As much as I love the adventuring and being in the new place part, but the actual physical moving from one place to another I really don't like. I hate travelling. Flying into Bangkok was a bit of a mission. One, we made the mistake of not flying direct and had to go via Singapore. Cue unnecessary extra awake time in another cramped plane, another airport breathing terrible recycled air.
When we got out at Bangkok we were shattered. For all of the sitting we did it was ridiculous. Having got ourselves from the airport out on the sky train (easiest Metro to navigate ever!) and showered at the hotel, we ventured out to wander around Bangkok for a bit.
First impressions - it was HOT, and muggy. A bit like walking around in soup. Your clothes stuck to you, and your hair to your forehead. You regretted wearing any form of clothing immediately, and decided that moving fast was not a thing you wanted to do anymore. It seemed like an okay place, though. Safe enough. Plenty of opportunities for exploring.
In the true nature that was Zee + me, we thought we'd go explore map free and 'just find something'. Well, we ended up exploring the back alleys of all the slums. It didn't feel unsafe or anything, but anytime we tried to figure out where we were going or where we could get food from it was clear that we had no idea where we were going and just got ourselves more and more lost. We wandered, down dirt tracks and past little houses with windows thrown wide, and rooms with people sewing, or yelling at tvs. There was a lot of open double doors to what looked like small sewing factories - lots of industrial sewing machines crammed into a little room.
It was very different to what I thought it would be. Eventually we hailed down a tuktuk driver, and were swindled. He took us to a horrible touristy restaurant, but at this point our ignorance was pretty clear for everyone to see. Even us. We ate our overpriced average food, paid (in pride and money) and moved on, determined to do better the next day.
Which we did, when I organised at the very last minute a tour of Bangkok. Someone to take us to see all the things we wanted to, to direct us away from the tourist swindlers, to provide context and history. Ideally with a driver and some kind of air conditioned car. Wonderfully, all of these things happened. Good job, Tour with Tong.
We were met the next day by our guide, who was lovely. When we explained that we hadn't eaten (because where do you find breakfast in the slums?), she took us around the corner where there was a whole market with things for eating (I did a double take, because wtf. How did we miss this market yesterday during our failed explore?) it was pretty great. Most folks spoke some form of English, and before long were stuffed with all sorts (fresh Pommegranate Juice juiced in front of us, jam donuts, eggy bread... nom).
It's the oldest district in Bangkok (apparently a whole bunch of Chinese merchants set up shop here waaaay back in the 1780s. Before that they were where the Grand Palace is). It was a little warren of market stalls, sheltered under little taurapaulins and what not. Seriously, it's a crazy set of alleys, left, left, right. I was lost two minutes after we entered. It was a maze! And they sold EVERYTHING. Fireworks. Tea leaves piled up in jars. Piles of little crabs, and fish on ice. Spices, nuts, mounds of cabbages. Beans (so many beans). Black chickens, dim sum. Sushi. Flowers. Dumplings, fresh fruit, dried fruits, kittens (yes, kittens. That bit was a tiny bit heartbreaking). Having just eaten at all the markets we didn't buy much, mostly we were just overwhelmed by the sheer amount of STUFF. It was a crazy crazy walk.
(Side note: an air conditioned car with a driver was the best and most luxurious thing ever. The driver had chilled flannels which was fucking amazing and refreshing. Exactly what I wanted. And chilled bottled water. And it was so comfortable in the car. It felt like we were going from hot chaos to a moment of still ready for the next adventure).
Next up was...
The Grand Palace
It's essentially many small buildings all put together, clearly built organically as and when each new Thai monarch felt the need to make their mark and build another amazing monument. It's one of those places that you almost can't believe has been built. Seriously, it was so ridiculously opulent. First order of business though was dressing appropriately. Zee borrowed a pair of traditional pants to cover his knees. My shoulders were already covered and my dress was considered appropriate length, so I was good. It was SO HOT, so I really felt a bit sad for Zee having to add more layers on.
It was phenomenal though. You walk around and your told that this towering, gorgeous building is made with millions of Chinese porcelain hand painted tiles from the 13th century. Everything is very intricate and detailed. There was an awful lot to take in (and I probably won't repeat it all here). We spent hours here, wandering from place to place, admiring the many (many) gold buddahs, or the demon/angel statues around each building. There were so many murals, and our guide took the time to explain part of it.
One of the highlights here was the Emerald Buddha. It's common for a buddha statue to be placed in the roof of a temple, and there was a temple in the north that was struck by lightening, and part of the buddha was revealed. Now he sits in a very fancy chapel in Bangkok, and is adorned with a special gold get-up that's changed every season by the king. Apparently no other person is allowed to touch him, just the Thai king. I actually thought he was pretty small for all the hype. It could just have been that he was SO far away, kept atop a big fancy as gold plinth, that it was hard to see his amazing-ness amongst all the rest of the amazing. Shrug. The little buddha is quite revered, and it's believed that he'll protect + provide prosperity to the country he's in, so okay.
After a quick stop for lunch, we hit up....
Which is otherwise known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. Holy crap you guys, this reclining buddha is MASSIVE. As in, easily over 40 metres long (and something insane like 15 metres tall. 15 METRES TALL!) We were dwarfed! It was incredibly incredibly impressive. As you walk in one side you can hear a fairly consistent clinking noise. As you work your way around the incredibly large buddha, you come to the opposite side, and there are 108 bronze bowls lined down the side. The idea is that you buy a bowl full of coins from a monk (which is considered a donation to help maintain the wat) and you drop a coin in each bowl as you go. It's meant to bring you good fortune, and as you go you think good things before you drop the coin in. Well, 108 specific good things is hard to think of under pressure, I ended up just envisioning lots of general good thoughts and how good feels rather than many good specific things.
I loved it, though. The sound of many many people dropping coins in the bowls hoping for good things was actually kind of lovely. Especially in the presence of such obvious wealth, it was a nice touch, I thought.
After a quick stop for lunch, we walked down to the river and took a ferry across to the otherside so we could then visit:
This is the craziest tour ever, I don't know how we packed everything in. Insane. Anyway, Wat Arun, the Temple of Dawn. This one actually has a really really really long name that I missed the fourth and fifth times our guide mentioned it. (Wikipedia tells me it's: Wat Arun Ratchawararam Ratchawaramahawihan. Good luck pronouncing that one).
The history of this one is a bit random... the temple used to house the fancy Emerald Buddha, and way back then (like, seventeenth century way back then) it was actually on the Royal Palace grounds. Then someone decided that actually, across the river would be a better place. Apparently its very pretty in the morning, when the first light makes it all pearly.
We climbed up to the top to admire the view, and what I remember most is that it was hella steep, and the climb was a bit of a scary one. I didn't mind going up so much but the down? The down was pretty not awesome. I took my time, holding on to whatever I could before carefully stepping down, whereas Zee bundled down like it was no big thing. Pfft. That man has no fear.
The rest of the tour I didn't take so many photos of. We were dropped off at one of the famous multi-level shopping centres. Dude, those things are MASSIVE. And cheap. We bought loads of stuff. The best buy I got was these lovely harem pants, wonderfully made, covers your knees and keeps you cool at the same time. I should have bought more, now that I think about it.
We also hit up the infamous Koh San Road where Zee tried a scorpian, and I had the best 10 Baht pad thai I'd ever had (street food made in front of me in 5 minutes. Nom!). It was full of tourists, more than any other tourist spot we'd been too. We got massages, I bought a lot of cheap market dresses which was lovely.
So yes. Our second day in Bangkok? A million times better than first. We definitely packed it all in there!
What about you, have you been to Bangkok? Have you done any of the things??