Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Bangkok, Thailand

It occurred to me, while we were planning our honeymoon, that Jason and I were the last people out of our group of friends to visit Thailand. It was somewhere I had always wanted to visit, but my better half ruled it out due to a fear of being mugged -although, he adds, he's worried about being mugged anywhere! He soon changed his mind after his little sister visited and returned unscathed. The colourful pictures and  exciting stories were too much to resist and we just had to experience it for ourselves!

Inside the grounds of the Grand Palace
We headed over to Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha) on our first full day. A respectable standard of dress is required to enter the grounds which seems to catch many visitors off guard. Shoulders, knees and feet must be covered and clothing can be hired. Don't panic if you're worried about sharing clothes though, there are plenty of shop keepers nearby all too willing to sell you a pair of fishermen pants -then you end up with a very comfortable pair of pants to keep (or in my case, two or three!).

Decorations on the main building
The entrance fee was 500 baht each ($20 NZD) to see the Emerald Buddha as well as the Grand Palace and a few little museums scattered throughout the 234 acre grounds. We were only two among what must have been hundreds of other tourists that day but, because the grounds were so big, we could walk around a decent amount of time without bumping into anyone. With over 100 buildings withing the grounds, it was hard not to be overwhelmed.

Inside the grounds of the Grand Palace
The first thing we noticed upon walking through the gates were the bright colours. The second was how well preserved each and every building was - I didn't think buildings from the 18th century could look so new! Beneath the midday sun, all the buildings looked so vibrant and stood out against the blue sky. Every roof had tidy rows of orange and green tiles which reflected the sunlight and all the pillars were decorated with tiny mosaics. It was very difficult to decide where to look!

In the centre of the complex is the Temple of the Emerald Buddha where visitors are required to enter barefoot. It is noticeably quieter inside the temple and we take our time admiring the high ceilings and murals on the wall while those around us pray. 

Lunch at the Tha Chang Amulet Market
We have lunch near Tha Chang Amulet Market where Jason bought his pants. It takes us a while to settle on a stall and and even longer to decide on what to eat because everything looked and smelled so good! We finally settled on a light meal of fried pork strips on rice to share as the midday heat left us more thirsty than hungry. We also ordered a Chang beer, watermelon juice and a milk tea. I was quite surprised that it was orange and more so when I saw the quantity of condensed milk that went into it! All of this cost us less than 120 baht ($4.80 NZD).

The Reclining Buddha
A short walk from the Grand Palace is the famous Reclining Buddha, one of the must-see attractions we were told. Entrance is 100 baht ($4 NZD). Located in Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha), the 46 metre long Buddha is a breathtaking sight. Even though he is  laying on his side, you still have to tilt your head right up to see Buddha's face. I realise my mouth is wide open and I quickly close it. 

The buildings at Wat Pho are just as colourful and well kept as those at the Grand Palace and we have a wander around before being overcome by the intense heat. We stumble into a very nice air conditioned room which turns out to be the leading school of massage in Thailand -the lines are long though, so we don't stay too long.

Ratchaparop Road, Makkasan
The street outside our hotel is super busy. The road is full of every sort of vehicle and, if it weren't for the bridges that span over it, I don't think I would ever make it across the street. The footpath is equally busy with shops on one side and covered stalls set up on the road side. It was very nice to keep out of the sun, and there was always something interesting to look at when we were on our way to the next destination. I enjoyed comparing the prices at each stall and haggling with the good natured owners.

Pak Klong Talat - Fresh Flower Market
The Fresh Flower Market (Pak Khlong Talat) is a beautiful sight with colourful bouquets as far as the eye can see. Stalls line both sides of the footpath and are mostly caters for wholesalers rather than individuals. The market is open 24/7 and it's hard for me to imagine anyone needing such a great quantity of flowers! Many end up being offerings for Buddha so we were discouraged to touch or even smell them but no one minded if you took pictures. 

Lunch in some random alleyway in Chinatown
We made our way to Chinatown (aka Yaowarat) for lunch and settled for a nice, dingy alleyway lined with equally dingy eateries. We were a bit apprehensive at first but figured that, since all the tables were occupied, the food must be safe! For 100 baht ($4 NZD) we were given a plate of rice and were able to fill up the rest with a whole buffet of different dishes such as fried whole egg, spicy chicken, green curry and deep fried pork nuggets which were extremely popular.

Chinatown: getting lost in Sampeng Lane and Talat Mai
We spent the rest of the day browsing the many covered streets of Chinatown, walking into every shop that takes our fancy and eventually getting lost. I swear we ended up at the same intersection at least three times! 

Our first stop was Sampeng Lane which is a very long street between tall buildings that just happens to be a great place for a wholesale market to exist. Everything was certainly a lot cheaper here but only if you bought in bulk -not many shop owners were willing to entertain my haggling skills when I only wanted to by single units! It was very easy to get lost among the crowd and we had to stop frequently for beggars/tourists/randoms perched in the narrow walkways.

Interesting foods at Talat Mai
Just a few streets down, Talat Mai is a 200 metre long streets known to be the center of Chinatown's shopping. It really reminded me of going back home to China! Dried mushrooms, seafood, preserved veggies and tea were at every second stall and Chinese music was even playing in the distance. The market seemed to be organised into different sections and after wandering through the food section, we found ourselves lost in the bags and shoes section for ages. Like the wholesale market, the owners here didn't take to bargaining all that well and didn't seem to care whether or not you wanted to buy anything. We got a few goodies though, like a great wok turner.

Dinner came from a little woman and her mobile stall that was right beneath our hotel. For just 40 baht ($1.60 NZD), we received a piping hot bowl of rice noodle soup with fish balls which was just the right amount of filling. The soup had very clean flavours and it wasn't hard to see why her part of the alleyway was so popular! It was a little strange having motorbikes whizz by while eating, but it was so exciting eating on the street with the locals rather than fancy restaurants.

So that was our couple of days in Bangkok (in case you were wondering why we had two lunches). 

Would you prefer eating at a street stall or having a proper fancy meal at a restaurant?


  1. Dear Lucy,

    Looks like you had a nice time. Bangkok is nice for a short visit, I love looking for bargains at the huge Chatuchak markets the cheap and tasty street food, especially the beef and fish ball noodles. Best of all the locals are one of the friendliest and most hospitable people in South East Asia.

  2. Isn't Bangkok fun? I think the only place where I've seen people mugged is in Ho Chi Minh City and on that night, two colleagues were mugged. And for me, street food please! :)

  3. I've never been to Thailand before either! The food certainly looks different from what is offered in the Thai restaurants here!

  4. I've always wanted to go to Thailand! Thanks for sharing!

  5. i recently tried thai food for the first time, and while it was good, i'm sure it wasn't as good as what i'd get in an actual thai restaurant!