Where I was when I wrote this: Wrapping up this blog from the lounge at the Hilton Phuket Arcadia Resort & Spa
With the long day we had yesterday I had a feeling that today was going to be a bit rough. We were both a bit tired but we just powered through. Get ready for 3 temples to see and then some.
We had breakfast at the lounge but wondered where the heck everyone was. We understood the next day when we went to the main restaurant downstairs which had 5 times the selection.
To get started we took one of these ferries that take you along the river. We took it all the way up to the Grand Palace. Once we got off the boat the craziness started. Food stalls and vendors lined the streets and once out in the open tuk tuks were everywhere. Walking towards the Grand Palace entrance it was funny to hear through the loudspeaker repeating that the site was open everyday and to not trust “wiley strangers”. Bangkok is known for its scams. A common one is when a stranger comes up to you to tell you that the temple or whatever is closed and that they know a better place to go to that they can take you to. What ends up happening is they’ll take you to some shop for some kickback money. There’s also the gem scam but we didn’t really encounter any of that.
We spent quite a bit of time at the Grand Palace as it was pretty huge. We didn’t hire a guide or anything so we just walked it ourselves. It was easy to pick up bits and pieces of information because there were Chinese tour groups everywhere with their guides talking extremely loudly.
The coolest part about the Grand Palace is seeing the Emerald Buddha, which is their most prized item. It sits in Wat Phra Kaew and is actually quite tiny. The little Buddha has interchangeable costumes as well. So for every season the King is supposed to change Buddha’s clothing (Rain, Cool, Warm)
From the Grand Palace, it was an easy walk towards Wat Pho a.k.a. Reclining Buddha. This time we decided to get a guide for 300 Baht and oh boy were we in for a treat. We got this crazy guide named Mr. Dong who I couldn’t understand half the time but was crazy, animated, funny and sometimes strange. He was great in telling us where all the great shots were and clearing out the crowds with the wave of his hand. He was our personal photographer too if we wanted group photos (even getting down on the ground in some instances). He loved his personal anecdotes and famous last words that include:
- “You have nice lotus life come to you”
- “Double success…double victory…double power!”
- “Lotus bring you to the top…top like Rama”
- “Big power!”
- “Strong life!
I’m not sure if I learned a great deal from him but I couldn’t help laughing at his ridiculousness. I kept giving Jia the one eyebrow raised look. Best tour guide ever. We got to take pictures with ALL the statues. He even got us to touch the holy dong lol.
Wat Pho Traditional Thai Massage School
From Wat Pho the guide said we weren’t that far from the Wat Pho Traditional Thai Massage School. Lonely Planet recommends it because it’s pretty cheap for the Thai massage since it’s done by the students. Finding however was another matter as we were told to look for the 7-Eleven along the main street but from there it wasn’t very clear. Anyways we eventually found it after we asked this bookstore lady. The place isn’t much to look at but for something like 220 baht for 30 minutes you can’t complain. We were quickly ushered into the darkened room after we paid. Jia got this older lady and I got this young guy. I’ve never done a Thai massage so I didn’t know what to expect but wow I think I was in some level of pain for the duration. It’s definitely not a soothing massage but purely pressure points. Luckily my physio Ed got me used to some of this torture. The funny part was that these masseurs weren’t exactly professional and would whisper to each other and even laugh especially when Jia’s lady started doing some serious stuff to his shoulder. I would say the craziest parts were when they twist you side to side to crack your back and the other one where you put your hands behind your head, their knees are pointed at your back and you lean back into the knees.
By this point it was 3 something and we needed to grab so food. On the same alley as the massage school we found this nice clean place called Food Route so we just ate there. Cute little place clearly for tourists but they do a good job.
Around the corner we caught a ferry to cross the river to get to Wat Arun for only 3 baht. This was going to be the last Wat for the day to complete the triumvirate of temples in Bangkok. It’s a crazy steep climb up to the top but it offered great views of the city and the river as the sun was setting. At the bottom there was this REALLY annoying loudspeaker on repeat advertising some canal cruise but it was hilarious because you really couldn’t understand what he was fully saying and it chop off in weird places to repeat. “Capital city tours….stand by here…blah blah blah”. This became a running joke for the rest of our trip because I ended up recording parts of it on my iPhone and turning it into a ringtone for our morning wake ups. I’ll try to load it on here if it’s even possible.
Listen to this. We laughed at this one for quite awhile.
Taking the ferry the river again to go back to the main side we had an interesting experience in trying to get to Khao San Road. It wasn’t exactly that far but the tuk tuk seemed to be the way to go. So we first get out and we’re checking out a map. Some random guy with a “security” patch starts coming over pointing at his patch and asks us where we want to go. Then he starts recommending other shopping areas to check out which we knew immediately was pure scams. We ask a few tuk tuks in the area for the prices to Khao San but again they were totally high and unwilling to budge or they said they could lower the price if we visit some shop. So I made the executive call to just walk away and get out of that main cluster of tuk tuks.
As an aside, along the way we passed by a drink stand. Jia and I were talking earlier about how cool it’d be to drink out of a bag because that’s what the locals seemed to do. So I try to buy some coke but first she just hands me a can and then a plastic bottle straight up which I didn’t want. I then asked for the glass bottle one because I knew they’d want to keep the bottle. Again this failed because all she did was put it into a plastic cup. At this point I gave up and just paid for it. Funny thing was I didn’t realize that I still had some SGD currency in my wallet so I got it a bit mixed up and tried to pay with it. She yelled something back at me and I didn’t get it still so I paid with some bills. When we finally got our tuk tuk on the side of the road who immediately took our offer of 60 baht and got to Khao San Road, I tried to use the same 0.50 SGD coin thinking it was 50 baht. Again the guy refused and started making the money sign at which point Jia finally figured out what was going on. Whoops!
Khao San Road
Khao San Road was a pretty cool place to walk around for awhile since it had been Wats pretty much all day long. The streets are littered with bars, tourist souvenir shops, t-shirt shops (seems to be a thing around Thailand), fake ID stands, food stalls, fast food and backpackers galore. We picked up some coconut ice cream + jelly + peanuts in a coconut which is amazing.
From Khao San we hopped on another tuk tuk to head towards Chinatown for dinner to end the night. We followed bits and pieces of our Lonely Planet for this part since they had a section about a food trail. The first place we hit up was this bird’s nest place called Burapa’s Bird Next. For 800 baht we tried it out and it wasn’t as terrible as I thought it’d be but definitely pretty expensive. It doesn’t have much taste on its own so you have to mix in the honey. It reminded me a lot of this Chinese desert with white fungus.
From there literally next door we ate some street food to try some local noodle dish. It was local, grungy, dirty but damn it was good. Ordering was a bit of a challenge but we just read out the name of the dish and the rest we just pointed at what other people ordered.
We thought we’d try another place that was supposedly famous for its noodles but they gave us so much attitude and really didn’t seem to care for our business that we ended up just walking away.
Chinatown itself was interesting. Not exactly like your typical Chinatown as in it just felt like just another busy area in Bangkok. The streets were wide and lacked the normal type of stores you’d expect to find in Chinatown like the dirty grocery stores, herbal shops and dollar store looking shops. Granted there were a bunch of Chinese restaurants and things along the streets but everyone seemed to speak Thai and the “Chinese” people looked more Thai than anything. My guess is we didn’t get to see the true core.
- The coin museum at Wat Phra Kaew/Grand Palace is kind of lame on its own but it isn’t really advertised that the different costumes for the Emerald Buddha are housed there so it’s a quick 5 minutes to check it out and is included with your general admission.
- Tuk tuks in Bangkok – Any tuk tuks near main tourist attractions are going to be part of the “gangs” (the ones that want to scam you and take you to their kick back shops or charge you ridiculously high amounts). If you can the best way is to walk out of these areas and just catch a tuk tuk that’s passing by on the road. After a few days you’ll kind of have a good idea about the going prices but something like Grand Palace to Khao San should only be about 50-70 baht. What we eventually realized on our last day is that taking a taxi on meter isn’t actually any more expensive than tuk tuks as we had originally thought so don’t be afraid to just hop on a cab. Just make sure the meter is on. NEVER do fixed fare on a cab.
- Wat dress code – Okay so I didn’t really think about this too much before the trip but you have to be a bit conscious about what to wear if you’er doing a temple day. Strictly speaking you need to wear clothes that cover your shoulders and knees and your feet but I found that this was loosely followed. Flip flops are totally fine. Sleeveless shirts also seem okay. Girls just need to make sure they have something to cover their shoulders though most temples seemed to give out sarong type things for free and also be mindful of the short skirts. But seriously I saw girls go in without following any of the above and they were fine.
- Breakfast at the lounge
- Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew
- Wat Pho
- Wat Pho Traditional Thai Massage School
- Lunch @ Food Route
- Wat Arun
- Khao San Road
- Chinatown for dinner
- Back to the Royal Orchid Sheraton
Head to the Next Day
To read about the next day as we do a little shopping at the famous Chatuchak market and hit up a roof top bar, head over to Day 19 – Bangkok – Chatuchak Shopping
Curious what else I did on my trip to Asia? See the full itinerary and all 89 days.