After my month of paradise, new friends, and lots of yoga it was time for me to return to the hustle and bustle of the big city, Bangkok. I arrived a bit more rested than my previous train trip to the South and quickly found my way to my new hostel. It was early meaning our room wasn't ready, instead I took over the waiting area with all of my crap and waited for my friend Laura to join me. She was due to arrive on a 7am flight but thanks to a delay, all the transportation and maybe a quick wrong turn she arrived closer to 12 (just as I was beginning to kind of, get concerned)
After hours of travel for the both of us, we decided to take it easy on the first day, exploring near our hostel, finding food and ultimately calling it an early night. The following day we were up, out of the hostel and on the hunt for coffee, all before 8am. Our hostel provided convenient transportation options via the BTS and river ferries, for getting to the center of it all - aka the tourist attractions. Our morning was going very smoothly until the rain gods decided to greet us with morning showers, funny thing is I glanced at the pile of umbrellas at the hostel that morning and thought "I don't need one of those". Considering it's hot season (and when I say hot I mean hot) we really didn't mind the rain, the only concern was keeping our cameras and phones out of it.
Our first stop of the morning was at Wat Arun (temple of dawn) which is said to be the most iconic landmark in Bangkok, unfortunately I didn't exactly agree. Not only were the skies dark, cloudy and rainy but the temple was also undergoing restoration work, making it less appealing. The rain decided to stop which allowed us to take out our cameras although I didn't catch much of anything spectacular. Actually the highlight of this stop may have been the group of Asian boys who asked to take a picture with Laura and myself, I hope we at least made their day.
Deciding we'd had enough we made our way to the ferry which would taxi us across the river to the rest of the sites planned for the day. We had to laugh as we paid our fee to get across, 3 baht each, that doesn't even translate to US$ it's so cheap. As we boarded the boat we noticed the boy whom had boarded our original ferry, asking us about where to buy tickets, earlier that morning. Laura motioned for him to join us and we soon learned that he (Tebow) had arrived that morning from Australia where he'd been on a work visa (originally from France). His plans were pretty similar to ours so we decided to join forces for the day, or that's just kind of what happened.
A short ferry ride across the river and some more wandering before we found ourselves at Wat Pho, mainly known for the enormous reclining Buddha on the inside. Aside from the impressive Buddha (15m high and 43m long) the temple is also one of the oldest in Bangkok and houses hundreds of other Buddhas. Not only that but there is also a massage school within the temple, unfortunately we didn't pay them a visit. The temple grounds seemed to go on forever as we continued walking and walking and walking, and although it all started to kind of look the same, it was still pretty impressive.
A unanimous decision to find a place to sit, rest and refuel was made so we soon found ourselves at a quaint cafe along the river. I've become a sucker for Thai iced coffee's (thankfully they don't come with a nutrition label) so I grabbed one of those while walking, but the other two mixed it up with a white mocha (apparently coffee isn't included here - so strange it was like a liquid candy bar) and a lychee smoothie (suuuuper sweet). It kind of sneaks up on you how much walking you do while touring temples and exploring the city, but taking a seat in that cafe felt amazing. Not only that but Laura was still working on some jet lag, while Tebow was on very minimal sleep after his flight from Australia, so we all appreciated the rest.
With a little more energy we decided it was time for the main attraction, one of the must see's while in Bangkok, The Grand Palace. Pretty much no matter what you read, watch or hear about Bangkok it's almost certain that someone will tell you about the "Palace scams", but we were lucky enough to completely avoid any of these. Actually, I think they're doing a great job protecting tourists, there's even an announcement playing around the outside of the palace warning tourists not to trust people and only to buy their tickets from the designated booths inside. Considering all of the awareness now out in the open about these scammers, I really don't feel too bad for anyone that falls for them, common sense people.
The Palace was enormous as expected, seeming to go on forever, and ever annnd ever. The first section you enter isn't actually "The Grand Palace" but rather Wat Phra Kheo. I did very minimal research before today (call me a bad tourist if you will, maybe it's because I don't consider myself a tourist), so I didn't really know what to expect (although I get bonus points for following the dress code). The Wat is huge (aren't they all) but the main point of interest is the Emerald Buddha, housed inside the Roayal Monastery. It's kind of funny because this Buddha (which thousands of people go to pay respect to) is tiny, given the typical size of other Buddha statues I've seen. You'll have to take my word for it though because there were no pictures allowed inside the monastery.
Temple grounds are somewhat of a corn maze if you're not careful, it's pretty easy to get turned around, miss an entire area or walk yourself into circles. This time we managed to do the later two, or maybe it was only half a circle. After nearly an hour of touring we found ourselves back at the entrance trying to figure out how to get over to The Grand Palace. There was one gated area that clearly led us there but the problem was there was a "No Entry" sign posted. After watching one worker simply open the gate (no keys involved) Tebow took the initiative and had us follow along in the same fashion (see this is what boys are good for). Actually it was funny how it worked out because roughly 8 young monks followed us through, as Tebow held the gate for them, to any guards we simply looked like kind, helpful tourists!
Although we were all fading into temple overload there was more to see, we finally had arrived at the grand palace, of course swarming with tourists and some unique guards (who looked bored out of their minds). To give a little background, the palace was built in 1782 and consists of the royal residence as well as a number of government offices as well as the aforementioned Temple of the Emerald Buddha. Before this palace the center of administration was actually located on the west of the river, but for some reason King Rama I decided he wanted a new one. We went inside a few buildings, one which was apparently the auditorium used for birthday and anniversary parties, but soon found ourselves ready to leave, we were palace-d out.
High on the tourist track for a reason, home of good food (mostly) happy people, rich history and culture. Thailand as many tourist soon learn is just easy. Easy to visit, easy to get around and even easier to stay.