Temples, museum and traffic
07.01.2015 - 07.01.2015
Our schedule was packed for the day. We walked from the guesthouse to the river area to catch the ferry - Chao Phraya Express to Wat Arun. We got a bit turned around but the staff were helpful enough to direct us to the regular ferry, not the private hire boats. The ride was busy with commuters in suits, students and tourists. We rode it until we could see the temple then took another ferry to get across to Wat Arun.
We arrived just after nine so it wasn't packed but busy enough with a few tours. The temple (wat) was under renovations and only part of it could be seen. We could still climb to the third level up the ultra steep stairs to enjoy the view. A lot of the ceramic pieces were being re-glued or changed on the surrounding chedis.
We wandered the surrounding temple too, our quick pace inspired by hunger. Some temples were long rectangular halls with demon and monkey statues standing guard. That area was pretty quiet.
After the ferry ride, we split a mango and had a bag of deep fried banana each for our late breakfast. We'd need the energy for crazy Grand Palace.
Group tours overtook most of the space in the entrance area. We were yelled at over the loud speaker to put on 'more appropriate' clothing before we could even get into our bags to reach the sarongs. We took a minute to breathe before tackling the lines for the entrance and the inflated admission price.
Once inside, we moved to see golden stupas, mirrored temple buildings, and then the demon monkeys supporting another stupa. There were gold demon statues separate with thin or big bushy tails. The crowds to see the Emerald Buddha were fierce. We did another lap before trying to beat the crowds by going through the back. Again actions were quite controlled. Guards told us to sit, and took away cameras from those who chose to ignore the signs. Somehow the whole atmosphere stood out more than the experience of actually seeing the small Emerald Buddha. It was too busy and crowded to have some profound moving moment.
We visited the other temples from the outside and then the different groups of palaces. Some had museums for weapons, international and local alike. I didn't recall them being open on my visit a few years prior. We saw two more temple groups, some with religious relics. People would also stand by the guards and take pictures with the poor men under orders not to move. We visited one more museum with information on the restoration before we took off.
The walk to food was a bit long and distracted. We found an art museum on the way with sculptures and models by a famous European sculptures, many of which were featured around the country. Then we found the National Museum but chose hunger instead. We headed for nearby Khao San road to get Pad Thai at a Spanish-owned restaurant since there were surprisingly few food stalls around the area.
We were also able to find the knock-off Lonely Planet vendors there as well. A Nepali woman from Myanmar was very friendly and told us lots of Canadians bought the Myanmar guide. I'd found a PDF version for the tablet already, but we got one for the Philippines since we were a little more hesitant to whip out a tablet in the streets there to find our way around.
National Museum was pretty large with many exhibits closed. The first section was an ambitious and well forged account of Thai history. Different groups and religions moved through the country, Buddhism being the one that stayed. There was so much to absorb, battles for territories with the Burmese kingdom, British, French in Indo-China, Khmer empire many centuries ago. We had to respect that the Thais had a longstanding kingdom and culture that managed to overcome a lot of adversaries and hold its own.
There was a temple, red house and other religious sculptures from various cultures around Thailand too like India, Laos and Myanmar during earlier periods. There were some Thai carvings from the Dharavati period too.
We took off, worried about meeting two of my friends and former co-workers on time. After plenty of cabs turned us down because of the distance and bad traffic around Lad Prao, we tried asking for a trip to the BTS instead which was successful, but we were stuck in traffic for quite awhile before reaching the sky train. Luckily, that flew over the traffic jams. At Mo Chit BTS, we grabbed another cab and we were grid locked again. The drivers hadn't been lying about the traffic.
Once we made it to Imperial Mall, a phone call helped us find the rock climbing wall where they were. It was an artificial wall run by a European man and his Thai wife. They also had a really cute little girl who'd been born prematurely. It was only 50 baht per climb with equipment rental.
My friends came here often and knew the owner quite well. They'd learned to belay as well and were challenging themselves by taking different routes marked by coloured tape. They'd climbed a few spots in and out of Thailand and their goal was to get to Chiang Mai later. My fear of heights kicked in on the first wall and they tried to bribe me up it with some chocolate on Ryan's advice. We both did a couple walls before we got too tired.
From the sounds of it, they really enjoyed worked out at the other campus. One was really improving her Thai to the point that she could use tones. It sounded like they were settling in quite nicely to their area of the city.
We had supper at the nearby cafeteria. I found a veggie fried rice. Other veg-friendly options were the omelette and a tasty Som Tam salad. In the supermarket, we wandered and found some pomelo on sale. Ryan and I had become fans since we left China so we picked on up.
We said our goodbyes and took a cab back via the MRT route (though the cabbies had a hard time understanding what the MRT was so we used the name of the station and some gestures for 'underground' to convey our message). Our walk back from the MRT passed through sidewalks turned into night markets where moving was a luxury. We got a little lost, but luckily the gates were still open when we got back to the guesthouse for our final sleep in Thailand.