How do you recover from a hangover and still manage a full day of exploring. I guess I just have to find out. I remember downing a couple, or was it three? bottles of Singha before walking down with another cup of beer back to my hostel. It was an awesome night of drinking alone. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not being sarcastic here or anything. The introvert me did enjoy the night.
I had a full day of walking and eating planned for the day. But first, breakfast.
I walked around my hostel searching for food. But there was nothing open that early in the morning. I had the impression that Thais generally don’t start their days early like Filipinos. Are we the only ones who wake up five in the morning? Anyways, I walked a couple of blocks and saw these small carts but they didn’t seem to register as breakfast to my brain. I walked further and over the bridge and another block away and voila! I smell breakfast!
I found this couple cooking up freshly fried dough served immediately while brewing coffee on another table. I’ve never seen real, freshly brewed coffee made on the sidewalk in the Philippines.
I sat down on one of their tables set up on the side with some locals joining me for the morning. That unfamiliar tone and sound reminded me that I am in Thailand. I got more appreciative of the morning. The roads were still calm the air a bit cool and crisp, and the crowd has not risen to venture the streets of the Khaosan district.
Coffee was amazing and the bread just complimented the morning’s soft atmosphere. After finishing my cup, I walked back to my hostel. I packed for an entire day of walking and sight seeing. The plan was to do a walking tour of Bangkok old district. A pre-planned route was mapped out making a short bearable walk from one spot to another. This way I wouldn’t notice that I’ve walked so much until my feet actually hurts. That was expected.
Since I thought of having Khaosan road as my base in Bangkok, I placed my starting point there. I walked back to the area from my hostel and found my self to my first temple. Ever. For real. The Wat Chana Songkhram Rachawora Mahawiharn (of course I googled it this time! LOL) more popularly known as Wat Songkran, this temple comes specially alive during Songkran. As the name suggests, the temple is specially dedicated to the celebration of new year that the Thai people loves welcoming with water fights in the city.
Experiencing my first temple was something. It was an overwhelming
I lost track of time and spent a good hour in the temple. The atmosphere was just so calm and relaxing as if I was on a retreat. But I had to get my self back on track, there’s a lot more to see this day.
I continued walking down the road until I got to this round about with elephant heads towering over the streets. I don’t mean to be rude, but Thailand’s culture is totally different from the Philippines. Every scene was as exotic to my eyes that I’d take sneakily take photos of people both lay and monks walking around.
My next destination is a small community block dating to the early 20th century. I’m not really sure why I wanted to see this place but I was intrigued. There was some sort of mystery to it that made we want to check it out. It was not the usual Bangkok attraction. From what I know, this use to be part of the place grounds but was then converted by another king and was made into a housing project (if I am not mistaken).
The buildings there today is said to look exactly the same as about almost a century ago. The people who lives there came together in restoring this historic place. Yes this is a living and breathing community with people living and working in and around the block. It’s just so nice to think that it is possible to have these kinds of places exist. That it doesn’t have to be touristy at all for us to save such heritage.
I walked around the community for a few minutes. The day was so hot that I started looking for a store to buy some water. I saw some people congregating at a nearby store looking corner so I approached. I was just so glad to see tables and chairs under a good shade. The heat was unrelenting though. The hot air was as damp as it could be that it felt just as hot even if I was not under the Sun. I inspected the store a little more seeking for something more than a bottle of water. Then I saw a sign on one of their fridge “Coconut Ice Cream”. God I need it badly right now I said to my self. I ordered one. Little did I knew (I only found about this when I got back to Manila), the ice cream that I was eating was actually the best coconut ice cream there is in Thailand as hailed by Luis Vuitton.
After a few more minutes, I felt I’ve recovered enough to continue my journey. Man, looking back this was November when it was suppose to be cool but no! It was sweltering hot that day! Anyways off to my next destination; The Giant Swing.
Honestly the giant swing is nothing more than a tall red wooden structure. It used to hold the royal swing that was used during special occasions. It is said that only important cities in Thailand have these giant swings reaffirming Bangkok’s special role even before it became the nation’s capital.
Just literally right across the giant swing is the Wat Suthat. I don’t really know if this temple has some historical significance to Bangkok but this is the most memorable for me. I got in at the time when there are people praying. Not just some ordinary prayers said secretly in their head. It was a prayer resonating across the majestic halls of the temple; it was a mesmerizing chant. I stepped in and sat among the locals. I somewhat felt so calm and relaxed that I wanted to finish the entire prayers. I closed my eyes and just listened to the tones so foreign yet so beautiful to my ears.
I had to make a conscious effort to extricate my self from the hypnotic atmosphere of the temple. It was so enchanting even just sitting there and listening to their chants was such an experience. You can just get lost in the feeling of peace and calmness. I didn’t notice I haven’t had lunch yet and it’s past 1PM already, I wouldn’t have notice it if not for my grumbling stomach. I have one more stop though.
There’s another temple near Wat Suthat. A less glamorous and smaller temple, not a Buddhist one. This is the temple of Brahmin. A small temple of golden hindu gods for priests, teachers and protector of sacred scriptures.
I didn’t understand anything at this temple. There wasn’t enough to read. Inside the temple though, there’s this certain feeling so different from the Buddhist temple I just visited. No offence but it was a bit off of a feeling. I walked through the entire hall of the temple and got out right away.
My stomach reminded me that I should be going now, foraging food.
Walking straight to the Democracy Monument then turning to one of the avenues radiating from the roundabout, I discovered a spot. It was a restaurant serving some sort of noodle soup in a bowl. The serving was in small portions at ฿12 each. It was perfect for me at that time since I really don’t eat in volumes back then.
From a stack of bowls the cook took one and poured in some soup. It was served to me along with some condiments like chili and vinegar. It was an interesting bowl of noodles. The soup was not that spicy hot, hence you get a cup of chili on the side if you want to level up. The store also served Chicharon and bread similar to what I ate that morning. I ordered both and a glass of some sweet tea they also sell.
It would take a few month after before I would learn that what I ate is called as Boat Noodles. These are bowls of noodles in small portions because they were originally sold people working on boats. Hence the small serving so the food wont spill when the boat rocks.
My next destination as the Golden Mount. I tried using the maps manually since I didn’t had internet (and i forgot that I had Maps.me that time) and this is where the fun begins. I followed a small alley that seem to be like a short cut to where I wanna go. It took me to a residential area and it wasn’t something tourists would normally go through. But the path was promising. I saw signs pointing to a temple. I just followed them until I unexpectedly found my self inside the Wat Thepthidaram Worawihan.
I left after checking out the the big halls that were mostly closed. Truth is, I may have spent more time trying to figure out how to get out of the compound. Fortunately I found my way out.
Beside this Wat was a park with the king’s statue on it. It was a nice park but it was so hot I didn’t notice that one of the places i wanted to see was totally at the back of the park, the Lao Prasat!
On my way to the Golden Mount passed by this bridge that I later learned was built a hundred years ago. It’s amazing how Thailand has managed to preserve such structures. It also helped that the country has not been conquered by any other country. Thailand also has not gone through any serious or heavily damaging war in its history.
I bought my ticket to the temple as I arrived. On my way up, it felt a bit more comfortable with the mist machines spraying cool mist. The stairs go round the hill all the way to the top where the temple is built.
Half-way up the stairs an amazing view of Bangkok awaits you. The view point overlooks the Wat Saket school compound with its beautiful Thai architecture themed roofs. I could have spent more time here just looking at this beautiful view, but I got a list to finish on this trip. I continued walking up until I reached the temple. Like the usual, I took off my shoes and observed. People were praying and meditating. The wind blowing was so refreshing. It was an escape to the scathing heat of the Bangkok weather.
Exploring the temple I noticed people were going to a certain direction with a line growing. I lined up and found the main altar. It was beautiful corner where a Buddha is enshrined. It seemed like it was telling you to join him and meditate. If only you could. If you are lucky like me you can spend a little more time here, I was last on the line and no one else followed. See that photo below? It was a challenge taking that photo. The area was sooo narrow but thank God for wide angle lens and bigger sensors on mirrorless cameras.
On your way down the temple you will be taking a different set of stairs. Remember that view earlier, make sure you take that. Fortunately I didn’t pass the opportunity to take a picture of it. Anyways back down the hill, you will find another chapel like structure. People buy gold leaves then puts them on the Buddha. Don’t ask me why, I don’t have an idea either hahaha!
I got a bit lost on my way out so I rewarded my self some iced coffee. I sat down on the small cart’s tables and chairs set up just outside the temple gates. After chatting with the vendor for quite a bit, feeling a little rested already I continued by journey to my next stop. Near the old bridge I passed by earlier is the canal boat terminal. I wanted to take it to my next stop but I got overwhelmed as I couldn’t understand the system. Later on, I learned that it actually wasn’t going my way. Nothing lost there.
Bangkok has so many temples that you’d be templed out if you visit all of them. It seems this old part of the city is just blessed with so much beautiful and intricately designed detailed architecture. As I navigate the streets to my next temple, I chanced upon another beautiful structure. I’m not sure what it is called but it was definitely worth stopping for this.
They say the next stop I’m going to is the birthplace of the Thai massage. This is where the famous massage was created and still is being taught to people to this day. It was worth the long walk. Welcome to Wat Pho.
Though this place is famous for Thai massage it was not the reason I came here for. I wanted to see the huge reclining Buddha that is said to be the biggest reclining gold plated Buddha in the world. The biggest or not, it was amazing. I took off my shoes and placed in the plastic bag provided. I carried it with me. At the side of the temple are small metal bowls where you can drop coins at. They say that if you manage to properly distribute the coins up to the last metal bowl is that your wish will come true.
Outside the reclining Buddha’s temple is the monastery. I saw people talking or praying with monks. They may be asking for prayers or blessings. It seem like it. There was a sign on the entrance that I don’t understand. I didn’t have any business there anyway so I just walked away.
Near the Wat Pho temple is the Grand Palace. I thought it over if I should go or not and decided to skip it. Entrance to the palace is quite expensive at ฿500. It was closing already in a little more than an hour so I thought of going there some other time. I wanted to make sure that I get more time spent exploring the palace than I can that time since it was that expensive. Then again I should be leaving for another city the next day, so I guess that’s a good reason to come back to Bangkok.
The grand palace and Wat Pho is located near the banks of the Chao Phraya river and across it is another symbol of Thailand’s rich culture, the Temple of Dawn. Also known as Wat Arun, this temple though one of the famous landmarks that identifies Thailand ironically showcases a Prang. This tower built in Khmer style was originally built as a Hindu temple to the god Aruna. Today Wat Arun still is venerated though as a Buddhist temple now.
Entrance fee to the temple it self is about ฿45 but it was closed to the public when I visited due to the massive restoration that was going on. Nevertheless, being on the public grounds around the temple was enough for me. From there I had the opportunity to gaze at the intricately designed temple.
I watched the Sun lie low while at the temple grounds. It was quite unusual for me, as a photographer I have this fascination with light and how it affects the things that we see. It was almost 6 PM when I decided to move on with my journey for the day. I boarded back the ferry and cross the river seeing that beautiful view of the Wat Arun once again from the other side of the river.
My hostel is about 3 kilometers, you I’m cheap but also I want to savor Bangkok with all what is left of my time here. I decided to walk. A few minutes into walking I saw this tent where people were lining up. As I get nearer I learned that these were tents giving out food for FREE! They were giving out free food (I later learned) as their act of kindness in memory of their recently passed king. I lined up and was practically invited to eat as they hand me food. I sat near the gutter and ate my free food along with local Thais who are in the area.
It was a good meal and I thought that it was in good timing since I was planning to walk all the way back to my hostel. While I gallivant along the my way back my eyes caught attention. A pier! I’ve always wanted to experience riding the Chao Phraya river ferry. I think this is one good way of avoiding the traffic (though its very minimal around this district). I hopped on the water bus packed with locals, nope I didn’t take the more expensive tourist boat. Even if I was willing to take it, it still wouldn’t take me all the way the stop where I need to go.
The river smelled something. It wasn’t that pleasant of a small at all. It reminded of me the Pasig river, albeit a bit more tolerable. It was fast and easy to navigate. A conductor takes your payment if you haven’t at the ticket post. I was aiming to get off at a specific pier that was less than a hundred meters from my hostel. I miscalculated my stop and prematurely got off the boat. Well at least I had fun and cut my walk into half. Just my luck, I found this lady selling a crepe like sweet cream wrapped in a barquillo like bread. It was ฿5 each and the lady gave me freshly cooked ones. Meal is now complete!
To be honest I was kinda lost and it took me another good hour to locate my hostel. I got to my bed and closed my eyes and woke up a few hours later startled! I realized that I forgot about something. I opened my computer and checked my itinerary. I was right! You know that feeling that there’s something that doesn’t seem right then confirming it? Well I just forgot that I was suppose to leave for Pattaya that night. But I was so tired. All the walking from the day rendered me useless and lifeless. So I slept the night through and opted to leave early morning the following day. I guess this is how I say goodbye to Bangkok.
Part 1: Flying Out
Part 2: Finding My Way Home
Part 3: The Bangkok Life (Part 1)
Part 4: The Bangkok Life (Part 2)
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