all was being able to watch and listen to the monks at the temple singing and praying and random people coming in to sing along with them. Now that was cool.

Golden Mount
IMG_3329Once again, I was told by not one, but four separate TukTuk drivers, that the Golden Mount – one of the highest temples in the whole city – was closed. I had done my research before coming so knew it was all a lie. Even without the research, when four different people give you four different closing times, something tends to sound fishy.

The temple was not closed, obviously, and was free, much to my delightful surprise. The temple stands at the top of a manmade hill with two separate IMG_3319stairways circuling their way up to the top temple. The climb is only made difficult as, in a complete opposite of Wat Arun, the steps are extremely short. It was not hard at all to ascend two stairs at a time. At various points in the ascent, and the descent, rows of prayer bells lined the sides. From my observations, and basic understanding, you ring each bell as you walk by.

IMG_3320At the top, the building actually houses a number of tiny rooms in which buddha’s have been erected to pray to. As well, a final set of narrow stairs lead to the roof where one has a nearly unobstructed view of the city around. A massive golden stuppa/chebi takes its place prominently in the center of the rooftop. Along with tourists, there were also a few worshipers as well. And while not impressively high over the city, it was still far to develop a sense of quiet and calm. Very little city sounds managed to make its way up to here.

Chatuchak Weekend Market
IMG_3158Sometimes called Jatujak, or simply JJ, by local Bangkokians, the Chatuchak Weekend Market is the largest in the entire city. And when I say large, I mean it. It spans an area of over 35 acres with over 5000 different stalls. It’s like a massive Patpong, just without the sex toys. At least, I didn’t find any. I didn’t make to all 5000 stalls.

While the market is open nearly every day, most of the stalls are only open on the weekend, thus the name. Going here is an experience in itself, even if you have absolutely no plans to buy anything. And you can find pretty much anything here. Though, the majority of the shops were selling some sort of clothing. Many shops were very specific in their items, with one selling only belt buckles.

IMG_3160Probably the oddest section I found was the pet section where they literally had puppies and kittens up for sale. While I was a bit suspicious of this, the animals looked quite well taken care of. Some of the older ones even had their own fans directed on them to cool them off from the Bangkok heat. The only real disturbing part in this section was the pet makeover stalls. You know the place, where Fido or Fluffy can be brought in to get their toe nails painted and hair done up in braids. And don’t forget a brand new shirt for your dog!

With a ceiling over nearly the entire market, and no real street signs, it was very easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle. But this is what is so fun about the whole place. The only bad part for it being so big and full? You’re bound to wander into something where you think to yourself: “You know . . . I could use something like that.”

Khao San Road
No other road in South East Asia is as famous as Khao San Road. It is the place to be if you’re a backpacker. I don’t know of the history behind its evolution into such a prominent fixture on the backpackers trail, but there’s no denying that it is the hub of tourism in Bangkok, and even Thailand. Of course, I wasn’t staying down there. I’m not sure why I had an aversion to staying on Khao San long before I arrived in Asia, but it was there.

Still, I had to go see it. I couldn’t come all the way to Bangkok and not see this center of backpacking.

I am so glad I’m not staying there.

Yes, there’s a lot of hostels that are cheaper than IMG_3193where I was currently staying in. However, I’m not sure how long I could last staying on a street – only three or four short blocks long – which is covered with people hounding you to get a tattoo, a piercing, a suit made, a tuk tuk ride/tour, or more. I even had a guy come up claiming to be a psychic.

There are literally dozens of travel agencies on the street. As well as two McDonalds, a couple pubs, a KFC, a Burger King, and some other Western style restaurants. Very little would really distinguish this street as being in Thailand or Asia besides the random street food vendor selling pad thai.

Perhaps I’m just old[26 is old I guess] or else I’m just in a different mind frame that I just can’t see myself wanting to stay in that area. Hell, even two hours was more than enough. I can’t even imagine how tired I would be fighting through the touts and shopkeepers just to get somewhere[Jaime, you though Fez was bad . . . ].

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