Spread the love
My recent holidays included a two day stay in Thailand’s capital city, Bangkok, a city I have never visited before despite having travelled to Thailand on three prior occasions. I guess I had an image of Bangkok as being a large, overpopulated, chaotic, unsanitary and seedy city, but I was soon proven otherwise.
Yes it is a large sprawling city with a population of over 8 million people; yes it is chaotic on the streets; yes there are some seedy areas like Patpong and yes the brown-coloured waters of the Chao Phraya River that runs through the city are a bit polluted. However I discovered that this international city gave me a rush of sensory stimulation with its exotic sights, world-class shopping centres, centuries old temples and palaces, the boat-filled congested Chao Phraya River and the state-of-the-art public transport system.
I arrived in this bustling city with my group of girlfriends (AKA WINOEs) and we checked into our very central hotel, Novotel Siam Square, in the early evening. As most of us were tired from our long flight we had a quick drink and bite to eat at the hotel and then retired for the night. We decided we would reconvene the following morning to work out a plan for the day.
After a quick visit to the tour desk in the hotel we decided to spend the day sightseeing in the city by catching the Skyrail and then purchasing a day pass on the river ferry which goes up and down the river all day and night. This way you can get off and on the ferry at designated tourist attractions at your leisure which are mainly located along the river or within a close walking distance. We found the Skyrail a wonderful inexpensive and efficient way to get around the bustling city, rather than taking a cab.
Some of the sights we visited were:
Probably one of the most visited tourist attractions in Bangkok, The Grand Palace was once the royal residence of the Kings of Siam since the 1700s. It is an amazing sight! The opulent Grand Palace encompasses the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, which contains the small, very famous and greatly revered Emerald Buddha that dates back to the 14th century.
Thai Kings stopped living in the palace around the turn of the twentieth century, but the palace complex is still used to mark all kinds of other ceremonial and auspicious happenings. Nowadays its impressive interior is used for important ceremonial occasions like coronations. It also contains the antique throne, used before the Western style one presently in use.
You will simply be in awe of the Grand Palace with its beautiful architecture and intricate detail, all of which is a proud salute to the creativity and craftsmanship of Thai people. You could spend the whole day here exploring every nook and cranny if you wanted to.
Located behind the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, is Wat Pho (Reclining Buddha), one of the largest temple complexes in the city and famed for its giant reclining Buddha that measures 46 metres long and is covered in gold leaf.
The site also includes four chapels that contain 394 gilded Buddha images, long lines of golden statues from different parts of Thailand sitting in the lotus position. Wat Pho is often considered the leading school of massage in Thailand and is a great place to get a traditional Thai massage.
Wat Arun, locally known as Wat Chaeng, is situated on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River. It is easily one of the most stunning temples in Bangkok, not only because of its riverside location, but also because the design is very different to the other temples you can visit in Bangkok. Wat Arun (or Temple of the Dawn) is partly made up of colourfully decorated spires and stands majestically over the water. It makes for a spectacular photo at sunset or of a night time.
You can climb the central prang if you so feel inclined, but the steps are very steep, however there is a railing to balance yourself. When you reach the highest point you can see the winding Chao Phraya River and the Grand Palace and Wat Pho opposite. Along the base of this central tower there are sculptures of Chinese soldiers and animals.
Really a river cruise is a must do in Bangkok as the riverside reflects a constantly changing scene day and night: water-taxis and heavily laden rice barges chugging upstream, set against a backdrop of glittering temples and luxury hotels. The areas from Wat Arun to Phra Sumeru Fortress are home to some of the oldest settlements in Bangkok, particularly Bangkok Noi and its charming ambience of stilt houses flanking the complex waterways.
Five public boat lines, all operated by the Chao Phraya Express Boat company, ply the same 21km route along the river. Operating between 6am and 7:30pm each is identifiable by the coloured flag hanging off its rear. It is a great way to see a majority of the tourist attractions or just sit back and relax and take in the sights along the bustling riverside.
Of an evening you can select from a number of dinner cruises that offer International and Thai cuisine buffet dinners, beverages, onboard entertainment and even dancing whilst you cruise along the river taking in the wondrous sites of Bangkok lit up at night. We chose to take one of these dinner cruises with Chaophraya Cruises, after spending the day going up and down the river, and it was an entirely different experience by night.
Markets around Bangkok offer fascinating shopping experiences. Compared to air-conditioned malls, though, they are hot and sticky mazes with alleys after alleys of shops selling everything from one-off fashion accessories to knock-off kitsches to farm-fresh flowers and agricultural produce.
We chose to visit the Flower Markets which weren’t too far away from the river stop off the ferry. We initially walked through a maze of fresh produce markets which sold a large array of fruits, vegetables, fish and meats.
Bangkok Flower Market (Pak Klong Talad) is the biggest wholesale and retail fresh flower market in Bangkok. The market has all kinds of popular flowers and flora-related items, including roses, forget me nots, orchids, lilies and more. We purchased a dozen glorious red roses for our wonderful tour desk assistant for as little $10 AUD.
Day two in Bangkok, with the assistance of the hotel’s tour desk assistant, we designed our own day tour out of the city which took us to the following:
Although not scheduled on our day trip, a visit to Thailand would never be complete without visiting an elephant camp. We stopped briefly at Chang Puak Elephant Camp in Hat Yai where you can engage in numerous wildlife experiences like elephant trekking, elephant shows, monkey shows, feed the baby elephant, have your photo taken with a number of the animals including a baby white lion, which I was brave enough to do!
The market is over an hour outside Bangkok. You are taken to the pier to hop onto decorated long-tail boats that are waiting to take you to the market. The boat motors down the narrow canals, where there are small wooden houses on stilts fringing the banks and you get a brief glimpse of life on the river. The journey takes around 20 minutes and it’s great to enjoy the peace before the hectic pace of the market.
The most famous floating market in Thailand can feel a little commercialised and overcrowded but if you walk further, you will find the food-sellers, who not only look more photogenic, but also have some far tastier goods. Unlike most of the other floating markets, the popularity of Damnoen Saduak attracts many fruit sellers rowing their boats along the narrow canals, and there is plenty of tasty food to try along the docks, from freshly-made mini coconut pancakes to boat noodles in their rich meaty broth.
You can hire another small boat with local elderly Thai women at the helm, who are not only physically fit enough to row 4 passengers through the markets, but are as feisty as hell! I wouldn’t dare cross them! They row you around the floating markets stopping at different market stalls who try to push their wares into your face. The colour and vibrancy of these markets are an experience like no other.
Following the frenetic pace of the Floating Markets we were whisked away to amble through the woodcraft and handicraft factory nearby. We were able to watch craftsmen carve intricate detail into large slabs of wood and then browse the large showroom full of handmade wooden furniture, statues, artwork and ornaments.
Something I have always wanted to do is visit the famous Bridge over the River Kwai which was painstakingly built by POWs captured by the Japanese Army during the Second World War. The River Kwai is located in Kanchanaburi, 130 Kms west of Bangkok and depending on traffic can take 2 to 3 hours by car.
You actually get to walk over the infamous railway bridge, or you can even take a short train journey on the Death Railway, learning about the hardship and challenges that faced the POWs during the construction of the railway. After a lovely lunch overlooking the picturesque river we were take to the Death Railway Museum to learn more about the sombre history of the POW’s way of life and then a stroll through the War Cemetery in Kanchanaburi to view tover 7,000 graves of POWs that were sacrificed for the greed of the Japanese campaign to construct a railway from Thailand into Burma.
This day was probably the highlight of my visit to Bangkok as it was a time to reflect on the hardships of World War II, the Japanese invasion and the atrocities of war as a POW.
It was back into the mini bus for a well earned “nanna nap” during our 3 hour return trip to Bangkok. Although we were all exhausted after such a big day a couple of us managed a little retail therapy at a couple of shopping centres close to our hotel, which are all open until 10pm at night.
We visited the very upmarket Siam Paragon Shopping Centre, Siam Square and then the market-style shops at MBK Shopping Centre for bargains galore. These malls are where you’ll find the city’s finest fashion stores, global brands, book shops, speciality stores, accessories stands and all kinds of luxury designer lifestyle goods. A shopper’s heaven really!
We all agreed that two days in Bangkok wasn’t near enough to touch the surface. We never had time to explore some of the other great tourist attractions like Erawan, Trimurati and Ganesh shrines; National Museum; Wat Benchama Bophit (Marble Temple); Wimanmek Palace; Chatuchak Weekend Markets; nor the nightlife areas of Patpong or Khao San Road.
There maybe another girl’s holiday to Bangkok in the woodwork!
Linking up with Travel Photo Thursday
Kathy was a 50 something year old when she started up this blog 6 years ago, but has since turned over another decade and is now in her early 60s. She is married with two adult children and lives on the Tweed Coast of New South Wales, Australia. Kathy enjoys living life to the fullest and loves to keep fit and active by maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Some of her interests include reading, photography, travelling, cooking and blogging! Kathy works part-time as a freelance writer but her real passion is travelling and photographing brilliant destinations both within Australia and overseas and writing about it.
Comments are closed.