Day 68: The Craziest CoincidenceAugust 22, 2016 in Thailand
Took quite a while to get going after an exhausting day yesterday. We woke up late, lazed around and took our time over the buffet breakfast, and didn't end up leaving the hotel proper until after 10am. The plan was to visit Bangkok's Grand Palace and Wat Pho temple nearby - two of the main attractions in Bangkok and certainly the most touristy. Advice usually suggests getting there early to beat the crowds and the heat, but unfortunately leaving late meant we were going to beat neither!
Since the palace and temple are in the oldest part of the city, neither the Skytrain or the subway go very close - you have to get the Skytrain to a certain stop and then a ferry up the river. So we hopped on the train, changed at Siam junction, and hopped off at the right stop. At the ferry wharf it was typical Thailand - there's a huge sign advertising "Grand Palace boat this way --> 40 baht", and they have workers with signs pulling you in etc. Except they were selling a private, "express" boat. If you ignored them and walked around their ticket booth, you could queue up for the public boat which is more frequent and only costs 15 baht.
I was a bit annoyed because the "express" boat just left while we were working out why the "cost" was 40 baht when Shandos had read it was only 15. But a public boat turned up just after so it was okay. And then, as we were about to walk down the gangplank onto the boat, I heard someone yelling my name! Turned around, and there in the queue for the next boat were ET and Josh, colleagues of mine from GALKAL! Of all the places in all the world, we couldn't believe it!
Unfortunately the crowd surged and we had to get on the boat, so I couldn't do much more than wave and mime gestures of surprise as the boat departed. We had a good seat with a nice view, and it was quite pleasant bouncing up the river. After about 10 minutes of cruising and stopping briefly at two other docks, the crew started yelling at each other - clearly something wasn't right. We pulled up at the next dock and sat there, engine running, before the skipper eventually turned off the engine and the conductors ushered everyone off.
No explanation, we just had to wait on the dock for a replacement boat to take us the last couple of stops up to the palace. As we were waiting, the subsequent (full) boat arrived, and ET and Josh hopped off without realising we were there! This time we managed to yell and wave them down and have a 5-minute chat before our boat arrived. They were in town for 24 hours breaking up the journey to the UK, and were heading for Chinatown and later Wat Pho plus the palace. Since their flight out of Bangkok wasn't until 3am we agreed to meet up later in the day for drinks and dinner.
Minds still reeling from the coincidence, we boarded our boat up the river which was crowded but thankfully arrived with no problems. Walked over to the palace and avoided the scammers who kept insisting that my shorts weren't long enough for the palace (they weren't lying, you have to wear long pants, but they were going to sell me some when I knew you could rent long pants for free inside).
Annoyingly, the pants I rented inside the palace didn't have any pockets! So I gave my wallet to Shandos, but now had to juggle my phone, the GoPro, and my shorts since I didn't have a bag to put them in! And it was 37 degrees in the shade, so no chance I was going to wear both!
We set off exploring the palace, and honestly it's just magnificent. The buildings are exquisite, covered in reflective coloured glass and golden trim so that they sparkle in the sunlight. We walked around taking in the sights, though it wasn't a particularly comfortable environment - packed with Chinese tour groups, and excruciatingly hot (it's all concrete and stone pavers so the heat reflects back up too). Checked out the temple of the Emerald Buddha, where there's a famous Buddha statue carved from jade ("emerald" in this case just means the colour, not the stone), and I got ticked off by a security man for filming as I walked in - I didn't see the sign, honestly!
We wandered around for another hour before Shandos asked where my shorts were, and I suddenly realised I wasn't carrying them!! Thinking back, the last time I had them was when I'd taken off my shoes for the Emerald Buddha temple, so I scurried back and there they were, still sitting in the shoe rack! I'd lose my head if it weren't screwed on.
By around 2:30pm we'd exhausted as much of the Grand Palace as we cared to see (there were several things we missed but the heat and crowds made it too intense to keep going), so we headed out and grabbed a late lunch at Subway. Definite rip-off, the prices are about the same as Australia!! And almost every single seat in the place was occupied by Chinese tourists who'd all bought a small soft drink and then sat there using their phones. I don't get it.
Walked the 10 or so minutes to Wat Pho temple after shooing away a horde of tuk-tuk drivers. This temple is famous for the "Reclining Buddha" statue which is an enormous statue of Buddha lying on his side entering Nirvana. It's 15 metres high and nearly 50 metres long - huge! The main hall here was also very busy, but as we wandered around the rest of the complex marvelling at the other temples and Buddha statues, the crowds thinned out and in places we had it to ourselves almost. And there were a few trees for shade which was nice.
Exhausted and not far off heatstroke, we headed for the dock and jumped on another ferry. Thankfully no breakdowns this time! Just as we got off and were walking to the station, my phone buzzed and ET was asking about making a plan for the evening. Since they were staying near where we already were, we figured it was easier to stay in the area than leave and come back - so we did!
Down the river to their hotel where we met them in the lobby. Wandered around the area looking for a pub but the "night market" their concierge pointed us too was about the most touristy thing we'd seen since arriving in Bangkok. It really felt like we were in Darling Harbour or King Street Wharf, and with prices to match! We had a couple of pints at a bar and then managed to find a pad Thai cart about halfway back to their hotel. Slightly small portion, but at 40 baht it's hard to complain!
Back to their hotel where we relaxed in the lobby a little longer, but they wanted to shower and the area was closing at 10pm. So by 9:30pm we said our good-byes and hopped into a cab back to our hotel, minds still reeling from the coincidence! I had no idea they were in town; of all the things we could have done we chose the same thing; we were arriving much later than we wanted to; even just catching the earlier boat means we would've missed them. Crazy - and completely unplanned, unlike meeting up with Yong a couple of weeks earlier. Great to see them both, and to see familiar faces.Read more