Bangkok Day 2
January 10, 2013, Thursday
I need to put in the day because it's already getting difficult to remember what day it is.
We got up early to go to Wat Arun. It is also known as "The Temple of Dawn" so we thought we should try and get there early. The Wat is an 86 meter Khmer inspired temple on the banks of the ChaoPhraya river. Since our bike trip fell through and we couldn't go to Ayutthaya going there became our goal.
First we had another good breakfast with hardly anyone there compared to yesterday. Of course it was only a little past 6 a.m. (or 5 p.m. In Chicago). After breakfast we grabbed a tuk-tuk outside of the hotel and negotiated a 50 baht ride to the ferry. The tuk tuk driver tried to scam us by taking us to a private water taxi friend who wanted 1200 baht to go to Wat Arun, or 1400 baht for an hour on the river in a long tail boat ending up at Wat Arun. We said no and the tuk tuk driver tuk us (that's a joke) to the ferry. The piers make this unbelievably horrible screeching sound of metal rubbing on metal. The ferry ride was 15 baht@ and then we switched to the public water taxi for 6 baht@. Wat Arun admission was 50 baht @. The adventure was well worth it. It felt like an Asian version of the Mayan temples. All these short people building temples that have very narrow but very tall stairs. It was fun watching the apprehension on everyone's face looking at the stairs. Up was a little hard but down was downright scary. Another bad pun.
We took the water taxi back to the ferry landing and walked over to the Grand Palace where we fell for a scam! What polite suckers we are! We accidentally went to a side gate which apparently lots of tourists do and were told (within hearing of an armed guard by the way) that it was closed for the monks prayers from 9 to 12 today. What do we know? But now all of you know that it is open every day to tourists! At the main gate there is a recording that tells you not to listen if anybody tells you it is closed. They should have that recording at the side gates too. The voice on the recording sounds like the lady from Jay Leno's photo booth scam. Anyway this "nice Thai gentleman" arranged for us to get a tuk tuk for only 50 baht that would take us to a couple of different wats and a market. So off we went. It was very nice at first. We went to Wat Hatchanadda and visited a monks meditation center. Very interesting with great views from the top floor. Then we walked a short distance to a Wat with a limestone Buddha where we met a very nice man (I thought then) from Singapore who told us a great story about his 50 baht tuk tuk ride and what a great deal and how he bought his mother a ring at the jewelry store that was having this great sale and tax relief for foreigners, last day today, as a celebration of the new year. We just had to prove we were not living in Thailand. I said we were not carrying passports. He said a drivers license or photo id would do. I said we didn't have that either so he said they would just call our hotel. I was starting to get suspicious....
So off we went to the jewelry store. Very expensive. Seemed nice but not my thing. Walked through and left quickly. Mr. Tuk tuk driver was downcast. Then we went to the Marble Temple, Wat Benchamabophit. It was nice too. Then the driver asked if we would do him a favor so he could get free gas by going to a tailor shop. We thought, why not? Can't get in the Grand Palace yet anyway. So off we went and Jeff picked out fabric, was measured and bought 3 shirts (4000 baht). They were delivered to the hotel tonight and seem very nice.
We were taken to another jewelry store, larger than the first and even more hard sell. We walked through and left quickly. We were taken back to the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaeo (the Emerald Bhudda temple) which was of course open but now it was really hot and humid and crowded. It is a magnificent complex which has parts still in use today by the royal family so many of the areas are off limits and there are a lot of guards with guns. The complex is 234 acres and has over 100 buildings. They are very strict about dress code so of course shoes and hats must come off before entering the temples. You can rent a covering for 20 baht plus a 100 baht deposit if you are inappropriately dressed. It really was magnificent but I think we were over tired and hot. It reminded me of an Asian Gaudi style of architecture.
We walked back to the ferry. Hot, tired and sweaty. There was about a half hour wait and the ferry was more than full. Dangerously full. At one point I got really splashed with that not so clean water from the river camera and all. Then we walked back to the hotel through a questionable neighborhood with a couple more life risking street crossings.
Met up with all but 2 of the group at 6. The CEO or group leader is Andrew or Andy from New Zealand.
He has only been with g adventures 2 months but has been doing this line of work for 6-8 years.
He covered the basics in about an hour. Tipping is usually 10%. Most of our breakfasts will be included. Carry lots of water (stacks) when on the road. Group dinners are optional. Trains rarely rub on time. Use your spoon with your right hand, fork in the left but your fork is never to be put in your mouth. Don't touch anyone's head, don't point your finger or feet at anyone, don't put your hands on your hips. "Everyone can expect to be sick at least two days. Happens to almost everyone." That is a quote from our fearless leader Andrew.
The group is composed of Ray (accountant/ business manager) and John (animation) from Liverpool,
Sharon (x-ray tech) and Greg (occupational health and safety) from Edmonton,
Chris (meter reader) from Edmonton,
Kim and Youn, Korean but from Edmonton,
Clive and his wife Phil -retired from Wales- taking a 3 1/2 month trip of which this is one part.
Sonja (banker) and Claudia (shoemaker?) from Switzerland.
We all then went outside and walked to the underground train station which took us (walking) under and across the street, and ate at a little Thai restaurant. Good inexpensive meal. Nice group.
There seem to be lots of cats almost everywhere. Most of them fairly nice looking. Lots of them are bobtails, very few of them seem to have any Siamese in them ironically enough. Many have collars on and are obviously well cared for and have collars on even if they do run loose next to busy roads, crowds, cooking....there are a fair number of loose dogs. Some are obviously strays scavenging in the garbage but there are a good number of some very fat purebreds.
Time for bed. Long day tomorrow.
The camera battery was not charged when we got back to the room because I forgot the power goes out when we leave the room and don't leave a key in the slot. Damn. The battery ran out today at the Grand Palace. Luckily I always carry a spare. It seemed like the battery should have lasted longer. Interestingly the outlets here can be used with both American and European prongs.