Doi Chiang Dao, the mountain that you see rising out of the mist in a couple of the pictures below is Thailand’s 2nd highest at 7,135 feet. (No, I didn’t get to climb it on this trip, perhaps next…)
The story of dragons and temples: Myth has it that a dragon approached a monk and about his desire to worship with him in the temple. The monk told him that dragons weren’t allowed inside the temple, but they are welcome to guard the temples. Throughout Thailand you’ll see dragons guarding temples.
Not a city girl so only 1 day in Bangkok before I take off for the mountains of Chang Mai. My day’s agenda in Bangkok is Wat Pho, The Grand Palace and Wat Arun. After a not so refreshing 5 hours of sleep and a buffet breakfast at my hotel, I hit pavement for the 5k stroll to Wat Pho.
While walking provides great perspective of the area, I quickly learned that it does not provide the best experience here.
It’s SWELTERING here! 96 degrees plus “big league” humidity. (The pool at my hotel is bath temperature.)
The sidewalks are crowded minefields of obstacles, uneven pavement and unpredictable curb heights. Must be very alert, which is tough when you’re sleep deprived. The air quality is poor – heavy with vehicle exhaust, industrial and cooking fumes.
It was fascinating to be up with the locals, getting a glimpse into their morning routines as they opened up their storefronts, walked to school in their blue skirts and pigtails, or to their jobs in various work attire. (Strange, just realized schoolgirls present, but no school boys.) There are thin feral cats running amok, experts at dodging the traffic and darting here and there.
Wat Pho is one of the oldest, largest temples in Bangkok and also one of the most significant temples. Best known for its 51 yard long Reclining Buddha which is composed of a brick core, plaster covering and gold leaf finish. The buildings are spectacular as well with their ornate, detail of typical Thai temple architecture.
Having read all about the various tourist scams in Thailand, I wasn’t entirely surprised when a helpful, friendly Thai man struck up a convo and told my travel buddy and I that the palace wouldn’t be open until 1:30 PM due to Songkran, the New Year Holiday underway and a special Buddhist ceremony. It seemed plausible though. It was a holiday. He took out a map and described other attractions where his friend could take us instead. (Typical scenario where a tourist gets hijacked and financially extorted for the day.) There were many religious groups dressed in black around, which supported his story and he had no trouble looking us in the eyes as he pitched us. The palace compound is surrounded by a high wall so it’s difficult to ascertain what is going on unless you walk around the perimeter, which we did. Guess what? It was open. So we dodged our first scam bullet. The Grand Palace was a bit of a mob scene. Too hot and crowded for this semi-agoraphobic so I made a quick escape and headed for Wat Arun instead.
Next we picked up a Chao Phraya Tourist Boat Day Pass and headed to Wat Arun. As reported by others, the Tourist Boat is a great way to see the area. It’s only about $5 and you can hop on and hop off as many as 13 stops in different districts. Plus you get a little breeze on the boat. Tip: The boat runs every half hour, but you must stand on the dock and wave it in if it is not dropping passengers. Lesson learned. (They don’t mention it when you buy your ticket.
The iconic Khmer style tower of Wat Arun (temple of dawn)was under construction, but it was still worth a stop as you can see. The 76 meters high tower is decorated by thousands of tiny seashells and porcelain, I’ve added some pics from the boat ride and various other stops, including the a flower market. i don’t think it’s the famous one (Pak Klong Tald), but it was spectacular in it’s own right.
After 6 hours of walking around on 5 hours a sleep, I saluted the day with an early margie. Returned to the hotel, solved some tech issues with the blog and got a quick gym workout in. (Bike & some weight.) With plans to bike and trek in Chang Mai, I need to make sure I can workout in these conditions. The gym was minimally air conditioned at best so it simulated real conditions…