Saturday, January 21, 2012

Friday, Jan 20 in Bangkok--A Grand Day at the Grand Palace

Our Friday in Bangkok started with a Sky Train ride to the ferry pier and a ride down the Choa Phraya River to the Grand Palace, Temple of the Emerald Buddha and Wat Pho.  These ferries are part of Bangkok's public transport system, and are a fun way to get around--much faster than a taxi with the horrible traffic congestion in the city.  Here's a picture of our ferry, the Choa Phraya Express:

It was a nice, relaxing ride up the river to our stop, with some interesting scenes along the way:

We got off the ferry and made our way to our first destination, Wat Pho--or Temple of the Reclining Buddha.  Right at the pier there is a market, so of course we strolled through:

There were some VERY interesting food stalls--but thankfully it wasn't time for lunch yet:

As my dear friend Brenda once said  "Never Pass Porcelain",  so when we saw the sign for toilets, we thought we'd better go.  Oh, boy!  Here's the drill:  Roll pant legs up to keep them dry, hold nose, try not to touch anything, hurry but don't fall over, don't miss the hole, and get out of there as fast as you can--then use hand sanitizer. Whew!
This pic doesn't quite capture the "ick factor"

 David said I looked absolutely horrified when I came out!  I did survive, but vowed to not drink anything for the rest of the day!  (But of course I drank a lot of water, because one must stay hydrated in this heat.)

On our way to Wat Pho we walked through yet another market, this one had lots of dried fish.  Sure wish I had "smell-a-blog" feature so I could share the entire experience with you--it was quite fragrant!

Finally we arrived at Wat Pho, paid our very small entrance fee of 100 Thai baht (about $3 each) and made our way to the Temple of the Reclining Buddha.  Wat Pho is Thailand's oldest and largets temple, and was build in the 16th century by Rama I.  This temple is an active and working temple, and on the grounds there are many monks, a school for children, and also Thailand's most highly regarded school of massage. Here are a few pics of the area around the temple:

There are many smaller temples, each with several Buddhas.  Here we are at one of the small temples:

Wat Pho is beautifully landscaped:

These are called chedis, and are built to honor a king or important person. They are decorated with very intricate porcelain mosaic, and have relics sealed in the base:

After removing our shoes for the first of MANY times today, we stepped into the temple.   The Reclining Buddha is made of brick and plaster and cover with gold leaf, and it's huge; 151 feet long, and 50 feet high.   It was impossible to get the whole Buddha in one picture, but here are some shots:

Here we are:

The feet were very interesting, especially the back of the feet, which are inlaid with mother-of-pearl:

We walked all the way around, admiring this great Buddha from every angle.  Here's the back of the head:

After putting our shoes back on, it was time to make our way to the Grand Palace.  It was past lunch time, so we set off to try to find a restaurant for a sit down lunch, as we needed to rest our feet and have a cold drink.  It's hot a muggy today!

After lots of looking, and passing up many street food and market vendors, we saw a sign for a restaurant overlooking the river.   We sat on the terrace with a nice view of the river, and enjoyed our lunch of fresh spring rolls, calamari, pad thai and ice cold drinks--very refreshing iced tea for me and a nice cold Singh Hai for David.   A quick stop to use their "facilities"  (thankfully not quite the adventure I had this morning at the market!) and we were off to explore the Grand Palace and the Royal Monastery of the Emerald Buddha.

The Grand Palace was built in 1784 by King Rama I, and has been home to several royal families, although no king has lived here since the early 1900's.  The complex is comprised of many temples, several chedis, various throne halls and a scripture library.  It is landscaped and manicured to perfection:

This is a very large gold chedi:

 This is the Royal Monastery of the Emerald Buddha.  This monastery is one of the most important Buddhist sites in Thailand, and people come from all over Thailand to pay respect to Buddha and his teachings.  It is an absolutely stunning temple--every inch is decorated in intricate mosaic patterns, and inlaid with mirrored glass.  It was impossible to capture the "sparkle" in a photo, but here it is:
Inside the Monastery the Emerald Buddha is enshrined on a golden throne.   This Buddha was discovered in 1432, and is carved from a single block of jade.   This sacred image is clad in one of three seasonal costumes (summer, rainy season and winter).  The costumes are changed three times a year in a ceremony presided over by the King of Thailand.  No photos were allowed inside, but we could take a photo from the outside looking in.  The Emerald Buddha only 26" tall, I used the "zoom" to get a better picture:

We spent about 2 hours exploring the Grand Palace and it's many treasures.  It was a perfect way to spend a hot, sunny and muggy afternoon in Bangkok.

It's time to catch the ferry back to the heart of the city, so we strolled along the sidewalks, shopping along the way.  The streets are lined with tiny shops and vendor carts, selling everything you could imagine, even a new set of teeth, if you want!  Gee--I guess you'd just pick the ones you like best:

I passed up the dentures and partials, but did find some interesting old Thai coins for my SIL Sherry--I know she'll turn them into a wonderful piece of jewelry!  Here I am, bargaining for those coins:

After a long wait for our return ferry, we hopped on board and enjoyed another relaxing ride down the Chao Phraya river.  A quick trip on the Sky Train, and we're back to our hotel.  We had a relaxing drink on their terrace bar, headed up to our room for a quick change before dinner.

Our dinner plans for the evening were interesting--we ate at a restaurant called "Cabbages and Condoms"!  An odd and not especially appetizing name for a restaurant, to say the least!  But of course there is a story behind the name.  The proceeds from this restaurant go to educate and encourage young Thai people to use birth control, as the average poor Thai family has 7 children!  The founder of the restaurant felt that birth control should be as common and available to the people as "cabbages are in the market"--hence the name "Cabbages and Condoms".  "Cabbages and Condoms" really is a lovely place; a beautiful twinkling garden setting with light fixtures and several decorations made of condoms in many colors!  All very tastefully done--really it's not tacky at all.  The menu is huge, and we had a delicious meal of pork satay, steamed chicken and onion dumplings, deep fried soft shell crab in a curry stir-fry and a chicken and kale stir fry dish.  Each dish was nicely presented, the service was very attentive, and with  the live Thai pong lang (Traditional Thai "zylophone type" instrument) playing in the background it was a lovely, relaxing  evening.  Here we are at "Cabbages and Condoms":

A nice stroll back to our hotel, and we were ready for bed.  It had been a L-A-R-G-E day in Bangkok!

Saturday in Bangkok:  Chatuchak Market--with over 9,000 stalls!  Yes, you read that right: nine thousand stalls.  Stay tuned!


  1. Wow, I don't know where to start. Post was so interesting, colorful and informative. They do present their food nicely even though it not always appetizing to look at or smell. Reminds me of the markets in Madrid but I think the ones in Thailand are a bit more interesting! The buddha was beautiful...the toilet was unbelievable! Cabbages and Condoms...I am so glad you explained the name. One thing it is there is warm and muggy. Warm is ok...muggy can be draining so I'm sure you drink lots of water. Thanks for another wonderful post! I'm sure I will read it at least two more times....

  2. Wow, wat interesting sites. I am glad you weren't ready for lunch yet when you saw the food stalls, some of the food looked like it might have been good but very hard to get around the added "condiments" like the flys. Looks like they eat some interesting things, I wasn't able to tell what some of the items were. The Grand Palace looks fabulous. zi am looking forward to seeing the coins that you got and making you something special. Sorry for the typos, glad you are having a great time.

  3. Only you and Dave could find a restaurant called "Cabbage and Condoms!" What a hoot! It does create quite a visual picture. Along with the mother of pearl toes, I can only hold my breath and see what future posts will unvail. Diana, you are truly amazing. I've read all of your posts at one time and I'm still wanting more . . . If I can't be there with you, I sure feel like I am still part of the adventure. Thanks for the ride......