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Published: November 14th 2006
Well on day 3 in Thailand we have finally been to see some real Thai sights. We set off this morning to explore some of the must sees of the part of Bangkok we are staying in. The Grand Palace is only a 10 minute walk from our hotel so we decided to go on foot. In the guidebook we had been warned that people would try and stop you going to the palace and try to get you to go in their tuk tuk on a shopping trip to various tailors and jewellery shops which generally turn out to be a complete con, but we werent prepared for how persistent they could be. After ignoring the first few tuk tuk drivers who promised to take us to lots of other temples, we were stopped by a bloke telling us he was a teacher at the University, that the Grand Palace was closed this morning for the King's birthday and that we should go to see another temple. He even drew us a map. He then told us to take a tuk tuk to the suggested temple, and do you know, one pulled up just at that moment. when we
said we didnt want to and we would carry on on foot, he called us stupid and walked away.
This carried on all the way to the Grand Palace. People were stopping us to tell us the Palace was closed because it was Buddha day, correnation day, and even because the King was working. We werent sure what as. The guidebook says to go and find out for yourself, and sure enough, when we got there, it was open and there was a sign outside saying "dont trust strangers, the palace is open every day". They could do with those signs all the way there.
We also got attacked by some women feeding pigeons. We just walked past them and they threw corn at our feet so the pigeons landed around us and we couldnt move, and then they kept trying to force corn in our hands to feed them, saying it was lucky. We couldnt refuse, or move, and they had seperated us so we couldnt speak to each other, each being pressurised to buy corn off women. They were tucking corn in our bag and our hands, and then poured the bag of corn in our
hands so we had to drop it and the pigoens flocked around again. Then they demanded money for the corn, starting at 150 bahts. This is over 2 quid which is expensive for popping corn, and considering the waitresses in the bars only earn 25 bahts per shift, its a hell of alot. Tried to give them coins which they werent having, it was really awkward and not very nice. Eventually they took the coins and let us go. Lesson learned there not to walk past women feeding pigeons, it was a well rehearsed scam but not one we had heard of before.
The Grand Palace was built in 1782 when King Rama 1 moved the royal palace from Thornburi (not the one in Bradford, the one on the other side of the river to Bangkok). It houses the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, one of the most holy sights in Thailand. The Emerald Buddha is actually made of jade, and is dressed in one of three season costumes - as it is the cool season at the moment (not increadibly cool since it is over 30 degrees) he was wearing a wrap. Im afraid there are
no photos of him as you are not allowed to take photos inside the temple. You also have to dress appropriately, so no vests or shorts in the Grand Palace complex or Wat Po.
The King of Thailand is very popular among Thais, because he has done alot of good work to improve conditions of living during his reign. In June of this year he celebrated 60 years since his corronation, which not only makes him the longest ruling Thai monarch ever, but also the longest reigning living monarch in the world. There are loads and loads of people here wearing yellow polo shirts, because yellow is the colour of the King. Im not sure if its just for his 60th anniversary that they are wearing the shirts, or if it is all the time, but they are very popular.
Next to the Grand Palace is Wat Po, the Temple of the reclining Buddha. This was a really peaceful temple with lots of gardens and statues. The reclining Buddha is increadible, you go into the building housing it and it is full of this 45 meter long 15 meter high giant Buddha, in the Nirvana state,
completely covered in gold. Its enormous.
We werent sure what to do when we left Wat Po, so we wandered towards the river and ended up in the queue for the ferry that takes you to Wat Arun, on the other side of the river in Thornburi. That seemed like devine intervention so we went across. The Chao Phraya river runs through the middle of Bangkok and has recently flooded, so all the stalls and shops that are usually beside the river were under water and we had to get to the ferry landing by walking on sandbags and ricketty wooden walkways. Wat Arun is just across the river. It is also known as the Temple of the Dawn and is mde up of tall prangs, the middle of which you can walk up and look over the river and across to the Grand Palace across the river. The prangs are decorated with lots and lots of pieces of pottery and porcelin which make up extensive mosiacs.
After looking round Wat Arun we sat down for a moment and realised that we had spent 5 hours straight looking round temples, and we were quite tired. Deciding
that was enough temples for one day, we decided to try and go back to the hotel on the river taxi. They are big longboats that travel up and down the river and pull over at each stop to let people on and off. Its apparantly one of the main ways of getting around Bangkok, especially since the traffic is so bad.
Tomorrow we are leaving Bangkok for Kanchanaburi which is beside the river Kwai. It will be good to get out of the city, we like Bangkok and the Khao San Road has been lots of fun and very much like being at a festival, but we will be glad to get away from the constant hassle from tuk tuk drivers and people trying to sell us giant lighters not to mention people lying to us all the time and not being sure who you can trust. We are due to come back here in a few weeks and we can explore another area of the city, when we have spent abit of time in the countryside...
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