“Wat’s Goin’ On?”

Going from our hotel in Sukhumvit to the area of “Old Bangkok” where we wanted to spend our day visiting temples was a new travel adventure for us.  One could try to take a cab there, stuck in the snarling street traffic – if one could even find a cab willing to try to make the journey.  Our best bet was to integrate a new mode of transportation into our plans – a ferry boat up the Chao Phraya river to take us from Bangrak to the old city.  

After breakfast that morning, we hopped onto the BTS Skytrain and took it down to the river stop (Saphan Taksin), where we made our way to the dock.  This particular dock is one of the main stops, meaning that it services all of the various ferry lines (Orange Flag, Green Flag, Yellow Flag, No Flag, and Tourist). 

Hunter and Kavitha on the Orange Express

For B150, a ticket on the tourist boat would have gotten us a cattle-call experience, albeit with English stop names announced.  “Nay,” we said – as Kavitha scoured the map.  The Orange line local boat will only cost B15 each way and get us there too!

Wat Arun, on the western bank of the Chao Phraya

Getting onto and off of the boat is a mad dash – they literally dock at a stop for less than 20 seconds – somewhat like a subway door.  On the boat, we rode it north up the river, past the beautiful Wat Arun (“wat” means “temple”)  and disembarked at the dock near the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaeo.

We ate a quick lunch at the Royal Navy Club restaurant near the pier, chowing on all of the usual (Pad See Ew for Brad, Pad Gra Prao Gai for me, and a seafoody thing for Kavitha).  Making our way to the first stop, the Grand Palace, we quickly realized that words were going to be hard to describe the visuals – the colors and architecture were simply too stunning.

The palace was built  by King Rama I and features Wat Phra Kaeo, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.  Here are some shots around the palace, as well as a series that shows the outside of the temple, and a zoom shot of the Buddha inside the wat, sitting in his gold robes.

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We had a small snack to rest after the palace (yes, beers ARE appropriate refreshments!) and made our way down to the nearby temple called Wat Po, home of the Reclining Buddha.  It’s 46 meters long, and covered in gold. 

His shoes are mother of pearl and the inlays depict 108 symbols by which the Buddha can be identified (flowers, birds, etc.).  Also there is a row of 108 small metal urns that are used for collections.  Thais believe that making donations here both bring good fortune and help the monks maintain the wat.  Believing that the wat was a pretty decent place, and that we needed all of the good fortune that we could find, we participated eagerly.  We turned in a 20 baht note for a bowl full of small coins, shaped like minature 1 baht coins, and joined the rest of the participants, dropping a coin into each bowl along the line.  Echoing throughout the whole chamber with the Buddha, it was a pretty amazing symphony of the coins clanging in.

Takoyaki (octopus balls) on the left

We soon left and made our way back to the pier, stopping along the way for some more refreshments, namely takoyaki (Japanese grilled octopus fritters with sauce) for me and some grilled octopus skewers for Brad.  Yum!

P.S.  Kavitha and Brad saw John Stamos (with a beard and small entourage) walking around the Grand Palace.  They stared him down – it was him.  Twitter later confirmed!

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