There was a button next to my side of the bed in the So Sofitel hotel that opened the blinds. I tried to see the view when we arrived at 1 AM, but being so dark, I thought our view nothing special but boy was I wrong! I hit that blind button and unveiled an insanely amazing view of a huge park and amazing Bangkok skyline! We could even see a 5K going on in the park below, as well as people doing Tai Chi! Incredible. Still not yet used to the time change, we got up around 6:30 AM and headed down to the best breakfast buffet I have ever had. Not only was the view the same as our room, the buffet had an amazing assortment of fresh food from pastries of all kinds made daily to Thai soup, dim sum to traditional “American breakfast” foods, and then fruits of all kinds. I went to town on the passion fruit – it is so expensive in Texas so I over indulged. Hey, it is vacation for a reason right?
Anyways, after breakfast we went downstairs to meet Kiwi, our guide for the next 1.5 days from Tour with Tong. Kiwi was super friendly and had a tuktuk waiting for us to go to the sky train. The public transport in Bangkok is amazingly cheap and easy to use. The sky rail, for example, was under $1 USD each way. Not too shabby! We took the sky rail to the river to hop on a water taxi. The orange water taxi ferried us to the port where one of the flower markets was. There were hundreds of thousands of flowers everywhere and Kiwi showed us which types of flower arrangements were used for different ceremonies like weddings, cremation, and praying to the Buddha. She took us to one stand where a girl was putting flower bracelets together and showed me how to string them. I was definitely not as good as her but I tried – A for effort, right? Anyways, the flowers smelt amazing but apparently, you should only smell the ones you buy because it is bad luck to smell the flowers that someone else will buy in the future. On the way out of the market, we bought some Lotus flowers to bring to the temple since the Lotus flower is a very important symbol in Buddhism. Kiwi told us that every day of the week has a color and your color is the day of the week you were born – mine just so happens to be pink and Ryan’s blue, so we bought pink Lotus flowers to bring to the temple.
Hopped in another tutu with our flowers and rode to Wat Pho. What a remarkable place! Before we went in too far, Kiwi taught us how to open the petals of the lotus flowers and fold them to be pretty for the Buddha. Vendors sell the flowers opened inside of the temple, but it means more if you do it yourself, it is cheaper, and it is kind of fun. Odd numbers, specifically 1, 3, 5, and 7 are considered lucky in Thailand, so we had 5 lotus flowers each. Once we were finished, we brought them to a prayer area with the status of the different Buddha poses – again, there is one for each day of the week. My day is the reclining Buddha to which the entire temple is devoted! We lit a prayer candle and incense and knelt before the Buddhas and then we took gold leaf flecks and placed them on 3 Buddha of our choosing for luck and good fortune. I chose my Buddha, the lucky Buddha which is most recognizable for his big belly and hearty smile, and then Ryan’s Buddha to place my flecks on. A neat tradition to partake in.
We walked through the 80 acre grounds to the temple in which the laying Buddha resides. He is 46 meter long and used to be outside, but they build a temple for him to keep him preserved. To be respectful, I had to use my scarf as a cover up for my shoulders. To gain respectful entry into all of the Wats, you must wear longer than knee-length skirts or pants, have your shoulders covered with no cleavage showing, and remove your shoes and hats. I planned for that ahead of time but it was a bit sad to see other girls in short everything tries and sneak past in inappropriate wear into these sacred places. You could tell that the people working there, the guides, and the local Thai people who go to the temples to pray frown upon those breaking the dress code. Anyways, I will get off of my soap-box…
The temples themselves were breathtaking as the gold and mirrors that lined the walls from edge to edge shimmered in the sun. Inside, the walls of the temples were all hand painted in dark red tones with murals of legends across the lower portions in gold leaf. If you looked close enough at the figures, all of them had long fingers and ears which resemble long life for the character. The middle of the temples housed huge monuments that build up to gold Buddhas at the top. Astonishingly pretty and ornate.
I grew up watching The King and I, a musical based in Siam (now Thailand), and it was delightful to see the similarities from the images and figures I know so well in that movie and the Thai temples and murals on the walls and in the status in the Grand Place. We took a short bus ride to the Palace and I bought a white shirt to cover up more before we entered the 120 acer grounds. We entered in between two huge statues of the villains in Thai culture – the green demon and white-faced monkey. There were at least 6, 20-foot tall statues of those two symbols as we walked through the grand palace.
As can be seen when you visit almost anywhere, there are indications in the Grand Place’s architecture of cultures outside of Thai. There are two temples specifically with tops from different counties – one from Cambodia that looks very similar to the ancient wats there, and then a colorfully flowered top that most certainly was influenced by the Chinese. It is amazing to see different cultures come together and form buildings so diversely beautiful. This is going to sound funny, but I couldn’t get over how fantastically sparkly some of the temples were too.
We walked past those ornate buildings to the main one that housed the Emerald Buddha who has an estimated value of over 157 MM BHT, that’s over $5MM USD! He also is quite fashionable and gets three outfit changes by the King each year – one for summer, the rainy season, and winter. That Buddha is really amazing.
After we saw the Emerald Buddha, we were getting pretty hot and tired. Not only was the jet-lag getting to us, but it was insanely humid and the sun is much more potent since we were closer to the equator. We left the palace and went across the street to a vendor wielding a machete! With one stroke, she hacked into a coconut, popped in a straw, and handed me a deliciously refreshing drink that made me feel so much better! Ryan got a mango drink which was also amazing.
With some hydration under our belt, we then hopped into a tuktuk and headed to a massage house. Kiwi took us to a well-known, non-sketchy, spa right next to the sky train so we could find our way home after, and left us with the massage menu. For just $60 a person, we got 2 hours of Thai, deep tissue, and aroma therapy massage. Despite the fact that Ryan’s masseuse was hitting on him throughout the massage, and that both of our massage ladies were talking about “lady boys” and other things in Thai during those two hours, it was super relaxing!
We then walked across the street for lunch at this cool looking BBQ place. There was a small grill in the center of each table and you ordered an assortment of meats and veggies to grill to your liking. There were tons of super fresh and yummy food and it cost us a total of $16 USD – I love Thailand and I need to bring this concept to the US like ASAP!
Being extremely relaxed after the massage and now in a slight food coma, we decided to head back to the hotel to rest. Ryan took a nap and I decided to check out the pool and boy was I glad I did! Talk about nirvana! There was an endless pool looking over the park and city with awesome lounge chairs and yummy cocktails! I swam, had a drink, and enjoyed the view until an impending storm looked threatening enough to send me inside.
After some journaling, I woke Ryan up so that we could go check out a night market. We took off in a taxi and, in about ten minutes, were dropped off at the end of the Patpong’s market. It was a long street lined with tents that sold fake bags, clothes, watches, sun glasses, and souvenirs. I bought a few things and tried to haggle my way down to good prices, but ended up paying way too much for a pair of sun glasses. I know I paid too much because the sales girl started celebrating after I gave her the money – oh well! Along either side of the tents were stores and what appeared to be strip clubs so we stayed in the middle lane of the shopping vendors. As we neared closer to the main road where our hotel was, the tents got a bit more rated R with some very graphic t-shirt designs and XXX shops. In retrospect, we should have gone to one of the better night markets. I suggest doing some Googling to double check local advice. After about an hour of markets, we headed back to the hotel for some much-needed sleep.