Asia

Bangkok – OK, we gave it a look

How could we spend five+ weeks in Thailand, yet have less than two full days in Bangkok?

Beaches, diving, sailing, mountains and elephants won out, but since our international flights were in/out of Bangkok, we wanted to explore at least a little bit. There is so much to see here and we didn’t even scratch the surface. We did enough research to narrow our options down to just a handful of sites – Grand Palace, Wat Arun, Wat Pho, the flower market, and Chinatown.

Aranta  Suvarnabhumi Airport Hotel

For hotels in Bangkok, obviously there are hundreds to choose from. Where you stay really depends on what you want to see. Our first night in Thailand was just a quick layover. We landed at the Suvarnabhumi International Airport (one of the newest major airports in the world) at nearly midnight and had a noon flight out of the other airport (Don Muang) to Phuket. We just wanted a clean comfortable place close to the airport and were quite happy with our room and the service at the Aranta Suvarnabhumi Airport Hotel. We were pleasantly surprised to see the pretty grounds at daylight and the breakfast buffet was great. Taxi to the other airport was easily arranged.

Inn A Day, Boutique Hotel

For our last two nights in Thailand, we chose a boutique hotel called Inn A Day (we highly recommend) with views of Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) across the river and within easy walking distance of the Grand Palace and Wat Pho and slightly longer walking distance to the 24 hour flower market. Inn A Day is family run by a couple of brothers and their mom. They serve a cook to order breakfast and we had one yummy dinner here. The service was excellent and the rooms are unique and comfortable. We talked quite a bit with one brother, Ten (short for his nickname Tennis) and really liked him. Met his brother Golf, too. Our view of Wat Arun truly was beautiful, but there was scaffolding covering the temple towers for refurbishment.

Sheila said: Our room’s shower was a glass enclosure in the open bedroom, so I felt a bit naughty showering with a clear view of the temple.

Chinatown or Stinkytown?

After getting settled and seeing the sun set into the haze, it was dinnertime. Why not Chinatown – just a $3, 10 minute high-speed tuk tuk ride away? We wandered a few streets, observing the sights and smells, and more smells. It all seemed like semi-organized chaos and this was just a Monday night in the off season, but the real problem was that the intense heat brought out ALL the smells, so trash and street smells overwhelmed what might have been enticing street food smells any other time. It was very depressing to see huge signs showcasing shark fin soup! We considered several outdoor street-side restaurants, but the air conditioning of the Chinatown Hotel beckoned to us – not so much a true Chinatown cultural experience, but the food and service was good.

Grand Palace of King Bhumibol Adulyadej

The number one attraction in Bangkok is the Grand Palace. The palace has been the official residence of the Kings of Siam (and later Thailand) since 1782. The king, his court and his royal government were based on the grounds of the palace until 1925. The present monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, currently resides at a different palace, but the Grand Palace is still used for official events. Several royal ceremonies and state functions are held within the walls of the palace every year. The Grand Palace charges 500 Bhat (about $15) per person entry fee. Numerous tour guides will offer you their services to explain all the sights. The crowds are thick, but it’s still worth it.

There is a strict dress code for visiting the Grand Palace

Men must wear long pants and shirts with sleeves – no tank tops. If you’re wearing sandals or flip-flops you must wear socks (in other words, no exposed feet.) Women must be similarly modestly dressed. No sheer clothes, bare shoulders, bare knees, etc. Thank goodness for “elephant” pants! If you show up at the front gate improperly dressed, there is a booth near the entry that can provide clothes to cover you up properly. Our friend was scolded for being too sexy (she can’t help it).

Because of the amount of scaffolding at Wat Arun, we didn’t make the trip across the river. Instead, we chose to spend more time in Wat Pho and view the famous reclining Buddha. We also made sure to include a stop at their world famous massage school (on temple grounds) to help their students by volunteering as practice subjects. Actually, their massage rates were higher than most we’d seen and it was a bit of an assembly line, less personal and very busy. Still a very good massage and welcome coolness. We strolled around the flower market and the prices were so amazingly low. We’d have fresh flowers everyday if we were there longer!

After enjoying Chiang Mai so much, we found Bangkok to be noisier, more crowded, more expensive, and just not as nice overall – but still a very interesting city to explore.  We have friends who love to visit Bangkok, so we know we’re just missing the point and perhaps if we returned with friends as guides we’d enjoy it more. It would also be best not to visit in April at the tail end of 5+ weeks of intense heat. Only guilt and an inkling of curiosity made us venture from our lovely air-conditioned room.

Trip Date: March-April 2015 – As part of 5 1/2 weeks which included Thailand and Cambodia Overview, SCUBA Diving, Tigers in Phuket, Bareboat Sailing for 10 days, Temple ruins in Siem Reap, Volunteering with Elephants, Chiang Mai and Bangkok.

? Have you enjoyed Bangkok? What did you like?  If you haven’t been, what have you heard that makes you want to explore it?

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