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Bangkok, Day 2, Sunday

Written on: Sunday July 8th, 2007

A journal entry from: Elective

We met Jenny and Ellie, the 2 girls from Exeter, for breakfast, as they wanted to tag along to the Grand Palace and Wat Pho with us. They are both 18, and are awaiting A level results. Ellie is going to study medicine at Bristol uni, and Jenny is planning to do International Business with Spanish. They both seem like really sweet girls, and we get along well with them.

After breakfast, we started the walk to the Grand Palace, which wasn't far and took around twenty minutes. After being reprimanded for trying to get into the Thai-only entrance, we finally found the tourist entrance and went in. To enter the Grand Palace, you need to be covered up, so we all had long trousers on and I had taken a long-sleeved top with me. We all paid the 250 baht entrance fee, and then entered the first area.

Once inside, we took a moment to fully appreciate the many statues and buildings that could be seen immediately. To our left, there was an entire hall with a huge painting covering the whole wall. Straight ahead, a small temple with a sitting Buddha perched on top. To our right, 2 huge statues. It was a lot to take in and it was extremely hot, so we took a quick rest!

While sitting down to get some water, we were approached by two young Thai women, who were students doing research into a product they had made - a bag made out of a tin can. Ingenious. They kept informing us that it was, in fact, a can! Hilarious! Anyway, Ellie filled out the questionnaire and they laughed at the fact that they were all 18, before pointing at me and Sophie, asking "Are these your parents?"! Parents!! We found it hilarious, but the two girls were mortified and kept apologising, bless them. 

Following that little incident, we started the walk around the area, taking in all the detail that we could. Everything was painted in gold leaf, mixed with the occasional bright colour to add detail. There was a fantastic model of Angkor Wat and loads of my favourite - elephant carvings! It was so busy, with hundreds of tourists, but probably equally as many local people! There are many religious items there, so it's understandable why so many visit. 

We took our shoes off to enter the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, or Wat Phra Keow as it is known here. On the way in, I spied a couple of women pressing gold leaf onto some of the pillars. That must take some serious patience, not to mention an awful lot of time. I was impressed. The Emerald Buddha itself was in a hall that forbade photography, so I couldn't get any pictures, but it was very beautiful in there. The actual statue is 75cm tall, and carved from a single piece of jade. Despite it's size, it is pretty amazing, and it was surrounding with plenty of ornate statues and fantastic paintings, so we spent some time looking at things in the hall.

Once we left that area, we went through to another courtyard where the main Grand Palace was. Once again, there was so much to take in. Guards, strangely shaped trees, beautifully kept lawns, various buildings etc. While wandering around, we were approached by a group of Thai men, wanting to take our picture! We declined, and left them giggling at us. By this point, we were getting pretty exhausted with the heat, so we stopped in a small cafe to get refreshments. I had an amazing mango sorbet-style drink, which really hit the spot! 

 We left the palace, and decided to attempt to find Wat Pho. It was at this point that disaster struck. I went in my bag to get out the map, and realised that my purse was missing. I frantically searched through my entire bag, in the hope that I had simply misplaced it, but it was definitely gone. I even ripped into the lining to see if it could have slipped through (sorry Martyn!), but no luck. The girls decided that we should at least head back to the Grand Palace to check if it had slipped out, so I followed them, trying to stay as calm as I could in the situation. Unfortunately for Martyn back home, staying calm involved waking him up at 6am with a panic-stricken phone call. Again, sorry Martyn! 

The guards at the Grand Palace were very reluctant to let us back-track through the grounds, as it was a one-way system. I ended up going alone, as that was the only way they would permit it. I went to Lost and Found, where I checked if anyone had been kind enough to hand it in, but again, no luck. By this point I was extremely stressed and very upset, but I managed to get it together enough to cancel my cards (debit card and mastercard), which made me feel a little better. 

Despite still feeling a little shaken up, and a bit fed up, we decided to make the most of our last day in Bangkok while we could. We took a tuk tuk to Wat Pho after the mandatory bartering, reducing the price from 100baht to 40 baht. Not bad going. I was really glad we went though, as the reclining Buddha statue was indescribable. A huge golden statue, at 157ft long, it was a sight that I certainly won't ever forget. At the end of the long hall rested the feet of the Buddha, inlaid with mother of pearl designs. The detail was, once again, amazing. Well worth the visit. 

The next stop was to be Jim Thompson's house, so we hopped on a longtail boat taxi at Tha Tien pier, and skimmed along Chao Phraya river to Sathon Pier. It was an exhilarating ride - fast, bumpy and very wet!! We saw lots of sights along the banks of the river also, including some towering hotels like the Hilton, Peninsula and Shangri-La! Really good fun. 

From the pier, we grabbed the next sky-train to the National Stadium stop, where we had planned to walk from there to Jim Thompson's house. By the time we got there, it looked like it would be pushing it a bit with our time restraints (made worse by the 90 minutes I had spent sorting out my problem!), so we decided to go into the MBK shopping centre instead! Sophie very kindly bought me a massive chocolate dessert to cheer me up, and it was gorgeous! Just what I needed! 

We stopped in at Dunkin' Donuts for a snack, which was an experience as I've literally never seen so many different varieties of doughnut in one place. It's a shame I don't really like doughnuts, as I would have been spoilt for choice, and probably unable to choose!!

Our time in Bangkok was drawing to an end, so we rode a tuk tuk back to Khao San road for one last spot of market shopping before heading back to the hotel to pick up our bags and get a taxi to the train station.

The train was due to arrive at 6pm, and we got to the station around 5pm, so had plenty of time to wander around picking up snacks, checking e-mail etc. When the train got to the platform, the entire station stood while the National Anthem played. It was nice to see that kind of solidarity in a nation, and even the kids were very respectful of it.

The overnight train was an interesting experience. Pretty hot and crowded, we were given 2 seats, which would later fold down to make one bed, and there was an overhead bed that folded out to make the top bunk. We had food on the train, which was much better than expected. For a starter, it was spicy soup, which made my lips and mouth tingle, but not wholly unpleasantly, and it actually tasted pretty good. I chose sweet and sour pork for my main course, and it came with egg-fried rice and salad. Plenty of spring onions and pineapple complemented the dish nicely, and the rice was good. I was pleasantly surprised! While I was eating my meal, I had a brief moment of amazement, as I realised that never in my life would I have thought I would be sitting on a train, travelling through Thailand! 

We passed some time reading, and chatting, before hitting the sack at around 10pm for what was due to be an uncomfortable night!!



From Trace & Si on Jul 10th, 2007

Sorry that you lost/had your purse stolen :( Hope it won't cause any problems. Si says he is as jealous of the doughnuts as he is of the sight-seeing! Typical simmon! It does sound really amazing though, can't wait to see pictures when you can upload them! We just sat for 5 minutes trying to think if we had any news to tell you and we do! WILKOS IS OPEN!! :D :D Take care all of you x

From Pauline on Jul 10th, 2007

Hi Kim - shame about the purse, but don't let it spoil your trip (I'm sure Martyn didn't mind the wake-up call). Bangkok sounds spectacular and no doubt very hectic too - hope you took plenty of photos. Looking forward to the next instalment! P xx

From Mum on Jul 11th, 2007

Hi Kim (& Soph) I have many moments of amazement when i read about what you are doing and how much you are enjoying the culture etc.Just keep having fun and take care. Love Mum xxxx