The Grand Palace

Trip Start Jun 12, 2012
Trip End Jul 20, 2012

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Friday, July 13, 2012

Taking a half day yesterday didn't help, because I stayed up almost just as late which made me still pretty sleepy when I woke up this morning. We opted to pass on the Intercontinental breakfast because it’s just too expensive – they wanted 600 Bhat per person per night!  When/if I get status with this hotel group I’m sure it will be included like it is over at the Hilton.   Our plan for the day was to hit the most important sites for Bangkok.  All of us are still missing the beach and island scene from Phuket, Ko Phi Phi, and Krabi/Ao Nang.  It’s hard getting back into this city touring mode.  But, we’re adjusting quickly and we’re going to hit the Grand Palace,  then Wat Pho (the reclining Buddha), and then Wat Arun

But first, it was time to deal with laundry.  We checked the laundry rates in the hotel and they’re ridiculous (almost as bad as US hotel rates for laundry).  So, Mickell and Major went out this morning in search of a laundry service on the streets of Bangkok.  I sent all of my laundered items with them and kept my silk shirt thinking I’d have it dry cleaned here at the hotel.  While they were gone I showered and got ready.  I filled out the form for the dry cleaning and men’s shirts cost 380 Bhat for dry cleaning!  It was ridiculous, but I planned to go ahead and do it for my silk shirt.  When Major and Mickell returned, they told me that they got the entire load of laundry off to the cleaners for 400 Bhat!!!!!!  That entire load would be done for nearly the price of my one shirt here in the hotel.  So, we decided to go ahead and take my silk shirt to the same place rather than be hoodwinked by these prices.    We went out front and Mickell told the bellman to tell the cab driver to swing us by the cleaners first and then take us to the Grand Palace.

We arrived at the Grand Palace which was roughly 5 kilometers to the northwest of downtown and it took around 15 minutes in traffic.  The taxi driver made a deal with us for tomorrow’s excursion which is the floating market and the railroad market.  He’s going to drive us for the entire day for 1200 Bhat.   Anyway, we got out at the Grand Palace and it was very crowded with tour groups and hawkers.  Several people were trying to sell us long pantaloons that we’d need in order to gain entry into the site.  We declined.  We made our way to the ticket counter and the tickets were 400 Bhat each for Mickell and me.  An official stopped us as we entered and stated that no shorts were allowed and that we’d need to go change.   For 400 Bhat they’ll lend you some pants so you can go into the Temples.  Prepared as always, we had brought what we needed.  Mickell and Major had worn their shorts that have zippers that allow you to transform the shorts into long pants.  While they put those on, I put on my linen pants that I usually only wear on cruises to meet the long pants requirements at dinner.   After we were appropriately clothed, we went on to see the Emerald Buddha.  I had caught a sign stating that it would be closing 2 hours early because there was a televising chanting that was being held, so we went there first so as not to miss it.

We toured the Temple of the Emerald Buddha which sits on the site of the Grand Palace and acts as the personal temple of the Monarch.   Thailand is a constitutional monarchy.  The King of Thailand (or, as he used to be known, the King of Siam) is the head of state and head of the ruling House of Chakri.  While he’s really a figure head, the people here are very respectful of the King much like the Britts and their Queen.  The current King (Rama IX) was actually born in the United States.  He has reigned as King since 1946 making him the world’s longest reigning current monarch.    Anyway, the Grand Palace was built as the King’s residence in addition to being the location of all of the administration buildings of the government.  While the Grand Palace is his official residence, he spends most of his time in homes outside the city.   The Palace is located on the banks of the Chao Phraya River which empties into the Gulf of Thailand.   We all liked the bright colors of the buildings and I think Mickell is turning Buddhist because he really enjoys going into the temples and lighting the incense and making offerings.  After the butterfly disaster back in Saigon, he can’t be too careful and he needs to protect his karma.  I told Mickell that his Baptist upbringing is in jeopardy and that he’d probably be required to be baptized again when we get back to the US.  He didn’t find my chiding funny.  Seriously though, I really appreciate the Buddhist religion and the peacefulness it promotes.

After we made our way through the palace complex we stopped for ice cream and then struck out for another temple called Wat Pho which is the Temple of the Reclining Buddha.  It was sticky outside so we flagged a tuk tuk down to drive us to the entry gates.  It cost us 50 Bhat which is roughly $1.50 US and it was well worth it.   The Temple of the Reclining Buddha or Wat Pho is one of the oldest Wats in Bangkok and it has the most images of Buddha of any Wat in Thailand.  As I’m walking through the Wat I’m thinking of the words from the song, "One Night in Bangkok."  One of the lyrics is something like, “…. You’ll find a god in every golden cloister” and I certainly catch the meaning after seeing so many images of the Buddha.  We make our way to the Temple that houses the reclining Buddha and discover that it’s massive.  It’s 15 m high and 43 meters long.    What’s interesting about this Buddha is that she’s lying down.  Hopefully the pictures will do justice and relay how massive it seems.

After the temple, we take another tuk tuk to the Memorial Bridge Pier where we need to catch a water taxi to take us across the river to Wat Arun.  The water taxi cost us 9 Bhat total.  We arrived at Wat Arun which translates to “Temple of Dawn.”  What’s interesting about this Temple is that there are steps that take you up to a balcony that gives you a fantastic view of Bangkok.  The problem is that you don’t actually step up, you climb up.  The first set of steps I guess one could say you step up, but by the time you get to the second set which takes you to the top balcony, it’s like climbing a ladder – very steep!  When we got to the top there was an orange cloth that was wrapped around the structure and you were supposed to write your names to bring good luck.  Major wrote all of our names and we took pictures and then climbed down.  I went first just in case Major were to fall he’d fall onto me.  We made it down without incident and went back to the water taxi to get back to the other side of the river.

We were going to take a taxi, but a local told us it’d be around 2 hours in rush hour traffic (it was 17:00) so we opted to take the Sky Train which is just a train that runs above the streets (rather than below).   To get to the sky train, we had to hop on some very crowded water taxis and then catch the S line to S1 which is right close to the hotel.  After we exited, we flagged a tuk tuk to get us to the hotel and we changed and got ready for dinner.  Also, we wanted to find an electronics store so we could get Major’s waterproof camera working again.  We didn’t bring the charger and the battery itself hasn’t been holding a charges.  The hotels had been charging it for us.  We ate at a Thai place again and it wasn’t great.  It was interesting though the way they served my favorite dish, Tom Kha Gai.  Here they served it in a bowl sitting over a candle to keep it warm.  It did add some drama to the dish, but it wasn’t anywhere near as good as what we’d had on the islands (still good enough though).  Major patiently sat through the entire meal and simply drank a Sprite.  He wanted to go to the McDonald’s.  I left Mickell and Major at the table so I could get back to the hotel and start work for the night.  I had several conference calls, plus I had some items that were due today.  They were going to go eat at McDonalds and find the electronics store.

Mickell and Major returned around 10pm and had gone to a nice grocery store they said.  They brought me some Diet Coke which only cost them 13 Bhat each.  This as compared to our minibar which is 150 Bhat!   They’re trying to turn in early tonight because our taxi is supposed to pick us up at 7:30 tomorrow morning to take us to the floating market and the Railroad Market.  I finished work a little early (after all it is Friday) which should get me a little sleep before this floating market excursion.   I still wish we were back on Ko Phi Phi or Ao Nang!
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