One day in BangkokEmma - 18 November 2016
Since we knew we’d be coming back to Bangkok a couple more times in the next few months, we decided to see what we could in one day, and come back for second helpings next time we were in town!
So with just one day in Bangkok, we wondered how much we could see. It turns out, a lot!
We started with the big three sights: the Grand Palace, Wat Pho and Wat Arun. The Grand Palace is only a 20 minute walk from where we were staying on Soi Rambuttri, so we decided to stroll there. We ended up going through a university campus, so perhaps we got lost again, but we made it in the end! The Grand Palace was an absolute throng of people in black. The entire city is covered in enormous tributes to the King, all the bill boards bear his image, and all video screens in the city are playing tributes to his life on repeat. Everyone in Bangkok is wearing black, or black and white, and those who have to wear a coloured uniform almost always pin a black mourning ribbon to their sleeve.
In light of the fact that the King was currently lying in state inside the Grand Palace, we decided not to go inside. It had only opened again to tourists the day we arrived, and Thais were still being bused in from all over the country to pay their respects. It seemed like bad timing.
Wat Pho, just next door, is the home of the reclining Buddha and was much more successful. This is a 46m long statue covered in gold leaf, with mother of pearl foot soles! There's a steady chink-chink-chink as people drop coins into a series of metal bowls to bring themselves luck. While the gigantic blinged out Buddha is very impressive and the reason most people visit. Wandering around the whole temple complex was equally interesting for us, as there weren't many people outside of the temple for the reclining Buddha. Tickets are 100 baht each (£2.35) so not cheap by Thai standards, but a world cheaper than the Grand Palace, which is five times the price!
Next up, we walked across the road and into what looks like a dead end, but is actually the entrance for the pier. From here a ferry goes across the river to Wat Arun for a grand price of 3.5 baht one way (£0.08). Literally the only price in the whole of Thailand we've found that goes to half bahts!
Wat Arun is lovely, but has been covered in scaffolding for a while, doing restoration work. While you can still climb up the impressive stupas (50 baht), which gives you an fantastic view out over the Grand Palace and Wat Pho, the scaffolding looked like it would impede our view so we didn't bother.
We got the ferry back to the other side of the river, walked about a metre to our left, and there was ANOTHER pier. This one was for the Chao Praya Express Boat, which we used to get all the way to Rachawong, aka Chinatown (13 baht each)
The ferry ride was great in and of itself, as a break from the heat, and as a way to see the city from a different perspective. Don't expect helpful signage though, you have to know where you want to be going!
Our plan was to walk through Chinatown, grab some lunch along the way, and end up at Hua Lamphong (the main train station in Bangkok) to buy tickets to Chiang Mai the following week. The walk turned out to be a highlight itself. What's bizarre about Yarowat (another name for Chinatown) is that every business seems to only fill one very specific niche. An entire shop will ONLY sell metal gears. Another will ONLY sell wire wool scrubbers. My favourite was the one that only sold chains. There were chains hanging from the ceiling, hanging on the walls, and cascading over the floor. A narrow alleyway was all that was left down the middle of the shop, and even that was paved with 30cm thick of broken chain links and metal fillings, like a rusty cave!
Buying train tickets at Hua Lamphong was easy, with the exception of navigating the Junction of Doom at the entrance. There's about five different roads you have to cross, each with no break in the traffic, so it's a case of quick movements and moving with confidence!
Equipped with our tickets, and having seen all the 'sights' we'd lined up for the day, we were left free to run some errands. We decided to go to the MBK Centre, a hive of shopping activity in Bangkok. Yet again we got lost on our way and it took twice as long as it should have done. By this time we both had blisters and were beginning to dislike Bangkok's street planners.
We needed to get a SIM card for Thailand, which would prevent us getting lost so much! Luckily MBK is the perfect place for this, and we quickly sorted one out for 200 baht, including 1GB internet. Perfect! We also tried to get my cracked phone screen fixed, but prices were so much higher than we expected (1300 baht / £30ish) that I simply didn't bother. I did manage to pick up a handbag for 200 baht, having discovered that 'fixed price' goods are much less stressful than 'what you want to pay' goods.
Feeling a bit worn out by our activity packed day, we stopped in a coffee shop for a pick me up. M was barely halfway through his coffee before his head lolled back and he began to snore gently. Perhaps we were more jet lagged than we had thought! Or perhaps this was just a coping mechanism for shopping?
About ready for dinner and to retreat back to our guesthouse, we hopped on the Sky Train to go a handful of stops to Saphan Taksin, where there is a pier, but also I'd heard it had some great street food. Impressively, Mike managed to fall asleep AGAIN on the Sky Train!
From Saphan Taksin we walked north and found some very busy streets with some street food sellers, but not the impressive array I'd been expecting. We tucked into some kebabs, then moved on the green curry and some kind of noodle dish filled with unidentifiable bits of seafood. The best was saved to last, however, when we happened to pass a stall selling some kind of mysterious gloopy mini cups. They turned out to be Ka Nom Krok, a delicious coconut sweet. It was lucky we liked them, as a 'small' box turned out to be enough to feed about six people!
We went to the pier, ready to catch the river ferry back to Phra Arthit by Soi Rambuttri. Turned out we'd just missed the last boat that stops there (only boats with an orange or blue flag go there). Instead we hopped aboard a yellow flag, go off on the other side of the river at Phra Pin Klao Bridge, and trudged across the bridge in an almighty rainstorm, finally reaching our guesthouse drenched to the skin.
At least we can say that we crammed a lot into our one day in Bangkok!
All in all, our day cost us:
- Attractions - 200 Baht
- Food - 414 Baht
- Transport - 116 Baht
- Accommodation - 370 Baht
Total for 2 people - 1100 Baht / £24 / $31
We're not big city people, especially Mike. He gets a bit 'deer in headlights'. So we were happy with this one day in Bangkok beginners course, and plan to do more next time we visit!
Let us know what we missed in the comments section below.