Travelling always gives me a different kind of thrill, it makes me feel so alive; but travelling outside the country is a different story, it both excites and scares me.
Earlier this year, a friend (Lea) informed me that she have come across a cheap deal to Bangkok and asked if I wanted to join her. Of course, without even thinking on how I’m going to secure the funds I eagerly said Yes! So, she booked a package for 4, that included me, Kizzie and Niza. (Yayamanin si frenny!)
We were scheduled to fly on the 29th of March and be back home by the 31st. To make the most out of the very short trip I giddily googled possible activities that we could do in Thailand. Downloaded offline maps and read blogposts on backpacking Bangkok. I did all of those in mid-January and for 2 months, I haven’t even revisited my notes until the night before the flight.
ETD was at 6AM but I’ve learned from a previous experience that I shouldn’t be as lax as when I fly locally, so I was already at NAIA Terminal 3 at 3 AM. Queuing to enter the terminal, pay travel tax, check-in and immigration clearance took around an hour and a half. I still have lots of time to eat and wait for my friends to arrive.
Instead of 6, we took off at past 6AM (Ph time), so we arrived at around past 10AM Thailand time. However, we have to walk for around 1km so we could exit the terminal and be with the tour provider who’s going to take us to our hotel. It took us forever to find them and a lifetime for them to arrange our transport to our respective hotels. By the way, there are 40 of us in the tour – imagine the crowd!
We were assigned to this driver who barely speaks a word, the drive from the airport to the hotel was about an hour. Thailand welcomed us warmly, very warm indeed (literally)! The heat or maybe the hunger or maybe both made me dizzy; to entertain myself I was very noisy. I pretended that it was my first time to see stuff like cars or interchange or billboards but then eventually I got tired and fell asleep.
We arrived at the hotel past 12 noon, the kind lady in the reception informed us that the rooms were not ready yet and advised us to take our lunch first and be back by 2PM. We stayed in the crowded part of Thailand. It has a Chinatown-ish or Baclaran-ish vibe. Streets littered with vendors, street food and vehicles. We decided to eat in a hawker center near the hotel and ordered foods that are familiar to us.
Belly -filled, spirits lifted we went back at the hotel, checked-in and freshen up. Then we left the hotel and navigated our way amidst the confusing alley. Since, we’re not really sure where to go, we decided to ride a tuktuk to the grand palace. What a ride! It absolutely felt like we’re on an amusement park or more of a cast in a Fast and Furious film, as the tuktuk driver made his way past the traffic – swerving left and right. We paid 300 baht for the 30 minute ride. The driver dropped us off at the Sanam Chai Road, in front of the Ministry of defense building so we have to cross the other side of the street and we ply by Na Phra Lan Road and took the entrance in front of the Naphralan Post Office.
The Grand Palace
This is actually overrated, almost all areas in the Palace grounds were littered with people. Tourists taking selfies or pictures here and there. What’s amusing though is that most tourists feel really bad when someone photo-bombed them but would never ever mind photo-bombing other people. The entrance fee for the Palace which includes entrance to the Emerald Buddha Temple is 500 baht. To be able to appreciate most of the amazing architecture inside it, one must be willing to spend at least half a day inside the Palace.
What to see inside the Grand Palace?
4. The Angkor Wat Replica
5. Wat Phra Kaew (Emerald Buddha)
Tip: If you’re visiting the Grand Palace in the afternoon, check the Emerald Buddha first as this closes at 4PM. Shoes off. Proper attire (no shorts or sleeveless shirts)
After a tiresome tour under the scorching heat, we decided to check out the temple of the reclining buddha or Wat Pho. Entrance fee costs 200 baht per person which includes a free bottled water. Wat pho is just a few minutes walk from the Palace gate. Upon exiting the grand palace grounds, we walked along Maha Rat road to go to Wat Pho. We passed the Thai Navy Clubhouse, naval civil affairs and Nagabhirom Park. Wat pho is just a block away, it’s in the corner if Thai wang alley and Maha Rat Road. It is in the east Bank of Chao Phraya River just a few meters away from Tha Tien Pier.
This temple according to the locals is very special to the Thais. For them, the 15 meters tall, 46 meters long gold plated Buddha lying on the right supported by his right hand is a symbol that just like us, Buddha too rests or sleeps. However, I’ve read online that this is a representation of Buddha past death in a state beyond Nirvana.
Aside from the humongous Buddha, what’s exciting to see is its 5-meter long feet which is adorned with intricately designed illustrations made up of mother of pearl . However, other than the reclining Buddha and the paintings in the wall, there is not much to see inside temple. On the way out though, there are bowls which people drop coins purchased from the entrance. People do this for their wishes to be granted. You may opt not to do so and just watch others do this, the pennies make a ringing sound when dropped at the metal bowls. Hearing that sound amidst the solemnity of the temple is beautiful.
What to see inside Wat Pho
1. The temple of the reclining Buddha
4. The garden
5. Crocodile farm
6. School of Thai massage
After seeing every nook inside the temple we decided to check the night market instead, we checked the map for the nearest pier since the train station is a bit far from where we are located.
Just across the entrance gate of Wat Pho is Tha Tien Market where Tha Tien Pier is located. This is the pier for the boat that crosses the Chao Phrya River to Wat Arun Temple. Crossing to the other side of Chao Phrya is only around 10 minutes travel or less and just costs 12 baht per person. Most bloggers say that Wat Arun Temple looks magical at dawn but Wat Arun during sunset is just as spectacular.
Wat Arun Temple
Exploring Wat Arun grounds in the evening is quite cool. When the tourists are about to leave the place when the temple closes, the stillness and the quietness of the place gives off a serene feeling.
From Wat Arun, we took the Chao Phrya orange line boat that took us to Chinatown. We get off at Ratchawong and walked to Chinatown. Exhausted and starving, we searched for food. Along the alleys of Chinatown, we found a a street where food vendors abound. You’ll just have to select from the menu, the chef would cook it in front of the customers and voila – sumptuous meal in a heartbeat!
Recharged but still weary, we decided to head back to the hotel. After finally deciding what route to take, we again walked along Yaowarat Road until we reached the Chinatown Gate. Cross the street and walk along Mittahap Thai-China Road until we reached Rama IV Road. Crossed the other side and walked to Hua Lamphong Station where we took the MRT to Petchaburi Station. From there, we transferred to the Airport City Link Makkasan station and alighted at Rachaparop station which is just a-10 minute walk from where we’re staying.
With weary bodies but uplifted souls, we turned the lights off at past 11PM.
We woke up early the next day, breakfast was at 6:30 and the call time for the complementary tour was at 7:00AM. As early as 5AM, we’re all set.
On a very unlucky turn of event, the hotel chef allegedly decided not to report to work that day so their’s no one to cook the meal. We just had toast and coffee for the breakfast, not what we were expecting but it was still better than none at all.
The tour driver fetched us at 6:45, and off we went at exactly 7AM. He was such in a hurry to a point that he kept on reminding us that we should leave by 7, only to find out that we have to pick up other guests from various hotels and wait for them while they are finishing their meals. (Oh, gosh Manong driver! Why so mean to us?) Anyway, this is just me being grumpy about having to wait when I’m hungry.
The tour was designed to be from 7AM to 11AM and would cover at least 4 sites. The tour guide, whose name was I think Om was pretty good. He explained that first on the list is the Wat Arun or the temple of Dawn. Having been there the evening before, we already know what to do. After arriving on the corner outside Wat Pho, we know that we have to go to Tha Tien Pier and board a boat to other side of the river. (So bida-bida kami. Lols!)
We explored the temple and the Pagoda and then shopped at the grounds. After spending an hour their, we headed back to the pier and travelled to the next destination which was the Temple of the Standing Buddha. The temple houses the tallest statue of Buddha. However, I wasn’t able to explore the place properly because I enjoyed the street-food outside the temple. I even enjoyed the frappe at the cafe outside the temple.
Next destination was the Gem Gallery, if you’re not really a fan of jewelries, this is not a must try. The displays are impressive though. I remember sleeping in their lounge while the rest of the group are checking out the glass cases.
Last on the list is the leather factory. I’ve read online that tour operators bring guests in this shops so they could get something from the owner whenever a tourist would buy a product. Not really worth the time if you don’t want to shop for leather goods.
For me, the best part of the day was after the tour. We asked the driver to drop us off at Chatuchak Weekend Market. It’s like Divisoria, Baclaran and Tutuban in one place. We had lunch outside the market and had all afternoon to explore it. It’s very disorienting.
Upon sunset, we decided that we had enough so we took the MRT and head back to Makkasan Station where we again took the airport link to Petchburi Station.
After dropping our things at the hotel, we had dinner in the neighborhood then explored the night market near Baiyoke. We even grabbed some drinks after.
We went to bed at 2 or 3AM and prepped again at 5 for our flight back to Manila.
I’d be writing more detailed tips on the following:
1. Getting around Bangkok
2. General tips on backpacking Bangkok
3. The Grand Palace
4. Wat Pho
6. Wat Arun
7. Chatuchak Market