My initial thoughts of Bangkok, mainly based on on friends and internet descriptions was that it was a steaming, sprawling, chaotic, noisy, polluted but fun city. As soon as we stepped out of the cab at 9pm near Rambruti road all those descriptions seemed to multiply ten fold. Not only are you hit with the sweltering muggy heat of the city but you also are hit with the smells (good and bad, good being all the street vendors, bad being the smell of rubbish and fumes) and sounds of a throbbing metropolis. It was a like a neon dream walking down to my hostel with people selling fresh fruit, BBQ food, drinks, wooden frogs (that made a same croaking sounds as a real frog which got really annoying after the 2nd day), bracelets, clothes and everything else under the sun. I was glad to make it into my room for the fear of being hounded for a Tuk Tuk ride, taxi, bracelet, massage or a suit!!
My abode for the next few days was Mango Palace which was away from the main backpacker destination – Khao San Rd and up a much quieter and tranquil street. It was a modest room with cable TV and air con for around £12 pounds per night. You really need air con in Bangkok otherwise you`ll end up coughing the night away and ending up with black sheets from all the fumes that get everywhere. As it was my first night in Bangkok and Mark and Adams last night it was straight out into Khoa San road. The road itself is around 500m long and at night it turns into many bars and clubs and during the day it turns into a clothes, CD and DVD markets. We soon found a comfortable establishment and ordered my first ever Chang beer. After a few beers and a a few sheeshas we reminisced on their travels around the world (7mths had taken them from Hull – USA – Cook Islands, NZ, Aus and now the last day in Thailand) and the fun we all had along the way. Before too long it was time to hit the club together for one last time before an emotional farewell and a stagger back to the hotel.
There was no time for hangovers as that night my Canadian friend Laura and Tam (from Airlie beach) and their friend Kat were arriving that night and I was going from being tourist to tour guide. I used the day to catch up with my laundry. Well actually I handed my laundry to the hotel and they washed it and ironed it and all for £1 a kg!! Excellent service something that my mum would have been proud of!! The Canadians arrived early evening so I only thought it right to show them the delights of Khao San road again!!
The next morning we were up earlish and decided to do a few sights. First on the list was Wat Pho which is fmaous for the massive Reclining Buddha. At 20 acres large, it is the largest Wat in Bangkok, and is technically the oldest too, as it was built around 200 years before Bangkok became Thailand`s capital. However, today the Wat today bears virtually no resemblance to that originally constructed, as it was almost entirely rebuilt by Rama I when the capital was moved to Bangkok around a 100 years ago. The highly impressive gold plated reclining Buddha is 46 meters long and 15 meters high, and is designed to illustrate the passing of the Buddha into nirvana. The feet and the eyes are engraved with mother-of-pearl decoration, and the feet also show the 108 auspicious characteristics of the true Buddha.
The large grounds of Wat Pho contain more than 1000 Buddha images in total, most from the ruins of the former capitals Ayuthaya and Sukhothai. The Buddha is an amazing sight and a true landmark of Bangkok, the surrounding grounds were also hugely impressive with such intricate design and fine detail on the buildings. As we were on the a Buddha mission we decided to go in search of the standing Buddha, but unfortunately we got lost and couldn`t`t find it. Also the heat of the city was getting to us somewhat and we decided to head home for a meal and some drinks as the next day we wanted to visit the Grand Palace.
The following morning we donned our trousers and long sleeve tops (as you are not allowed to show flesh in the Grand Palace) and made our short walk to Wat Phra Kaew. The Grand Palace is nowadays used only for occasional ceremonial purposes and is no longer the royal residence. The present King Bhumibol (Rama IX) lives in Chitralada Palace (also closed to tourists), which is located not too far away in Bangkok`s Dusit district. The highlights of the Grand Palace are:- Boromabiman Hall, built by King Rama VI and every king since has lived here at some time. – Amarinda Hall, the original residence of King Rama I and the Hall of Justice. Nowadays it`s impressive interior is used for ceremonial occasions and coronations. It contains the antique throne, used before the Western style one presently in use. – Grand Palace Hall / Chakri Maha Prasat. Visitors are allowed inside the spacious European style reception room.
This building has not been used for royal residence since the mysterious death of King Rama VIII (the older brother of the current King), found shot dead in his room in 1946. The reverence for the monarchy in Thailand means that, even today, this remains a completely taboo subject to talk publicly about in Thailand. The impressive Dusit Hall is rated as perhaps the finest architectural building in this style. Again we were left in awe at the detail of the work on the buildings and the fine statues and pictures. Although vaguely akin in the religious sense to our western churches it was a totally different culture and style and was absolutely stunning. After the grand palace we headed on up to the National Museum (we were on a roll) but this was shut for the afternoon as ceremonies were taking place. The rest of the day was spent exploring the town and looking through various Wats (temples).
The following day we booked our next trip to Koh Chang (literally translated as Elephant Island) where we were going elephant trekking and a bit more beach lounging. The rest of the day we treated ourselves to some Thai massages and at @2 for half an hour we were stupid not to let someone take away the aches and pains of our tourist stint. Trekking round a city of 7.5 million poeple and probably 4 times as much traffic takes it toll!! We also did a bit of shopping as everything in Bangkok is cheap, fed ourselves on delicious Pad Thai (spicy noodles) then went to bed, looking forward to the next island adventure…