On the second full day in Bangkok we decided to do some traditionally touristy stuff. We are here in the low season for tourism, and as the crowds at the places we went proved, high season must be terrible.
The first stop was the Grand Palace. A 60 acre spread of temples and buildings that I have to admit was pretty spectacular. The dress code at the palace was quite strict and two of us had to borrow clothes in order to get in; VJ had to wear a pair of scrub pants, and Erin, despite having a shawl to cover her shoulders had to don a button up shirt about 6 sizes too big for her.
We followed a free English speaking guide who showed us around the main attractions of the complex, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, the Kings Throne, and then the Palace itself.
The Emerald Buddha it turns out is actually made from a solid piece of jade and is only a few feet tall. This is the most sacred image of Buddha in Thailand and most Thais in their life times make a pilgrimage to see it (admission for Thais is free, we pay 400 baht). The Buddha was currently wearing his “rainy” season clothes and 3 times a year the king dresses the Buddha for the season: summer, rainy, winter.
It is worth noting that everywhere you looked in the compound stood a pretty magnificent structure, whether it was an Indian Stupa, or a statue designed to ward off demons, the expanse and amount of detail was exceptional. The stupa attached to the Temple of the Emerald Buddha contained over 1 Million pieces of square tile.
Next up was the Kings throne which has been in use for evey member of the current Thai dynasty. It was a cool building, but not as impressive as the Temple. The palace was a palace and we took the obligatory picture with the guard, who was actually standing on a box.
After returning the borrowed clothing we walked around the outside of a complex, through yet another ‘market’. We stopped at one place that was selling fruit and got some fresh pineapple cut up in a baggy with sugar for the equivalent of like 50 cents…a price point that makes the idea of a profit somewhat laughable…oh well, it was delicious.
We came finally to Wat Pho, another Buddhist temple that features the countries largest image of Buddha; a 46m long reclining guy. So we saw that. The complex also housed a tradition Thai massage school that was highly recommended, so we got those also. $16 for 60 mins and this was one of the more expensive places…
Feeling pretty good we decided to try a restaurant in the area called Chote Chite which is of some repute having been featured in the New York times. This was our most adventurous meal yet and consisted of baked squid, a fish pate thinger, some spicy salad of course, these fried noodle deliciousnesses, and something called jungle curry which, based on the ensuing evacuation of my sinuses, I’m pretty sure could double as drano. The curry and salad and noodles were good. The crispy noodles were fantastic. The fish pate thinger, well…it, ugh, yeah… We left the restaurant and ducked round the corner to an ice cream vendor that coconut and mango flavors, each of which are hereby recommended.
After our obligatory mid day return-to-hotel-and-shower-because-you-are-a-terrible-sweaty-mess break we made our way to Bangkok’s pretty much brand new sky train and rode it to the Sukhumvit district on the east side of the city. This is where Western culture has firmly implanted itself in the form of mega-malls, mega-hotels, an ex-pat community, and Mexican restaurants. We found a cool little alley way that house a street bar, 10 Indian restaurants and a Mexican restaurant. We had some drinks at Cheap Charlies, a really cool bar in the middle of the street made of driftwood and then ate Mexican food at Charlie Browns next door; we all commented on how hard we were going to crush Tijuana Flats when we get back.
Next we sought out (one of) the famed red light districts including Soi Cowboy. Lined with neon, scantly-clad, and older white men this quarter kilometer of road did more to make your skin crawl than eating that bug. To say that we did it, we had a drink at pretty much the only bar that wasn’t slathered in neon signs and definitely the only place that you could see into from the street. The people who ran the place looked at us a little curiously, but were nice enough. We saw more than one older man escorting a (much) younger asian girl out of the bar.
We hailed a cab home and decided to try one last bar on the strip of local establishments right outside our hotel. The Thai music was great and the beer was cold so we ordered “big” beers. After a failed attempt at balancing a bottle on a head (I won’t say who) we met one of the owners of the place. Expecting for him to ask us to leave for covering the sidewalk with shattered glass, he was instead very engaging and bought us a replacement beer. Yes!
Tomorrow we leave the big cities for a while and head to the islands. I think we are all ready for a change of pace…
1- A good demon. You can tell because it has a ring. If not I’m screwed.
2- The Temple of the Emerald Buddha.
3- Hey look, the Emerald Buddha.
4- Reclining Buddha Duder
5- Charlie’s Bar
6- A super blurry picture of Soi Cowboy…I had to quick or be attacked… At least that’s how it went in my head
7- Hi. Beers.