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Thailand - Bangkok and Ayutthaya Day 1

Having often heard from friends lamenting on the good food, cheap shopping and cheap and authentic Thai Massage there, it didn't rub off on us to plan a holiday there until Adelina went there a couple of times on business trips. After first hand experience of the vibrancy of Bangkok, it became our target for our next short trip.

In July 2005, we were looking for a half yearly break and the opportunity came when we saw an airticket promotion by Jetstar Asia where we paid only S$100 per person with all taxes included. Our good luck prevailed and we got our room at the 5-star Sofitel Silom Bangkok at just S$100 per room per night with buffet breakfast, daily fruit platter and a drink for two at their bar located on the 37th floor.

Sofitel Silom indeed lived up to the good name of the Sofitel brand. Our room on the 15th floor possesses good view and it was very clean, cosy and spacious. The buffet breakfast offers extensive selection of delicious food. We enjoyed the breakfast thoroughly. We had a relaxing evening sipping our wine at the bar on the 37th floor while enjoying the fantastic view of Bangkok city.

View of Bangkok at dusk

We took the earliest flight there in order not to waste every single opportunity to savour authentic Thai food. Being unfamiliar with the place, we started our orientation along the riverside since it is the nearest to our hotel. At one of the shopping mall along the riverside, we had our first delicious Thai lunch right next to Chao Praya River. Till today, we couldn't forget the fried chilli prawn that we had for lunch.

Besides the notorious traffic jam, Bangkok is famous for its water taxi.....we couldn't wait to try it. There is a water-taxi dock just 10 minutes walk away from the shopping mall where we had lunch. We hopped on one to go to our first destination, Wat Pho (it is the easiest and most direct route there).

This 'train' of boats were transporting sands

Yippy......our first boat's cheap and fun! Don't worry that you might get lost. There is a boat conductor on board to collect the fares and announce the name of the next dock (just let her know in advance where you are heading and the friendly conductor will signal to you when the boat approaches your stop....which was what we did).

It only took us 20 minutes to reach our stop. After alighting at this busy (and very crowded) dock, we realised that there wasn't any signboard to direct us to Wat Pho. While trying to orientate ourselves, we caught sight of our moving GPS....a group of tourists. On our way to the Temple, a well-dressed sincere-looking man approached us asking if we were heading to the temple. After which, we were told that we were very unlucky as the temple is closed for the king's birthday celebration. Seeing our surprised and disappointed expression, he immediately offered us another destination where there is Cheap Quality Buys and a huge celebration for the king with beautiful fireworks. At this, we knew exactly what we were into. We...unlucky? Ha ha ha.....he was the unlucky one instead! We did our homework before our trip to Bangkok and have already being warned by fellow travellers on such hoax. Instead of cheap quality buys, there is only poor quality products at exorbitant prices.

After walking for another 5 minutes, we reached Wat Pho (or Wat Phra Chetuphon), the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. It is the oldest and largest Wat in Bangkok, built in the 16th century during the Ayutthaya period.

these 4 large Chedis commemorate the first 3 Chakri kings of Thailand (King Rama III has 2 chedis)
91 smaller Chedis
At the northern part of the Wat features the largest reclining Buddha measuring 46 metres long and 15 metres high, finished in gold leaf for the body and mother-of-pearl for the eyes. Behind the reclining Buddha lie a row of 108 bronze bowls where devotees and visitors drop 1-satang coin into each of the bowls for good luck.

Dropping 1-satang coin into the 108 bronze bowls

In addition to housing the largest reclining Buddha, the Wat also has the largest collection of Buddha images in Thailand.

One of the many Buddha images in the Wat
Not only is Wat Pho the oldest Wat in Bangkok, it is also the earliest centre for public education and the leading school for Thai massage. The massage here is really cheap, but be prepared to lie in the open hall together with many others there for massage. We didn't give it a try.....the atmosphere is just not right.....looks more like a make-shift first-aid zone!

Walking back to the dock that we alighted was a bit of challenge as we left Wat Pho from a different gate. After navigating through a market, school, small village and food centre (took us more than double the time we took to walk from the dock to the Wat), we finally reached the dock....phew!!

On our boat ride back, we visited Wat Arun, the Temple of Dawn. The boat docked (almost) at its entrance.

The centerpiece tower of the temple is 260 foot high, thus the central balcony is an ideal spot for great view of the Grand Palace and Temple of Emerald Buddha.....with some effort though as the steps are very treacherous. The temple was closed for the day when we visited (too late), but we did manage to capture the best view of the centerpiece.....which is at sunset.....looks like it is glowing!

Back at our hotel, the first thing we did was to book our side trip to Ayutthaya, Thailand's 2nd capital. We did many research to eventually determine that going via a tour is the most economical, easiest and informational. It cost Baht 1,700 per person (3 hours trip) including bus transport (pick up from our hotel lobby), buffet lunch, all entrance fees, a guide, elephant ride and boat ride around the ancient city.

After some rest to recharge our energy (the humidity zapped most of our energy within just half a day), we make our way to Bangrak Market (behind Shangri-La Hotel), a compact and unique meander. Thereafter, took the skytrain to the popular shopping belt to check out on prices (urhem....ladies....the bras are are the jeans) and have dinner.

Since massage is cheap here, how can we miss it? We found one massage parlour just 10 minutes walk from our hotel and operates till 1am! Oh, always check that the shop has the word 'traditional massage' on it. This means that they are genuine....won't want to end up in some sleezy place. Verdict....the massage was really good.....can feel our muscles loosening!!! Got to have it again tomorrow, the day after and after......

View Larger Map
(Site A: Wat Pho; Site B: Wat Arun; Site C: Bangrak Market)

This post first appeared on Carefree And Off-the-beaten Tracks Travels Around The World, please read the originial post: here

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Thailand - Bangkok and Ayutthaya Day 1


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