We were awakened on our first morning in Bangkok by the sound of the monks singing at sunrise. We went for a brief pre-breakfast walk and discovered Wat Chana Songkhram almost across the street. Harold went onto the grounds but I did not as I was not dressed appropriately. Appropriate dress for Wats requires that you cover your shoulders and don’t wear short shorts as a minimum. In theory you should be covered to the elbows and the knees.
We also discovered the local children rushing to get to school. All in matching uniforms. There were food vendors selling them breakfast on the street outside the school.
We found breakfast for us. An omelet with toast and jam B40 and fresh juice (they were making it for each glass) pineapple, mango, strawberry or banana for B25-35. The juice was awesome, the only downside was the totally frozen butter which was almost impossible to spread on the toast. We encountered this a lot and eventually we started each breakfast by warming the butter packets between the slices of toast. Coffee in Thailand is normally instant and it’s only slightly cheaper than a fruit shake.
After breakfast we took the Chao Phraya Express Boat , a water bus, from the local pier phra athiti (also known as stop #13) to Wat Pho. Total cost B15 each. The cost actually varies depending on which boat you take.
At some stops you can buy tickets but you don’t need to because a lady comes around to sell and validate tickets once you get on board.
The water buses are definitely the easiest way to get around Bangkok. Getting around Bangkok on foot is ok as long as you never have to cross the road. Crossing the road is terrifying there are generally multiple lanes of traffic in both directions and no lights or cross walks. We did find a couple of places with walk lights but we only found one that actually worked. To get across the street you wait until the traffic in the lane closest to you stops and then you walk out into the traffic which generally stops. We learned to cross the road in groups or to follow a local across the street.
We walked towards Wat Pho and a guy stopped us on the street and asked where we were trying to go we told him Wat Pho. He told us it was closed until 1pm because it was a holiday but because it was a holiday Lucky Buddha was free and we should go and see that plus the Golden Buddha then come back and see the Wat. He said we should use a tuk-tuk but be sure to use one with yellow plates because the others would rip you off. He also told us he was a local teacher. Just then a tuk-tuk passed by, he said take that one and he stopped the driver. Just as we were getting in he added to our map that we should go to the tie factory because they had free beer for the holiday. He showed the map to the driver who said B1000. He then said to the driver no, no these are my friends B200. We went around the corner and the driver explained our route. We should have clued in earlier but as soon as the tie factory was added to the list we knew we were being scammed. (I blame the delayed awareness on jet lag). We said we did not want to go to the tie factory. He was insistent and we knew then we were being scammed so we got out.
We walked back towards Wat Pho. Another helpful person told us where it was and that it was not open until 1pm. We needed train tickets so we thought about going to the train station first. Then we noticed that there were tourists inside Wat Pho. Surprise, surprise! It was open. This was our first taste of just how elaborate the scams are. We were expecting the tuk-tuk rip offs but not the second guy on the street and we were impressed that the scam artists were consistent about time!
Wat Pho was B100 each but it is going up to B200 soon. You can get a guided tour for an additional B200 and from what we saw the guides spoke the languages they were using quite well. We heard good French, English and German. Wat Pho is best known for the reclining Buddha which is 46 m long.
You have to take your shoes off when you enter any temple and many stores and businesses in Thailand. In religious places you also need to cover your shoulders and arms to your elbows and your legs to your knees. My understanding is that applies to anytime you are on the grounds but many of the tourists were not covered up properly. They were not doing anything about it on the grounds but they had shawls or green cover-ups (a bit like hospital gowns but they did up at the front) for anyone who wanted to enter one of the temples.
Wat Pho also has one of the largest collections of Buddhas in Thailand there were hundreds of them!
We wandered around the grounds and through the temples for a few hours it was very hot and we were definitely not alone! Wat Pho is definitely worth a visit. It’s cheaper and slightly less popular than the grand palace.
Although we booked most of our accommodation from Canada before we left we did not book any of the ground transportation in advance. Even train tickets can’t be purchased online in Thailand. We planned to take the train back to Bangkok at the end of our trip so we set off to find the train station.
We tried to get a tuk-tuk but they had no interest (maybe word was out about us). It did not look too far so we started to walk. It was hot and we were getting tired. We ended up inside a local “mall” in the Indian section of town. Like an open air market in that the stores are all open stalls facing in but it has AC. As we walked around the streets it became obvious that different areas sold different things. We passed the office furniture area, the electrical supplies, the coffins, and the flower market.
We eventually got so close to the train station we could see it but we could not get across the road (there was a cross walk but none of the cars were stopping). We noticed a subway station (Bangkok has a very limited subway system buses are the primary public transport they would have been slow and hot with the traffic but useful if we knew what to take). We decided to see if there was an underground connection to the train station there was.
Lonely Planet directed us to the advance booking office at the train station. We asked someone with an official looking information badge and got an answer which we did not entirely understand but it appeared to involve him so we avoided it thinking scam. We found a foreigners ticket office and we were going there until Harold asked someone and was told it was for people who don’t speak English. We went to regular counter #2 and bought two tickets on the overnight train with berths including the ferry and the bus from Koh Samui to Bangkok for our trip home. Total cost was B500 each. We had now achieved everything we planned to do so we set off looking for the water bus home. We tried to get a tuk-tuk to the station but once we got in he wanted to take us to a market somewhere so we got out and walked again. We found the station and the boat and went home. We had walked 20km.
When we got back we stopped at the 7-11(there are 7-11’s everywhere in Thailand) to buy a Chang beer and discovered that you cannot buy beer at store in Thailand between 2pm and 5pm. It was almost 5pm so we waited got our beer and changed some money (easy to do in that area you just need a passport). We had dinner locally it was excellent and Chang was B120. The food was about B130 each. We decided that the price of a large Chang is an excellent indicator of price of the restaurant and for the rest of the trip we used the Chang index for comparison with1 as B100. Another walk around the neighbourhood, this time down Khaosan road.
Khaosan road is backpacker central. Full of bars, travel agents, souvenir stores, food stalls, massage places, tattoo places and people selling things in the street. You can even buy bugs to eat. We did not buy or eat any bugs or snakes…we would have needed more Chang first!