I don't think I have ever heard a bad thing about Bangkok, but it still seems to emit ideas of total chaos and overwhelming haste. It was weird to be back in what felt like an actual city with tall skyscrapers and stop-start traffic. Sure, there was still a culture shock, countless cables hanging above pavements and precariously placed air conditioning units, but it felt like London. I liked it a lot more than I thought I would! One of the first things I noticed was that, in Thailand, they drive on the left. This might not seem weird for a British person but, for a person that has spent two and a half months in Vietnam and Cambodia, it was weird. They also don't honk their horns as much.
First of all, we checked into our hostel (Flying Cow). It was cute and quaint, but the beds weren't the comfiest, there was a serious problem with mosquitos and the room's curtain made me worry about security. That said, we had got what we paid for and we were still happy. The wifi was good, the people sharing the room were cool and the location wasn't bad. Plus, in the nearby river, you could see komodo dragons! For dinner, we found a place called Jade's House. It was just down the road and well suited to westerners. That said, I thought it would be a good idea to try Pad Thai - a local's favourite. As it turned out, I didn't like it very much.
Next, we headed out to Khao San Road to see what it was really like. It's safe to say that Bangkok no longer seemed like London. Scorpions and other insects were sold to willing westerners, knock off clothing was sold at make shift markets and beer was sold at 20 Baht (about 45p) a bottle. We had a drink at a place called Roof Bar for it's live music and the balcony view of the road below, but it was a bit more expensive than other places.
The next day started with breakfast at Sawasdee Terrace. The food was great and it kept our bellies full until dinnertime. The first place that we wanted to see that day was the Grand Palace, but a man standing nearby told us that we would need our passports to go in (which we didn't have). He also told us that we should come back in an hour and we should spend that hour doing one of his tours (which we weren’t going to do). So instead, we continued with the day we had planned, only now we were starting with Wat Pho.
Wat Pho was just down the road and cost 100 Baht each to enter. Harmony had to put on longer trousers and we then went in. It was honestly amazing - the tall towers that fill the grounds, the buildings intricately decorated with shiny details and the Buddha statues that are almost everywhere you look, including the golden, 46m meter long "Reclining Buddha".
When we were done at Wat Pho, we somehow walked somewhat of a circle and ended up at the Grand Palace again. Luckily, we were allowed to go in because we knew our passport numbers! Little did we know that we weren't yet in the actual grounds of the palace and we would have to walk the perimeter until we finally found an entrance. They were stricter here about clothing and even I had to borrow some trousers (regardless of the fact my shorts covered my knees). The trousers were free to rent, but there was a 200 Baht deposit. Then, we found out there was an entrance fee of 500 Baht, which was out of our budget. So, after all of that, we walked straight back out and didn't get to see Wat Phra Kae either.
Next on our list was another temple - Wat Arun. It involved getting a water taxi from Tha Tien ferry pier for only 3.50 Baht. That's not even 8p! The water was fairly choppy and the ride was very similar to a cruise down the River Nile in Egypt. Unfortunately, the temple was undergoing some serious renovation and we weren't able to climb the 70m high set of stairs to the top. We were however able to walk around it's base for only 50 Baht, when I think it normally costs 100 Baht.
The renovations of Wat Arun also meant that it wasn't lit at nighttime, which was a real shame as I wanted to get a good photo of it. We waited for hours for the lights to come on at a restaurant (Sala Arun) on the other side of the river with the perfect view. There wasn’t even anything on the menu for vegetarians, so we had to hassle them for some simple vegetable fried rice. To be fair, the food was fantastic and a still took a few shots. Plus, they had a rooftop bar and the staff at the only other option (The Deck) weren’t nearly as nice. In terms of taking the photo (top of this blog post), the lighting wasn’t the only challenge I was faced with - the railing I was resting on shook every time somebody moved, and most of my photos came out blurred. Another challenge was the boats that constantly passed through the foreground. I used a long exposure to blur the water, but boats still showed up in the image. Nevertheless, I’m happy with how the final photo came out.
After eating breakfast the following day, we headed out to Wat Benchamabophit (also known as The Marble Temple). The walk there wasn't easy, but there was plenty to see along the way, including military buildings and Dusit Palace. The temple didn't seem like much as we approached it but, once we got into it's grounds, we realised how impressive it was. Lots of buildings cover a large area and there's even a fish filled river that runs through. The temple itself is especially impressive from the inside (20 Baht) and the marble gives it a really unique look.
Harmony then wanted to head over to Centralworld - the sixth largest shopping center in the world! We didn't have any money to spend in the high-end shops, but it felt very Christmassy, so it was nice to look around. However, the architectural design honestly wasn't anything special. From there, a tuk tuk cost 300 Baht to Wat Saket. What's great about this temple is the view from the top (made even better because we missed out at Wat Arun). A total of 344 steps coil around the 58m high hill and provide a relatively easy climb. Waterfalls and greenery create a great atmosphere, as long as it isn't crammed with crowds. The golden building at the top (with it's sky-piercing spire) probably looks most impressive from afar, but it does hold some interesting religious relics and only costs 10 Baht to go up!
After walking back from Wat Saket, we were exhausted. There was still another temple we wanted to check out, but that would have to wait until we were back from Chiang Mai as we fell straight to sleep that night! We were leaving the following day and we were leaving with a feeling of fondness towards Bangkok - the small sense of familiarity, the compelling culture and the ease of everything. That said, we also felt like we were leaving with asthma or the onset of another breathing problem because of all the traffic.