Day 20 | More temples in Bangkok: same same but different

This was our second and last full day of sightseeing in Bangkok with our friends Amandine and Laurent. After a quick breakfast at Loog Choob – the owners restock self-serve complimentary snacks and beverages in the common area every morning – we were on our feet and walking along the canal. We encountered this very energetic pet squirrel locked in a cage. I like to think that he was trying to find a way out because of how dirty his home is.

Our first temple for the day was Wat Benchamabophit, also known as the Marble Temple. On our way there, we walked by the Royal Thai Government building, heavily guarded with armed soldiers on a street forbidden to non-authorized vehicles. When we arrived at the temple around 8am there was almost nobody else. We got plenty of opportunities to take pictures of the structure.

Wat Benchamabophit (the Marble Temple)

The temple was beautiful but was built only at the beginning of last century. We were done with our visit in about 20 minutes and Mimi and Laurent were already planning ahead for the next stop while Amandine and I just waited for further instructions.

We walked some more through the Dusit district and passed by the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall, an impressive royal building previously used as a reception hall and which was since then reconverted into a museum. It was unexpected to see such a building with a renaissance style in the middle of Bangkok. It’s also surrounded by beautiful gardens.

Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall

We then decided to hop in a tuk tuk to get to the Grand Palace, probably the most anticipated attraction of the day. Amandine was the only one who had taken tuks tuks previously, in India. For the rest of us, it was our first ride in such a vehicle ever.

We all really liked it as a fun thing to try once but also realized Bangkok is just too polluted to really use tuks tuks as a practical mode of transportation for longer travels. We will try to stick with regular taxis for the rest of the day.

By 10am, we were on the very long line to purchase entry tickets for the Grand Palace which includes Wat Phra Kaew, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. Unlike the Marble Temple we visited earlier in the morning, this place was absolutely packed with tourists, in particular Chinese families and larger tour groups. Taking good pictures surrounded by so many people (with many of the Chinese ladies holding large sunbrellas) was harder but Mimi managed to get some decent shots nonetheless.

Here is the Golden Stupa.

Golden Stupa at Wat Phra Kaew

The temple building proper. As you can see, despite our best efforts, one umbrella still managed to stick in the picture.

Wat Phra Kaew (the Temple of the Emerald Buddha)

The Golden Chedi.

Golden Chedi at Wat Phra Kaew

Beautiful golden statues and ornaments outside the temple.

Golden statues and ornaments outside Wat Phra Kaew

Inside of the temple, the decoration was just as grand with walls covered by beautiful and incredibly detailed murals.

Murals inside Wat Phra Kaew

Murals inside Wat Phra Kaew

We kept walking around in Grand Palace grounds. We saw these guards that are not allowed to move or talk and I convinced Mimi to let me take a picture of her next to one of them. I wonder what action they take if you touch them by mistake (or push them voluntarily)?

Mimi next to a guard in the Grand Palace

We completed our visit and took some last pictures from the back, where most tourists don’t seem to go.

View from the back of the complex

Our stomachs were rumbling: other than the tuk tuk ride, we had been walking nonstop all morning. It was time to look for a place to eat. Yesterday, we had spotted a street with affordable restaurants while walking around Wat Pho. Mimi guided us to a very good Thai place in the same area. Fresh fruit juices and curry/noodles for everyone! Yummy.

After leaving the restaurant, we found a local place selling clothes and accessories where I got myself a pair of very comfortable Elephant Pants for just 160 Thai Bahts (less than $5) and Mimi bought a cute straw hat. The old lady that I was bargaining with tried to scam me by not giving me the correct change, but I was on my guard. She must have felt pretty embarrassed.

In order to get to Wat Arun Ratchawararam Ratchawaramahawihan (or Wat Arun for short, also known as the Temple of Dawn), we took a short boat trip across the Chao Phraya River, the main river that flows through the city and feeds its network of smaller canals. The temple itself was under renovation when we visited so the view from the boat wasn’t as nice as it normally is.

Next to the entrance to the grounds, Mimi and I both posed in front of a row of Buddha statues.

Posing in front of a row of Buddhas

The four of us then explored the premises and took many pictures of both the inside and outside.

Wat Arun (the Temple of Dawn)

The tallest part of the white structure was under renovation, but the colorful decorations on the bottom parts that were visible reminded me of the Hindu temple we visited on our first day in Singapore.

Decorations in Wat Arun

We completed our visit of Wat Arun and decided to take a northbound ferry to explore more remote temples in the city. Mimi was the guide, aided by Google Maps. When we got off the boat, we walked for a while to Wat Awutvikasitaram temple. Unlike Wat Arun, it was very quiet, there was a single worshipper inside.

We sat down for a while, tired from our walk to get there. As I looked to my left, I saw Mimi, Amandine and Laurent all on their cellphones. The only other person inside a temple then was this lady who was meditating or praying. I felt we were a bit out of place!

We left the temple and looked for another one in the area that we had spotted on the map previously. To get there, Mimi took us through very narrow paths along some small canal in a poor residential area.

We kept going on small pedestrian streets until we reached the temple.

We got there too late however, just as we arrived, the monks were closing the gates.

Monks closing a Buddhist temple

We backtracked through the canal area, came back to the main road and got into a taxi back to the hotel. We grabbed drinks and snacks at a local 7-Eleven and went to hang out on the rooftop of the Loog Choob Homestay, hoping to get there on time for the sunset. We were too late, however the Bangkok skyline was pretty nice. This is the actual view from the rooftop.

Bangkok skyline from Loog Choob's rooftop

We left the hotel again to have dinner at Terminal 21, a shopping mall themed like an airport with each floor representing a different international city. The fourth floor is for San Francisco and I got to take a picture with Laurent in front of the Golden Gate Bridge replica, pretty much exactly eleven years after our first visit of San Francisco when we both arrived in the United States for the first time. Memories!

Laurent and I in front of the Golden Gate Bridge replica

We had dinner at a Thai restaurant on that floor. Afterwards we went to check out Soi Cowboy, a red-light district street similar to Patong which we visited while in Phuket.

Soi Cowboy, a red-light district street in Bangkok

There were tons of scantily clad ladies – and a few ladyboys among them – soliciting passersby. For Laurent and myself, they didn’t want to waste their time, seeing that we were holding hands with our own ladies. Amandine and Laurent were tired and had to catch a flight early in the morning so we took an Uber back to our hotel and called it a night. We are going to miss traveling with them!

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