Bangkok, the City of Angels as it is commonly called. It is a fascinating city of historical interests, of commerical activity and one bustling with life. I borrowed from the library a few travel guides for Thailand and brought along the Lonely Planet for Bangkok for this trip.
0. Getting there
We hopped on the Air Asia flight from Singapore Terminal 1 to Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport. The return flight cost only S$255 and we departed from Changi at 11.00am and arrived at Bangkok airport precisely at 12.15am. The flight times are punctual and we cleared through the customs without much of a hassle. But waiting for the luggage took us quite a bit of time (20 mins) and the first day is quite a pack day for us as we have to go to the Bangkok Grand Palace later the day.
Anyway, we have already prepared ourselves for the potential tourist traps mentioned in the travel guides and are readied for it. There are clear directions in the airport pointing to the taxi stands. A counter at the taxi stand noted down our destination in Thai and pass it to the long queue of drivers.
The ride to bangkok city takes only 30mins at a cost of 225Baht(Distance) + 25Baht(Toll Charge) + 50Baht(Service Charge) = 300Baht. The driver told us to pay for the toll charge when it arrived at the one of the gates.
He has quite a bit of difficulty in finding our hotel - Samran Place. Think it is best to prepare the address and name of the hotel in Thai next time. But nevertheless, we were quite impressed by his persistence in inquiring with people along the way. We arrived at the hotel at 1.45pm.
The counter staffs are friendly and we got our keys and went up to our room. We are living on the 4th floor. The rooms are new.
Nevertheless, our objectives are not to use the room facilities that much. Our accommodations serve more as places of overnight stay than luxury. We hopped on a taxi and go on to our first destination, the Grand Palace. Along the way, it passes by the Democracy Monument on the Ratchadamnoen road. This is the road that we were recommended to travel on the way to the Grand Palace as we will be able to catch many monumental sights along the way.
This is the second one.
1. Grand Palace
We arrived at the northside entrance to the palace at 2.30pm (1 hour before its official closing time). This is supposed to be the official entrance to the palace where the ticketing office is. But we were told to walk down the walls to the east entrance. We made our way down and into the palace grounds. It appears we do not have to pay entrance charges for our visit; though I do not really know the reason. On the interior walls of the Grand Palaces are miles of Thai murals. It has been maintained and touched up by Thai artists. They can be seen working in some sections of the walls.
And here we are, the main entrance to the Grand Palace.
There are lots of gold, endless glitters of gold which sparkles in the sun. Never before have I seen so much gold in one place (especially outdoors). No wonder it is call the Land of Gold in the past when Buddhism first came to Thailand. There seems to be an abundant amount of gold in this country.
The three towers of the Grand Palace grounds.
The two giant protectors to the gates of the palaces.
At the base of the towers are intricate carvings of the mini palace protectors (also in gold).
This is the main temple of Wat Phra Kaew. It is an impressive temple where the Emerald Buddha is kept. No photography is allowed in the temple so I am unable to share the picture.
There are many chinese-warrior statues all over the palace grounds and temples. It shows the strong historical links between China and Thailand.
2. Wat Pho
We walked to the next sight - Wat Pho. It is a temple famous for its large reclining Buddha and its center of learning (traditional Thai medicine - Thai massage). The entrance to the monastery complex is 50Baht.
As it is difficult to photograph the entire length of the reclining Buddha, so I have captured its resting posture below.
At the feet of the reclining Buddha are images of the 108 auspicious signs.
Past the reclining Buddha, we noticed devotees making monetary offerings to a long length of alms bowl. We made a 20Baht donation and got a small cup full of half Baht coins. Following along, we place a coin in each of the alms bowl. The objective of this offering style is to train the parami of generosity where the action and thought of frequent giving is emphasized.
There are many gold Buddha images around Wat Pho. This temple is very large and we took around an hour to walk the entire circumference of it.
There are stupas on the temple grounds.
And many shrines with some containing golden Buddha images.
3. Wat Arun
We walked out from Wat Pho to the ferry terminal a short distance away - Tha Tien ferry. There is a small market around the ferry terminal, and we bought some fruits along the way. The fruits are cheap, costing around 10Baht for a small pack. In the small pier, there are signs clearly indicating the ferry to Wat Arun. It cost only 3.5Baht one way to the opposite side. The sun is setting soon and we are getting ready for the sunset sight.
The only highlight of Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) is the tall tower. It also cost 50Baht per entry.
Visitors can climb all the way to the mid-section of the tower. As can be seen from the photo below, the stairs leading up can be very steep. As a result, 2 sides of the tower are closed while the other 2 permit visitors to scale up. Actually the most difficult part is climbing down instead of up.
Can you see me in the photo below? :P
We climbed all the way to the top and were rewarded with a paranomic view of the Ko Ratanakosin area, which consists of the Grand Palace and Wat Pho.
We caught a ferry back just before sundown and I capture this picture.
4. Muay Thai at Ratchadamnoen Stadium
We hopped on the taxi and told the driver our next destination - Muay Thai. The tickets are expensive! It cost 2000Baht for ringside, 1500Baht for 2nd-tier and 1000Baht for 3rd-tier. The photo belows show the 2nd and 3rd tier seats. Heard that it was much cheaper 2 years back but the prices have inflated considerably since 2006. There are many agents hanging around the counters which offer cheaper tickets. After being approached by a few, we came to this conclusion. There are no discounts for 2nd and 3rd tier seats. But for the ringside, we managed to get discounts at 1,700Baht each. The match start at 6.30pm but we went in at 7am, after we had taken our dinner.
There are 10 matches for the evenings with each match taking 30mins. Each match will begin with a Wai Khru Ram Muay, it is a form of ritual dance with music playing the background. It goes back to ancient times where the fighters pay respect to their teachers, parents, etc. Thereafter there will be 5 rounds of fight with 3mins of bout and 2mins of rest for each round. The best matches normally start after 9pm. From the bout schedule we were given, the fighters start at 46kg(6.30pm) and the heavy weights start coming in at 9.30pm with 73kg. After this main match, most spectators will start leaving the stadium.
Heavy bettings and cheerings can be seen taking place at the 2nd-tier seats. Most foreign spectators sit at the ringside. I shall share 2 videos of the main match below. The first one is that of the Wai Khru Ram Muay (more videos can be found on youtube) and the second is the 4th round bout between the 2 fighters. Normally in a match, the 1st round is more like a warm-up. The 2nd - 4th round features the most action. If the results are generally known by the end of the 4th round, the 5th round will be more like a bout exchange.
At around 10pm, we went back to our hotel area. There is a night street market just a short distance away and here is where we had our supper - bought some fried chicken, hot milk and bread with Thai kaya. It is a large treat and it cost only 96Bhat for the 2 of us.