Bangkok: The Grand Palace, Wat Pho, and Wat Arun.

After a much needed night of rest, we set off early for The Grand Palace.  Outside the palace, there isn’t a lot of good English signage to direct you to the entrance, so just follow the ridiculous amount of crowds and you’ll eventually end up at the ticket office.  Be sure to get there early, one, to try and beat the rush a little and two, if you’re in Thailand during their summer months, it will get muggy as all hell.  Another reason to get there early is to be sure you’ll be able to rent a 200 baht audio guide, which was indispensable (when we returned them at noon, they had a sign up saying they were all out).  Keep in mind you’ll need to leave a passport or credit card with them.

The entrance fee to the palace is 500 baht, and when you walk in it’s pure chaos.  Any outdoor signs that say “No Picture”, you can completely disregard because everyone else is.  However, they do crack down on the picture taking inside certain temples, so this post won’t be able to show you some interiors.  Also, there are several places where you can’t wear shoes, so make sure to have socks on if you’re there in the summer because the stone ground does get very hot.  I was also surprised by one thing.  Generally in places with no shoe policies, like the Blue Mosque for instance, the smell is pretty bad.  Somehow, that wasn’t really an issue here and I’m not sure how they got away with that.

What you’ll notice immediately is how much gold there is and how tightly packed all the buildings are next to each other.  It almost feels like you’re in an Epcot Center showcase country, but in this case it’s the real deal.  The highlights:

  • The Temple of the Emerald Buddha with its beautiful illuminated blue Buddha statue atop a golden temple.  The Buddha has 3 robes that are changed each season by the King.  The walls of the room are lavish red, white and gold murals of the life of the Buddha including a Thai version of Michelangelo’s Judgement Day.  The floor is a beautiful Italian marble.
  • Amarin Winitchai Throne Hall inside the Grand Palace displays the impressive gold throne covered by the nine tiered umbrella representing the King.
  • Dusit Maha Prasat Throne Hall gives you a closer look at a different throne and there’s a weapons museum displaying a multitudes of swords, spears and other military relics.
  • Like the British Palace, you can take your photos with a royal guard who maintains his disciplinary pose.

 

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After our stop at The Grand Palace, and a quick 50 cent mango snack from a street cart, we walked down to Wat Pho.  We made the mistake of not looking at the map first before leaving the palace,  which made our walk there far longer because we left at the wrong exit.  So check to see which direction to leave from before walking out.  The entrance fee for Wat Pho is 100 baht, but it includes a bottle of water, which was very welcome in the 100 degree heat.  There are no audio guides sadly, but there are a good amount of English information signs throughout.

The main highlight of Wat Pho is the giant, and I mean giant, reclining Buddha.  It’s almost amusing to look at because you’re staring at this huge Buddha who’s laying there like he’s just chilling.  The Buddha even has a little smirk on his face I think.  The scene is far less chaotic, and it’s a bit more civilized in that they give you bags to hold your shoes in instead of having you leave them in a giant pile outside the monastery.  Keep your eye out for pickpockets.  Of all the places we went, I could see how this place is the easiest to fall victim to them because everyone is just staring up and there’s not a whole lot of space.  When you look at the Buddha, pay special attention to the feet with the 108 auspicious symbols of Buddha and you can pay 20 baht to drop coins into 108 bronze bowls in the corridor as a way to bring good fortune, and to help the monks maintain the monastery.

 

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From Wat Pho we headed to Wat Arun, but before we did we just happened to stumble upon a great place for lunch (and because we were lost).  Eat Sight Story deck/restaurant is located on the Chaophraya River across the way from Wat Arun.  From there you get a spectacular view of Wat Arun and the parts of Bangkok that you can see up and down the river.  To find it, look for Arun Residences on Soi Ta Tian alley.  The food is decent enough, but it’s priced higher than most places because they know people are going to come for the view.  And the view really is worth it.

From Eat Sight Story, we could see where to take the 3 baht ferry across the river (remember $1 = 30 baht) to Wat Arun.  Sadly, the wat was under renovation so a good portion of it was covered in scaffolding.  The entrance fee here is 50 baht and again there was no audio guide.  Compared to the Palace and Wat Pho, Wat Arun is relatively anti-climatic.  That being said, the pagoda at Wat Arun is one of the more picturesque ones and the surrounding gardens make it a very calming visit after the hysteria at the other sites.

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