19 September 2011
After a surprisingly good night sleep on the overnight train from Chiang Mai, I was ousted from my bed at 7am by staff who wanted to put the beds back. An hour or two later, we finally pulled into Bangkok station and we walked the short distance over to the rather nice Bangkok Centre Hotel, before popping to a nearby 7-Eleven for breakfast. Since my steamed pork bun was a bit disappointing, I ended up with popcorn chicken from the station’s KFC. Never mind.
At 10.30am, I met up with the group again and we caught a boat up the river to the Wat Pho temple. Perhaps inevitably, we ended up on a boat going in the wrong direction but we changed quickly and made it to Pier 8, passing Wat Arun on the way, and it wasn’t long until we found Wat Pho and its giant, golden Reclining Buddha. It was pretty impressive really. By that point, we had seen many a temple on our tour and so didn’t end up taking the opportunity to explore the surrounding buildings.
Instead, we set off up the road to our next destination: the Grand Palace. We were met by someone who told us we were heading in the wrong direction so we turned around and walked along the wall of the palace, only to be met by a tourist policeman who informed us the palace was closed before 3pm – or that it was a Buddhist festival day, I’m not entirely sure exactly what excuse we ended up on. Thankfully though, he had a mate with a tuk tuk who could take us to an array of other places to make up for the lack of Grand Palace. As we were somewhat skeptical, we bid our new friend farewell and quickly found out he had not been telling the truth.
As we walked on, we found that the entrance to the palace was wide open and people were flooding in. It turns out that where we’d met the first guy, who told us we were going the wrong way, was just around the corner from where we had actually needed to be. I’m guessing he knew the tuk tuk driver as well. Sadly, as a conspicuous tourist, you do need to have your wits about you. Another heads up, you need to have your arms and legs covered to get into the Grand Palace. There are places nearby to buy longer clothing if you forget but its cheaper to just remember.
At the ticket booth, we discovered it was 400 baht to get in. After some deliberation, most of our group decided to continue on it and I was glad to be one of them. I had mainly wanted to go and see the emerald Buddha but this little statue turned out to be dwarfed, literally, by the beautiful, ornate buildings and golden sculptures. We even found a perfect miniature model of Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
Once finished, we all regrouped at the famous backpacker haunt, Khao San Road, for yet more McDonald’s (I’m really sorry about my lack of ability to recommend many cultural restaurants). We didn’t stay there long and instead crammed into a taxi and headed to the MBK shopping centre – a journey which cost us about 100 baht. The centre was basically a market in a mall, with floors and floors of all the souvenirs you could possibly need. I think I stocked up on birthday presents for the whole of the next year. It certainly made for a cheaper option.
Later, after a rest at the hotel, we headed back to Khao San Road for our last night on the tour. We ended up on a parallel street at a restaurant called the Macaroni Club, which had some pretty good food and which coincidentally turned out to be next to the hotel I would be moving to the next day. Once we’d eaten, it was back to the road for drinks.
Sadly, that’s where my diary ends. I was in Bangkok for several more days but didn’t get round to writing about it! Typical, I didn’t finish my last travel journal either. I will try and piece together how I spent the next few days – it’s not like I am short on photos to jog my memory – so stay tuned for my last post about my trip to Southeast Asia.