• Day134

    S̄wạs̄dī Bangkok & Central Thailand

    August 12, 2018 in Thailand ⋅ ⛅ 88 °F

    Day 1
    My flight from Yangon arrived in Bangkok at around 10:30. In the interest of saving time I opted to get a grab taxi straight to my hostel instead of the bus. Sometimes it’s nice to not have to think about the transport system straight away. Once at my hostel, a cute coffee shop with dorms above, I planned my days activities. The two main things I wanted to see in the city was the grand palace and the Chatuchak weekend market. As it was Wednesday I decided to visit the palace complex and surrounding temples. Following the my trustee map I headed over to the palace and joined the queue of tourists entering the gates. The Grand Palace complex has been the official residence of the kings of Siam since 1782, although Thailand’s current King prefers to reside in Dusit Palace in the south of the city. In my opinion the main palace building is actually one of the least impressive buildings in the site. It is fairly simple compared the ornate and colourful buildings and temples which surround it, especially the buildings making up the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, the most sacred Buddhist temple in Thailand (and he’s there is an emerald Buddha statue inside). I spent a good hour walking around the site marvelling at the craftsmanship of each building. After the palace I headed next door to the Wat Pho temple. Another ornately decorated temple which houses a ginormous golden reclining Buddha. It is so huge I sadly couldn’t get the whole thing in a picture. The rest of the site sadly pails in comparison. Now that I seen the two most important historical and religious sights in Bangkok I decided to catch the bus over to another popular area of the city, the huge mall complex in the Siam district. Anything for a bit of air conditioned relieved from the heat. Over one huge block there are five interconnecting malls, each tailored to a different shopping experience. You can have a more market stall experience in the MBK center, a department centre experience in the Siam Discovery or go straight to the big guy at Siam Paragon which has everything from food courts to sushi restaurants, fast fashion to luxury designers, and even a cinema. No prize for guessing where I went. It’s a unique travel experience going to the cinema in different countries. This time I watched The Spy Who Dumped Me (very funny) and once again we had to stand for the national anthem at the beginning, this time accompanied by a picture montage of the current king. See, very unique. And luckily no one answered there phone this time! After the movie my luck continued and I found a vegan restaurant right in the mall which served vegan mac as cheese. Winning! Feeling suitably satisfied with a day well spent I caught the bus back to my hostel, ready for bed.

    Day 2
    I was up and out of the hostel early the next morning as I wanted to catch the train north to Ayutthaya, Thailand’s ancient capital and now UNESCO World Heritage site. Just a short two hour ride later the train pulled into Ayutthaya station and most of the passengers got off. Across the street from the station I found a bike rental place and rented one for the day. Along with the bike the guy gave me a map of the city and recommended the temples i should visit. With map in hand I pedalled on my way. The train station was actually across the river from the main temple sites so I had to brave the main road and roads and bridge for ten minutes before I reached the quieter area around the temples. Over the next few hours weigh the help of my trustee bike I visited six different temples: Wat Mahathat (with its famous and unexplained stone Buddha head trapped in a tree trunk), Wat Ratchaburana (with its impressive central prang), Wat Phra Ram (with its central pagoda and surrounding broken buddha statues), Wat Lokayasutharam (with it’s large stone reclining Buddha, outside in full view), Wat Phra Si Sanphet (with its three large chedis) and Wat Chaiwatthanaram across the Chao Praya River (the largest site of them all). After once again reaching temple saturation I cycled back to the station for a quick smoothie break before catching the train back to the city. Although it doesn’t quite give Angkor wat a run for its money Ayutthaya is definitely a great day trip to take away from the hustle of Bangkok. Now back in the city I decided visit the Paragon again to treat myself to the amazing vegan mac and cheese (its seriously good). Once fed it was back to the hostel for an early night.

    Day 3
    The next morning I was up early again, this time to catch the early train to Kanchanaburi, home to the infamous “bridge on the river kwai”. The four hour train journey took us west from Bangkok through the countryside. I got off one stop before the famous bridge in Kanchanburi town and headed to my hostel to check in. I had left my main bag in Bangkok as I was only staying overnight but wanted to use the internet to plan my day first. After a quick look through trip advisor I decided to visit Thailand-Burma Railway Centre. The museum depicts the construction of the Thailand to Burma railway during World War 2 by the Japanese using over 200,000 south East Asian civilian labourers and over 60,000 POWs, 90,000 and 12,000 of which respectively died during construction. The most notable part of the railway, thanks to the Hollywood movie, and the main subject of the museum, is the bridge over the Khwae Noi River (mispronounced “Kwai” by non Thai speakers. As well as a museum the centre is also a research centre focusing on uncovering the identities and cause of death of each casualty during the railways construction. Across the street from the museum was the Kanachanburi Allied War Cemetery the main cemetery for victims of Japanese imprisonment during the railways construction. I spent a few minutes walking around the cemetery reading some of the tomb stones, some were as young as 20. After paying my respects I headed out of the main town to finally see the bridge itself. The bridge had three parts of it destroyed by allied bombs in 1944 but has since been rebuilt. The original parts are now displayed in the adjacent JEATH war museum (Japanese, English, Australian, Thai, Holland - the nationalities involved in the railways construction). As there are only two trains a day tourists are aloud to walk the length of the bridge to take pictures. A surreal experience, even though it’s now a modern bridge. After the bridge I visited the museum to see the original parts. Unlike the Centre in town this museum not very well organised and was more like a huge antique collection of random war artefacts. Still it was worth the visit to see the original bridge. After my history lesson I headed back to town to sample some of the food from the local night market before calling it a day.

    Day 4
    The next morning I was able to have a nice lie in and brunch on the hostel before catching the midday train back to Bangkok. I spent the train ride engrossed in the spy thriller I Am Pilgrim by Terr Hayes, a seriously gripping read. Back in the city I caught the bus back to my hostel (after waiting a ridiculously long time) and after a quick dinner of fried rice I headed to bed.

    Day 5
    The next morning after a quick breakfast I caught the bus to the famous Chatuchak weekend market. With over 15,000 stalls and 250,000 visitors a day the market was a bit overwhelming, to say the least. I spent about an hour waking around the site browsing at the array of different goods for same (from clothes to spices to ceramics, you name it they’ve got it), mainly just trying not to get lost. I did treat myself to two new tops that would be better for the ever increasing temperatures of SE Asian. After a while the crowds just got too much so I admitted defeat and caught the skytrain back to the city. The train just so happened to stop right by the Paragon mall. Well it would be rude not to say goodbye. So that where I spent my last few hours in Bangkok before my night bus, lapping up the air con in one of the many cafes (no not the vegan one this time). Eventually it was time to return to the hostel to collect my bag and head to the infamous Khao San Road (aka backpacker Street) to catch my bus. Just walking the the 10m down the street to the bus office was enough to make me glad I chose to stay in a hostel far away from it. Just endless bars and hostels which crowds of semi drunk people everywhere. I liked my quiet coffee shop thank you very much.

    So there you have my few days in and around Bangkok.
    Next stop Koh Tao and some SCUBA diving!

    Lā k̀xn!
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