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Published: June 11th 2017
Susan at breakfast
Excellent coffee and mango coconut yogurt smoothie
Another awesome day in Bangkok! But first I wanted to mention yesterday's tour company, Asian Trails. It is a great company. We booked the tour easily online, and they left a message with the hotel to remind us of the pick up time the day before. Our tour guide and driver were both excellent, and the vehicle was very comfortable. We were kept supplied with cold bottled water and cold towelettes. Great service.
Oh, and a correction to yesterdays's entry: the tree the Buddha head is entwined in in Ayutthaya is a banyan tree, not a bodhi tree (I don't think there is actually such a tree).
So, on to today. We met Gof from Intepid Urban Adventures at 8:30 this morning, along with another member of our Best of Cambodia and Vietnam tour, Sondra (from San Francisco). Gof was a really great tour guide and we enjoyed the tour a lot. It was called "Temple and River of Kings". We met in the lobby of our hotel, then walked for about 10 minutes or so to a bus stop where we caught a city bus to Wat Pho, our first stop. It was fun to walk with Gof
and to take the bus too. Wat Pho was pretty amazing, with many "pagodas". It is also home to a very large Reclining Buddha - second largest in Thailand). Wat Pho was a centre of learning (medicine, Thai massage, etc).
It was another hot and mostly sunny day today (the forecast said rain so we brought our umbrellas but in fact the sun came out and there was never any rain at all). It was pretty crowded at Wat Pho, but not too bad. Much more crowded than yesterday at Bang Po-In and Ayutthaya though. Wat Pho is the oldest and largest temple in Bangkok. It was restored and extended during the reign of Rama III (mid 1800s).
We then hopped on tuk tuks for the short ride to the Grand Palace. The grounds are very large and there are many buildings which are all architecturally very different. Despite it being the low season, it was very crowded. I can't imagine what it is like during the high season. You would not believe all the ridiculous ways tourists pose for photos at the Grand Palace.
The Grand Palace complex was established in 1782, and on its grounds
is Wat Pra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha).
We first went to "The Pavilion of Regalia, Royal Decorations and Coins", which had some amazing jewellery and very fancy regalia. We then toured the complex for around 1 1/2 hours, frequently taking off our shoes to enter various buildings, snapping lots of photos and generally being awed by it all. Except maybe the Emerald Buddha, which is actually really small, and you can't get very close to it. He wears one of three seasonal costumes (currently the rainy season costume). He's not actually emerald, being carved out of green jade. He was first discovered in 1434 in Chaing Rai and later brought to Bangkok.
We had a quick break for cold drinks (the Royal family have many non profit foundations and one of them sells drinks at the Grand Palace - the ingredients purchased from local farmers). I had lychee and Susan had mango. Very refreshing on this hot day. I forgot to mention in yesterday's entry how popular the Thai Royal family are. There are lots of big portraits of various members of the Royal family in the streets, and at 8 pm every night there is
Close Up of the Feet of the Reclining Buddha
The detail on the feet is amazing - inlaid with mother of pearl designs.
a program on TV describing what the family is doing. The king and queen are both in their 80s and are in poor health. One of the princesses is unmarried and is especially popular with the Thais, because of all the work she does for the people.
After the Grand Palace we walked to a pier (the word "Chang" is in the name of the pier because that is where the elephants were unloaded on their way to the Grand Palace - elephants were used in royal processions until Rama V who imported carriages from England). At the pier we boarded a longtail boat for a ride through some of Bangkok's klongs (canals). It was similar to yesterday's boat ride around Ayutthaya, in that there were lots of rickety corrugated tin houses along with much nicer ones. The people living in the decrepit houses are poor and the canal properties would have been in their families for generations. The canals are quite narrow and sometimes it seemed we were practically in people's living rooms as we zoomed along. At one point we stopped and bought loaves of bread from monks, to feed to these enormous catfish. This is seen
Lori in front of the Reclining Buddha
The back of the Buddha's head is on the top of the picture
as good luck. The boat ride was lots of fun.
After we finished our longtail boat ride we walked from the pier to our hotel, and on the way Gof was telling us about a "local restaurant" with good food, so we all went there for lunch. A local restaurant is one that just sets up for the day, basically on the sidewalk. The food was excellent, and vey cheap. I had veggies with tofu, and pumpkin with egg, on rice. Susan had green and red curries with chicken on rice. I popped into the 7-11 and got us a Chang beer each to have with our lunch and it couldn't have been better!
We then went walked back to our hotel, said good bye to Gof, and headed to our room for a shower. Then we walked around the nearby streets for a bit of shopping. Susan got a Chang beer t-shirt (they are actually nice t-shirts, with the elephant emblem) and I got a pair of the ubiquitious elephant pants (almost all the tourists seem to be wearing these loose, one size fits all, light weight elephant print pants). Oh yes, and we managed to squeeze
in another foot massage. Heaven.
While I've been working on the blog Susan picked up our laundry. I'll add the photos to this entry, then get ready to meet our fellow tour group members. Tomorrow we are off to Siep Riep, Cambodia!
A quick note before bed. We are back from our meeting with our tour group and dinner at Au-Thong (I had a red curry with veggies and tofu and Susan had veggies in coconut soup, yumm). Seems a good and lively group. Besides Susan and me, there is Kim and Brian from Melbourne, Australia; Sondra from San Francisco; Michelle from Sydney, Australia; Andrea also from Sydney; Danielle also from Sydney; Zack from New York; Chris from the UK; Cynthia from Paris (she's currently travelling around Australia and area for a year); Natalie from Belgium; and Melana and Christina from Equador. Oh, and of course our tour guide Sowann. We meet in the lobby at 6 am tomorrow to begin the long drive to Siem Riep.
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