I’ve been to Bangkok almost 10 times since I started flying, yet somehow I’ve just never gotten round to visiting any of the temples there! Whilst I’ve visited the incredible Chatuchak Weekend Market (which is over 35 acres in size) and tried my hand at cooking some delicious Thai dishes, I decided it was probably about time I go and see what Thailand is really all about.
Since we landed early evening, a group of us headed to dinner at a lovely little restaurant just a few minutes walk from the hotel – every crew knows it and inside was another group of crew who were on their first leg of the 9-day Bangkok – Sydney – Christchurch trip. After a delicious (but very spicy!) dinner accompanied by a fresh coconut and finished with mango sticky rice of course, it was time to call it a night.
A couple of the girls from economy planned to head to the temples in the morning, so I asked if I could join. We met the next morning armed with a map and some Thai Baht, ready to explore.
A quick tuk tuk ride later we were at the Chao Phraya river, from where we would sail on down towards Wat Pho, also known as the Temple of The Reclining Buddha.
After negotiating with the man selling the boat tickets (and I’m certain we were ripped off, but no amount of bargaining would get him to lower the price!) we had our own little boat to take us up the river.
With a beautiful breeze blowing through our hair and the occasional splash of water it was a very refreshing way to start the morning! The ride took just under 20 minutes, and we passed by a handful of gorgeous temples, preparing us for what was to come.
I love how the front of this boat was covered in pretty flowers!
Most people stop and visit Wat Arun, another temple which is located on the opposite side of the river to Wat Pho and the Grand Palace. We decided to skip it as time was limited and unfortunately it seems like it was undergoing some kind of renovation as well. If you decide to visit however, you can cross the river for just 3 Baht on a large ferry boat.
Once our boat docked, we jumped off and passed through a little market type area, selling all sorts of trinkets, as well as plenty of different types of fried foods and fresh fruit.
It was just a short walk to the entrance of Wat Pho, and we were already impressed even before stepping inside.
Once we paid the entrance fee, our first stop was the incredible Reclining Buddha. The gold statue is 46m long, and 15m high, but I hadn’t realised just quite how enormous that is! It’s hard to portray in pictures just how awe-inspiring it is when you first step inside.
It’s also practically impossible to get the whole thing on camera! We walked around, admiring the Buddha from all angles, and looking at the little shrines which were located every few metres.
The Buddha’s feet are made of mother of pearl, and display symbols by which Buddha can be identified, such as flowers, dancers, elephants and tigers. In the centre of each foot is a circle representing a chakra. It’s incredible to think of the hundreds of hours of work that must have gone into creating something so detailed!
Once we’d walked all around the Reclining Buddha, we stepped back outside into the heat to see some more of the temples.
Everywhere we looked we could see these large pointed statues/monuments – I’m sure there’s an official name for them! When you look up close, they are covered in detailed, intricate decorations and plenty of gold.
We explored some more of the area, checking out more golden statues of Buddha and beautiful, detailed archways at each building.
Our next stop after the beautiful Wat Pho, was the Royal or Grand Palace, located just next door. Not before grabbing some fresh fruit from one of the street vendors!
The Grand Palace is a complex of buildings which has been the official residence of the Thai Kings since 1782. The current king now resides elsewhere, but the Grand Palace is still used for official events.
Whilst walking the perimeter of the buildings, we were approached multiple times by men who tried to tell us the palace was closed for the morning and wouldn’t open until the afternoon – beware of this scam!
Luckily I’d read about it beforehand so we didn’t fall for it, but what tends to happen is that they will then negotiate with a tuk tuk driver (who is of course in on the scam!) to take you to another temple, and instead they’ll take you on a tour of the city whilst stopping at various shops and trying to force you into buying expensive gems or jewellery. Once you’re back at the Grand Palace you’ll find it is actually closed as it’s after 3:30pm, when it closes normally. So make sure that if you’re going, you go early and go to the main entrance, where you’ll see crowds of people going inside!
The entrance fee isn’t cheap (500 Baht per person), especially compared to Wat Pho, and you have to borrow clothes to cover your shoulders and legs in case what you’re wearing is too short. Luckily it’s free to do so, you just need a deposit of 200 Baht which you get back when you return the items. I had to borrow a very fetching yellow shirt as my top didn’t cover my shoulders, so if you’re planning on visiting try to wear something that covers you up a bit more.
Once inside the first thing you see is the incredible Temple of the Emerald Buddha, or Wat Phra Kaew. The amount of gold used everywhere is just amazing!
Whilst everything was so beautiful to admire, it was incredibly busy. Literally everywhere you turned, you were surrounded by tour groups, people holding out selfie sticks or umbrellas to combat the heat. It was a bit overwhelming having the sun beating down on us and trying to escape the huge crowds!
We popped inside a couple of the temples, but again it was so busy there was hardly room to sit. It didn’t help having my lovely yellow shirt that definitely wasn’t keeping me cool!
After walking past more beautiful sculptures and temples, we decided to call it a day as all 3 of us were getting a bit hot and bothered!
Not before stopping by the main event – the most beautiful palace I’ve seen, covered in gold and surrounded by perfectly manicured gardens.
What a stunning building to round off our visit to the temples.
The Grand Palace is most definitely worth a visit, however I’d recommend going early morning, as soon as it opens, to avoid the crowds and the heat. Of course, don’t believe any of the men trying to tell you it’s closed until the afternoon – go to the main entrance and you’ll see the crowds of people lining up to go in! (The signs around the entrance state “Do not trust wily strangers” – haha!)
We stopped off at a small restaurant located a short walk from the Palace for some lunch and I got my fix of Pad Thai. It’s a must when in Thailand!
Instead of taking the boat back (and surely getting ripped off again) we hopped in a taxi that dropped us back off at our hotel. There was just time for me to squeeze in a massage – after all, that’s the reason I bid for Bangkok! 😉
In case anyone is looking for a massage spot, I would highly recommend Infinity Spa. Just a few minutes walk from the crew hotel, beautiful light and airy, and the best massage I’ve ever had in Bangkok! Finished off with a mini portion of mango sticky rice and homemade chamomile and peppermint tea, it was the perfect end to a day out and to relax me before the flight home.