“City of angels, great city of immortals, magnificent city of the nine gems, seat of the king, city of royal palaces, home of gods incarnate, erected by Visvakarman at Indra’s behest”, or in its short form: Bangkok. Thailand’s capital boasts a population of over eleven million inhabitants and is by far its largest city. Its full name which we cited above is listed as the world’s longest location name by the Guinness Book of Records.
After we arrived at the airport the biggest difference that struck us was the Thai script.
After taking a cab to downtown Bangkok we checked in to the Baan Dinso hostel for three nights and redeemed Lisa and Ansgar’s Christmas present. Thanks for the recommendation and the two nights, it was a great place to stay!
Not far off from the hostel was a local food shed and we had our first Thai-food. We shared the Pad Thai dish which is one of the most famous among tourists in Thailand. It is a stir-fried rice noodle dish with eggs, chopped firm tofu, tamarind pulp, fish sauce, dried shrimp, garlic or shallots, red chili pepper, palm sugar and often served with lime wedges and chopped roast peanuts:
We also had a shrimp Tom Yum soup which is known for its hot and sour flavors, with generously used herbs in the broth which is made of stock, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, galangal, lime juice, fish sauce, and crushed chili peppers. Yum yum:
Sometimes you don’t need to be able to read the Thai writing, the brand logo is enough:
The next day we headed to the Grand Palace. On our way we saw several remains from protest actions. Since November especially Bangkok has been gripped by mass demonstrations with opposition protesters demanding Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to step down, accusing her of abuse of office.
We kept reading the safety notes of the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs and luckily the protests have lost in intensity and thus Bangkok is thought to be pretty safe for tourists again:
According to the World Meteorological Organization, Bangkok is one of the hottest cities in the world. Located just 14 degrees north of the Equator, Bangkok is sunny at any time of the year with temperatures over 30 °C. Coming from Australia we thought we wouldn’t have to adapt, but the heat coupled with the high humidity had us sweating in no time 🙂
Once we found the way inside the Grand Palace we stocked up on drinking water and started our tour. The entire complex was established in 1782 and consists of the royal residence, throne halls, a number of government offices as well as the renowned temple of the Emerald Buddha and other chedis and religious buildings. It covers an area of 218’000 square meters and is surrounded by a total of 1’900 meters of walls. We started out with the Wat Phra Kaew (temple of the Emerald Buddha). On the inside you’re not allowed to take pictures, but the outside is at least equally clustered with ornaments.
From the outside and with maximum zoom we managed to get a snapshot of the sitting Buddha. He is about 45 cm in height and made of green Nephrite and clothed in gold. There are three different sets of gold clothing, which are changed by the King of Thailand in a ceremony at the changing of the seasons. The three sets of gold garments correspond to Thailand’s summer, rainy, and cool season. On our visit was the last day the Buddha was dressed in the winter season clothes. Summer had definitely arrived and the next day the King would be changing the Buddha’s outfit.
We continued along the palace yard to the upper terrace and passed many more ornated buildings and mythical beings:
On the left is the stupa Phra Siratana Chedi and on the right the Phra Mondop which is a repository for Buddhist sacred scriptures inscribed on palm leaves:
A closeup of the golden wall of the chedi:
Here a model of the temple complex Angkor Wat which was crafted on the order of King Rama IV:
And one of the old entrances to the palace yard:
Pretty fierce doormen:
The colorful and ornated buildings are amazing:
In front of the temples one often finds these Lotus flowers. They are soaked in blessed water and used to sprinkle the water on your head:
Of course no littering around here:
This entry leads to the government and royal buildings:
And is additionally guarded by human royal guards:
The Chakri Maha Prasat was built by King Chulalongkorn (King Rama V) and completed in 1882. Nowadays its Central Throne Hall is used for the reception of foreign ambassadors and state banquets in honor of visiting Heads of State.
After visiting the Phra Maha Monthian Group and the Dusit Maha Prasat we finished our visit with the Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles. Especially the textile museum showing Thailand’s textile arts ranging from the past to the present was fairly impressive.
From here it was only a short walk to Wat Pho, the temple of the Reclining Buddha. On our way we passed several food stalls and small market booths:
Wat Pho is one of the largest and oldest wats in Bangkok and is home to more than a thousand Buddha images as well as one of the largest single Buddha: The Reclining Buddha. Its dimensions measure 45 m in length and 15 m in height.
Modeled out of plaster around a brick core and finished in gold leaf the figure illustrates the passing of the Buddha into nirvana:
Outside the temple, the grounds contain 91 chedis (stupas or mounds), four viharas (halls) and a bot (central shrine). The 71 chedis of smaller size contain the ashes of the royal family, and 21 large ones contain the ashes of Buddha:
Some of the smaller chedis:
And here two of the larger ones:
This wat also has the largest collection of Buddha images. And indeed, in whatever room of the outer cloister you look, there are Buddhas everywhere:
The temple has sixteen gates around the complex:
And is guarded by Chinese soldiers carved out of rock:
Besides all the Buddhas and the religious terms, the temple is considered the first public university of Thailand. It also contains a school for traditional medicine and massage and the temple is home to one of the earliest Thai massage schools. Therapeutic points and energy pathways known as sen were engraved inside the temple and the explanations were carved on the walls next to the plaques.
What better place is there for a relaxing massage after all the running around? Since the place was air conditioned too, we did not have to give it a second thought and signed up for massage at the Watpo Thai Traditinal Medical School. We each got a thirty minutes massage and felt totally relaxed and energized after for a total of only 13 USD!
Despite all the energy we decided to take a Tuk Tuk back home which is definitely a must do when in Bangkok and an experience of its own. We came up with the theory that Bangkok’s Tuk Tuk drivers were all candidates who got turned down for a flying licence. So they live their failed dreams on Bangkok’s roads in their marvelous decorated flying machines. The Tuk Tuks are the king of the streets, not giving way to any other vehicles. It’s amazing to see how, when you go vrroooming down the congested roads, right, left and center, all types of vehicles, from fancy private Toyotas to overbearing buses make way graciously and without a complaint or protest for these little mean devils. That, we have concluded, is why we can feel safe in these machines.
Nevertheless it is not easy to just sit and relax on the back seat, unless one has a death wish. It just takes some time to not sit on the back seat petrified as the driver weaves left and right, overtaking cars and buses, heading straight into oncoming traffic, cutting right through anything that he sees as an obstacle.
Luckily we seemed to have chosen a guy with principals. According to this sticker on the roof he provides “Safe driving this car”, “Does not drive drunk” and “Is alcohol, cigarettes and gambling free”. Only thing necessary: “Concentration before the start”… Sometimes we do wonder if things get lost in translation… 😉
That evening we tried a pretty spicy but delicious holy basil chicken dish:
The next morning we set off for the Golden Mount.
Wat Saket, popularly known as the Golden Mount or “Phu Khao Thong” is a man made hill crowned with a gleaming gold chedi. The 58 m chedi houses a Buddha relic and was built on an artificial hill. The Golden Mount is a well-known landmark and a sacred pilgrimage site. To get to the top one has to climb some 300 steps, which encircle the chedi.
As one approaches the top of the hill one is welcomed by a wall of bells and a panorama over Bangkok.
Inside the chedi there is a shrine with Buddha relics:
One place Thai people love to spend their time at, are huge shopping malls. Here one can find everything one has never been looking for. Clothes, souvenirs and endless piles of iPhone accessories:
A real advantage of these malls are their food courts. Here one finds stall next to stall selling 4 or 5 dishes, each booth has specialized on. Each dish costs around 30 – 40 Baht, which is around 1 USD.
We gave it a try and were surprised that the food was in deed enjoyable. Not any fancy restaurant dish, but a cheap lunch or dinner for in-between shopping:
After our third night in Bangkok our time was already up and we headed for the airport to continue on to Cambodia. While Andy delved into his Kindle to pass the waiting time, Tini trawled the airport shops to spend our last Baht. When she got back to Andy she found him encircled by this group of monks:
We took it as a good omen for our future travels and after a short chat with the monk next to Andy we headed on to catch our plane to Siem Reap in Cambodia.
P.S.: How can one not think of the song “One Night In Bangkok” when spending the night in Bangkok? It was funny how the melody just seemed to come from nowhere and stuck with us.
The song’s lyrics sarcastically compares the Thai capital city and its nightlife with the game of chess. Originally it was sung by the British actor and pop-dance singer Murray Head (verses) and Anders Glenmark (choruses) on the 1984 concept album for the musical Chess. The release topped the charts in many countries, including South Africa, West Germany, Switzerland and Australia. It peaked at number 3 in both Canada and the United States in May 1985. Happy ear worm to you! 😉This entry was posted in Asia, WorldMap