This is the story of our first trip to Thailand, made during the Christmas holidays, specifically between December 25 and January 1. After reading a few Thailand travel guides and Thailand travel blogs, and taking into account that we did not have too many days, we decided to focus only on Bangkok.
We bought the flights at the beginning of June and I must say that from there the prices did not go up any more. Christmas is an expensive time to fly, I would even say more than the month of August because there is less flexibility. The good thing about traveling to Thailand is that the price of the flight in high season is compensated with the little that one spends there, both in hotels as in food and excursions.
The temples are worthwhile. Chinatown is optional but it fits well by taking the boat directly from Wat Arun. Bangkok is one of the hottest cities in the world, with high temperatures that barely fluctuate and a lot of humidity depending on the time. December-January is relatively chilled. In August it may be harder to do all these visits in a single day. I do not know, but in our case it was perfectly feasible and I do not see any problem.
Day 1 in Bangkok
It dawns on December 25 and Santa Claus could not have left us a better gift as we are going to Thailand! However, this time, the flight left at night and gave us time to enjoy the classic Christmas feast before leaving for the airport to Bangkok. It is what it is to be a travel addict, that every time I need more dose to be satisfied. And the abstinence syndrome is unbearable, of course. Before someone suggests it, detoxifying and quitting is not an option.
It was a trip of a few days and so we only carried a couple of smaller backpacks, and we did not check-in our luggage. So we left the winter jackets in the trunk of the car and went directly to pass the controls to the boarding gates, already with the printed pass from home.
We embarked punctually and the plane left at the scheduled time but we landed at 7:10 pm in Bangkok instead of at 6:50 pm. As soon as we landed, we shot out of the plane to pass the immigration control, where we feared to find ourselves with a queue. That was not the case and in 10 minutes we had already done the pertinent procedures.
Our next stop is the super rich branch of the airport, located on the floor above next to the Airport Rail Link ticket offices, to change to baths. So at 20:10, an hour after arriving, we were already at the Airport Rail Link, the train that connects the airport with the center of Bangkok.
We take the City Line to the Phaya Thai stop, the last of the line. Whenever we can (if the schedule allows it) we use this train to go to the city because it is cheap, fast, convenient and proof of the mythical traffic jams of Bangkok . In addition, it connects with the BTS (Bangkok Skytrain), ideal to move towards the main areas of the city.
Once in Phaya Thai, the road to access the BTS (skytrain) is already indicated. We took the Sukhumvit line and in Siam we made a transfer to the Silom line. Everything was very fast, as we get off one train and get on the other. We stopped at Sala Daeng, from where we had a 5 minute walk to our hotel. On the way we stopped to buy water and get something to eat, although we were not too hungry.
The truth is that the first impression of the city was not very good. When we left the BTS, we were enveloped in a blast of the smoke of cars, strong smells and hectic bustle that, at least in my case, left me a little misplaced. Between the fatigue of the trip, the noise of the traffic, the racking and that was already at night, I felt a bit strange.
I have already realized that this sensation lasted only a few minutes, because after all in Bangkok I felt at home and today it is a city that I love and where I have visited again. The same thing happened to me in Tokyo and possibly in other places that I do not remember now, that initial feeling of being completely out of place and then feeling like a fish in the water.
Our hotel was two steps away from Lumpini Park and Patpong night market. We were given a very spacious room, overlooking the pool and small garden. We did the check-in and retired to bed. Personally, what works best for me to avoid the feared jet lag is that after a long trip, get to the places with just enough time to dine and sleep.
The next day I usually wake up fresh like a rose and at reasonable hours, both when traveling east and west. After the trip back home instead, I usually have a horse jet lag, combined with the classic deep depression that implies the return to work.
Day 2 in Bangkok
We get up at 6:30 as roses after a night of rest and go down to breakfast. The free buffet is quite good. There are several hot dishes including different types of bread with jam, waffles, cereals, coffee, juices, yogurt and fruit.
After the binge, we set off and arrived at the BTS stop Chong Nonsi just when the Thai anthem sounded. Our first experience seeing how, all of a sudden, everyone was standing, paralyzed and in absolute silence in the place where he was at that moment. This ritual takes place twice a day at 8 in the morning and 6 in the evening, in public places such as BTS stations and Lumpini Park.
After the experience, we took the BTS to Saphan Taksin and followed the signs to get to Sathorn Pier or Central Pier, where the Chao Phraya Express boat operates. We took the cheapest and had a stop where we were interested, but there are other lines that can be used without any problem for a few more bath.
We had planned to start at the Grand Palace, so we went to the Tha Chang stop. As soon as we arrive, we cross a covered jetty, surrounded by small shops, and we go out onto a street where we can already see the Grand Palace. There were lots of people of all kinds heading there with mass excursions of Chinese, tourists and floods of Thai dressed in black due to the mourning for the not so recent death of the king. There was much devotion to the former monarch, who was practically venerated as if he were a God.
Access to this place is expensive compared to the rest of visits, but it is worth very much worth it. The Grand Palace is divided into several areas, and some of them can only access Thais who will pray or pay tribute to the deceased monarch. For us, the point of maximum interest is the Wat Phra Kaew, a temple that is inside the palace grounds, but in which monks do not live. It houses the well-known Emerald Buddha, one of the most revered by the faithful.
Returning to Wat Phra Kaew, as we said, is currently one of the main points of interest in Bangkok, both for tourists and for Buddhist pilgrims who visit it en masse daily. The Grand Palace complex as a whole has more than one hundred buildings and occupies a total of almost 95 hectares.
Luckily when we arrived I was not too busy, I have seen pictures where the temple seems to be invaded by a marabunta and it was not our case. At the entrance are the typical guards with a bad face, reminded me of a nightclub security full of drunks at the crack of dawn.
And various mythological figures, with part of the animal body, abound everywhere. I do not know if at some point someone was mounted a very beast party (never better said) or is that they have a lot of imagination :
In the ordination hall we can see the star of the place, the Emerald Buddha. They also had a multitude of enslaved mythological beings holding things, it is seen that there is a lot of love around here.
It must be said that between the hustle and movement that there was, someone tried to endorse us a child, but it did not come through. Here we have it, trying to fit snugly as who does not want the thing. If it had been a cat we would probably have taken it home, but that was not the case, so we gave it back to his mother.
According to the Thailand travel guide, the Grand Palace was the ancient Thai royal residence. At present it is only visited by the monarchs on rare occasions, such as for ceremonies. It is an area not allowed for visitors, except some other room.
The entrance to the Grand Palace also includes access to the Dusit Palace, where we visit the Vimanmek mansion and the throne room. After visiting the Grand Palace we went to the nearby Wat Pho , my favorite temple in Bangkok. Very, very recommendable. If you go directly here, the nearest jetty is the Tha Tien stop. From the Grand Palace it is very easy to get there. Leaving the Palace we turn left and then again to the left, following the wall.
The main attraction of this temple is its well-known Reclining Buddha, the largest in the city. But apart from this, it has many other attractions. It has the largest number of Buddhas in Thailand and houses the oldest public education center in the country, as well as a well-known massage school. In this case, it does have monastic facilities where the monks live.
Apart from the famous Reclining Buddha, the whole temple itself is spectacular. I take about 1000 photos, now I do not remember exactly. After the visit it was around 12:30 and we decided to eat at a local joint right in front of Wat Pho, where we tried our first pad thais, which were delicious, of course.
Our next stop is Wat Arun, on the other side of the river. To get to Wat Arun from the Wat Pho area, we have to take a barge that for 4 bath per person takes us to the other shore. It was a moment to cross there. This neighborhood is called Thonburi, and it was the capital of Thailand for a time after the fall of Ayutthaya.
The most characteristic feature of Wat Arun is the 82 m high prang, in Khmer style, which was just the one that was full of scaffolding and I do not have good photos. But there are other interesting places.
Another of its distinctive features is its decoration based on small pieces of Chinese porcelain, I have my theory about its origin (you will see it in the other newspaper). The reality is that the Chinese ships that arrived at the port of Bangkok were getting rid of lots of shattered Chinese porcelain here.
And again I could not miss the doorman. I say, the guardian of the temple, with his face of bad host. Although in the fund sure is a good, because here we have it with their cats, and one of my many theories is that nobody who loves cats can be bad person.
Inside the bot we visit the main Buddha, which in theory was designed by King Rama II, whose ashes are buried at the base of the image. Undoubtedly, this visit is worthwhile, although we cannot enjoy the wonderful view of the city from the top of the tower.
Right there, in the garden of Wat Arun, is the pier where boats can be taken (there is a jetty, one for each direction in one direction or another of the river). We decided to take the boat to the Ratchawong stop to see Chinatown. At that time the boats were full of people, but we managed to climb.
Our next stop is Wat Traimit, a well-known temple in Chinatown that houses the impressive Golden Buddha. We decided to visit it before it closed, so when we arrived we went there. The Golden Buddha of Wat Traimit measures 3m high and is made with more than 5 tons of solid gold. You will ask (at least, I wonder), how he will have managed to resist so much gold there, without being profaned, stolen, handcuffed or whatever. The answer is that it was covered by a layer of plaster that camouflaged it.
Again, they have a great fondness for gold, as can be seen in the frames of doors and windows. Apart from the Buddha, the site houses the Phra Phuttha Maha Suwan Patimakon. The Yaowarat Chinatown Heritage Center is a small multimedia museum about Chinatown and its history, which is also open only until 16:00.
After the visit to the ostentatious Golden Buddha, we went now to wander through Chinatown and its main street, Yaowarat. Here you will find a network of alleys and labyrinthine corridors flanked by shops and various stalls, which can be somewhat overwhelming depending on whether you are traveling. The outer streets are somewhat less oppressive.
This neighborhood dates back to 1872, when the Chinese of the city were moved here by royal design. In the area west of the neighborhood is Phahurat or the Little India neighborhood of Bangkok (we did not go). In Chinatown, pomegranate juice is very popular.
After the walk through the Chinatown, where by the way abound the gold-buying stores, it was around 5 in the afternoon and we decided to go back to the hotel. One option is to go to the Hua Lamphong station and take the subway, but we were closer to the pier. We decided to take the boat to Sathorn and then BTS from Saphan Taksin to Chong Nonsi.
After a good shower, we walked around the lively neighborhood of Silom and had dinner at a restaurant next to the hotel. At that point we already loved Bangkok. There are impressive temples, tall buildings and modern elevated trains,and excellent food at cheap prices. It is a fascinating city, without a doubt.
Despite what we have read in some Thailand travel blogs, we find Bangkok quite well organized and very passable with a practical and efficient public transport system. Obviously, you have to be aware of where you are going and it is clear that it is not Tokyo.
Day 3 in Bangkok
We get up early again to take advantage of the first hours of the morning. Before 8 o'clock we were back at the BTS stop in Chong Nonsi and we followed the same itinerary as yesterday. We take the BTS to Saphan Taksin, and to Pier Central Pier to take a boat to Tha Chang.
After disembarking at Tha Chang, we head for a walk to Wat Ratchapradit, a lesser-known temple. It is located right at one end of Saranrom Park, it is free and quite beautiful. It is a temple built in 1864 in what was previously a coffee plantation. King Rama IV bought the land to build a temple of the Dhammayut Nikaya founded by himself. In this way, the inhabitants of the Grand Palace had a place to practice meditation close to their residences.
The paintings of the main ordination hall stand out, describing the royal ceremonies that take place throughout the year, as well as various events in the life of King Rama IV.
As yesterday, we find the already indispensable disco security and their cats. Ahead, we cross a canal and in the direction of Wat Suthat, there is another worthwhile temple, the Wat Ratchabophit. The entry is free and we found very few tourists. In addition there were monks praying and it was quite interesting.
This historic temple was built by King Rama V in 1869, according to the royal tradition according to which each monarch must have his own temple built in his reign. As we said, the previous one was founded by Rama IV and now it was his successor's turn to mount a handsome gambling den. Wat Ratchabophit combines traditional Thai architecture with a Western-style interior, probably the only one of its kind in Thailand. The site also houses the royal cemetery, where the ashes of the members of the royal family near Rama V rest.
We continue to wander towards Wat Suthat. At the time we flushed a lot, because of the horrible of the merchandise, but a year later we would understand that in Bangkok are simple in this business. Where they really dominate is in Chiang Mai. There we find all kinds of pongos and you can even visit a hatchery at the base of the Doi Suthep.
Wat Suthat is a temple of the prettiest and holds the title of highest of the royal temples. The wihan shows jataka murals (stories about Buddha) and the largest preserved bronze statue of the bronze period, called Phra Si Sakyamuni, 8 m high. At the base of this Buddha are the ashes of King Rama VIII.
The bot also holds the record for the size of the country in its style. This temple is also managed by Brahmin priests, who officiate very important ceremonies for the religion of the country. The furry black pussycat is no priest, but for me he was the highest authority in the temple, much more than any brahman or buddha there would be:
The murals that decorate the doors show us some pretty ferocious fish and looking pissed off, the piranhas and sharks look like sweet little angels by their side. In front of the Wat Suthat is the well known Giant Swing or Giant Swing, which in my opinion has nothing special. From here we walk a little more until we reach the Golden Mountain and the Wat Saket, another place not to be missed.
Mount Dorado or Golden Mountain is an artificial hill with a staircase flanked by trees, pongos and even a chiringuito where to take something fresh before continuing to the top. 344 steps lead us to it, as I said surrounded by pongos everywhere. Once up, the panoramic views of 360 degrees that can be enjoyed are worth mentioning. Apart from that, the stupa above is also interesting.
Inside the building there are altars with images that are venerated with various offerings. After the visit, we went to the Panfa Leelard stop of the Khlong Saen Saep, one of the transportation systems we most enjoy in Bangkok. They are like fluvial buses that go through the khlong and stop at many places of interest, so it's worth using them.
Along the way you will enjoy the bucolic vision of the backyards of the Bangkok houses. The boats have a kind of plastic curtain that goes up so that their passengers are not splashed by the suspiciously turbid water of the canal. We arrived at the Saphan Hua Chang stop, near the MBK center and Jim Thompson's house, our next destination.
At that point it was already 1 noon and we decided to eat at a restaurant-hostel close to Jim Thompson, two pad thais, fruit and drinks for 180 bath all and very good, as always. Then we saw that in the surroundings there were some interesting stops. We visited the Jim Thompson House, a historic building.
It is the old house of an American, silk businessman and art collector. It is said that Thompson served in the precursor of the CIA during World War II and that he settled in Bangkok at the end of the conflict. In addition to getting a loyal clientele around the world in his silk business, he bought and reassembled parts of various typical Thai abandoned houses.
The visit to the house is interesting and the gardens are also beautiful, but nevertheless the most intriguing thing in Jim Thompson's life was his end. In 1967, while he was traveling through West Malaysia, he disappeared mysteriously. It may be that the CIA itself removed him from the world due to his comments and anti-American activities. The mystery remains unsolved.
We decided to go to the area of the hotel walking, stopping at the Erawan Shrine along the way. The road is easy, you just have to follow the BTS line. On the way, shortly after MBK we stopped to get our first Thai Massage in a place that was very good.
If I go back to Thailand, I'm not going to give myself another Thai Massage. I do not want to risk more uncontrollable fits of laughter that threaten my dignity (the little that I have left). Next stop after the beating, I say, after the massage was Erawan Shrine. It is a very strange place, in the heart of the most modern area of Bangkok.
Surrounded by shopping centers, hotels and the BTS is this small sanctuary that was initially built in the 50s with the aim of ending a series of misfortunes produced during the construction of the Erawan Hotel (which was demolished in 1987 and has now been replaced by the Grand Hyatt Erawan).
Despite how small it is, it is an important place of worship for Thais, as we saw. Apparently they go there to ask for material prosperity, and the offerings include things as varied as candles, incense, sugar cane, bananas and teakwood elephants. Donations must be made in multiple numbers of seven to attract good luck.
One can also hire a typical Thai dance for a small fee as a thank you for a wish granted. This sanctuary has a very interesting history. Despite its dark past, it is a special place and is usually considered full of positive energy. Some say that it is in a meeting point of supernatural forces.
From the Erawan sanctuary we continue walking towards the hotel, passing by Lumpini Park, which we would visit the next day. After a refreshing and necessary shower after the walk through Bangkok, we left again at 7 o'clock to visit Patpong night market.
At that time it was still beginning, but there was already quite a lot of hustle and bustle. It is located in an area where there are many strip clubs, bars and other shows well known to all. It is basically concentrated in two alleys between Th Silom and Th Surawong. We did not buy anything. We spent about an hour wandering around and they offered us repeatedly to go to ping-pong shows. It of course did not interest us at all because we were afraid that they would take an eye out of an uncontrolled ball.
Then we went to dinner and have beer. Not as cheap as at noon, but Silom is not one of the most economical neighborhoods. After dinner, we return to the hotel to rest. That day was less hot than the previous one and we found fewer people in the places, so we got less tired, despite the extensive walking tour of the city. The next day we expected a visit to Ayutthaya, one of the most interesting places in central Thailand.