A day out in Bangkok

Trip Start Sep 21, 2011
Trip End Mar 21, 2012

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Friday, December 16, 2011

A great nights sleep and down to breakfast at 7:30.  Leave guest house at 8:30 and take the cross river ferry from Phra Arthit to Phra Pinklao.  Walk along main road a little then turn off into the side streets near the old Wat Dusitaram which has ckearky seen better days.  We are heading to the Royal Barge Museum which is actually quite well signposted.  Just as well else we would almost certainly have got lost amongst the maze of small alleys.  About a 10mins walk brings us to the Chao Phraya where it meets the Khlong Bangkok Noi and a man comes to greet us.  After watching the floods on TV for the last couple of months I hadnt given them a thought since we have been in Bangkok, however, we are now told that to protect the barges they have been temporarily moved to army grounds just along the river, being towed there by longtail boats around the small canals.  A quick look into the empty, flooded, boathouse and we retrace our steps to Phra Pinklao pier where we take the riverboat along to Phra Tha Thien pier.  From here another cross river ferry takes us to Wat Arun, the temple of the dawn.  We have been here a number of times but today we walk past the temple to the roads then begin a walk following the river south.  Reaching the Khlong Bangkok Yai near the old talat Phlu, betelnut market, we pass the Kudi Khao Community and at the Bang Lang Mosque we take to the backstreets again.  We soon arrive at the huge viharn of Wat Kanlayananit with its equally impressive temple bell.  This appears to be a particularly wealthy and ethnically Chinese temple with a large golden Buddha.  Leaving Wat Kanlayananit we continue on through the side streets until we come to what appears to be a dead end.  A man calls to us from on top of the canal lock gates and tells us that we can cross the canal by walking across the gates themselves so we follow his advice and continue until we reach the old Portugese quarter.  For helping King Taksin fight the Burmese in Ayyuthaya in 1767 the Portugese were given a plot of land where they built the church of Santa Cruz.  Several generations of construction later the church is still here.  Pleasant enough place with great stained glass windows.  A cleaner allowed me to climb up into the gallery for some photos.  In fact we were lucky the church was being cleaned otherwise it appears it would have been locked.  Next door to the churcg is now the Santa Cruz school where I notice that each of the buildings have a name; Joseph and Maria were right next to the lane - imaginative naming ?!  We continue our walk looking for Jai's namesake temple; Wat Prayoon.  Nobody we ask seems to be sure where the temple is but in typical Thai style they wont admit to this but make up directions that we follow aimlessly in all directions.  Finally we find someone who appears to offer to escort us to the temple.  People are telling us not to go there as it is a funerary temple and they say 'dirty' and 'smelly' and has lots of bad spirits etc.  It is the neighbouring cemetery that I want to see so we follow the lady as she heads off down another alley.  When we reach the temple it turns out to be quite a big place and is quite nice with a large white chedi that we must have seen from the river on a number of occasions without realising where it was.  We go into the Buddha hall where Jai makes an offering for good luck.  The Khao Mor cemetery is about 100m further along in a fenced enclosure entered through a large metal gate.  Jai wouldnt come insde so I head in alone.  It dates back a few hundred years and has not been used for some time.  It is centred around an artificial hill and there are numerous small shrines to departed loved ones in many different styles although largely built in the form of houses.  The 'hill' itself is full of holes and crevices that are now overun with dilapidated shrines.  Most of the shrines appear to have been smashed open, presumably people looking for any valuables that may have been interred with the ashes.  There appears to be a way to scramble up inside the 'hill' amongst all the broken shrines but I didnt really fancy it.  In fact it isnt a very nice place at all but it is certainly different and that was all I came to see.  Sums up the last couple of days; first I am called stupid, then gay, and now I am scared of ghosts !!  On the far side of the cemetery a man and what appears to be his young daughter are working clearing away the old shrines and it would look like Khao Mor's days are numbered.  Leaving the temple nehind us we retrace our steps to the main road deciding to take a more direct route back to Wat Arun.  Reaching the Bang Lang Bridge and the Ton Som Mosque we descend to the side roads and find underneath the bridge a rather rough looking Muay Thai, Thai boxing, gym complete with a dodgy looking weights and an old ring.  It gives the impression that any boxers that are turned out from here are probably going to be tough fighters.  From Wat Arun we take the cross river ferry then the expressboat back to Phra Arthit and Banglamphu.  It is 12:30 now and we are both starving so lunch before going back to the guest house.  Being creatures of habit it is straight to our usual Chinese noodle shop where the food is great if you manage to avoid thinking about the contents as listed on the wall menu !!  Have a rest in the room but with Jai comfy on the bed, in the aircon and watching TV I head out on my own later in the afternoon.  I make my way to Sanam Luang, the large park next to the Grand Palace, where there are a number of marquees.  The one appears to be a shrine of some kind with people lighting candles and with lotus flowers circling the shrine a number of times.  There are signs and information booklets but all in Thai until I spot a single English notice saying that this is the Tooth Relic of Buddha Khassapa.  I cross Sanam Luang noticing that I am the only person walking on the grass.  I reach the far corner where Lak MUang or the City Pillar shrine is located.  All Thai cities have their equivalent of a city pillar where the cities guardian spirits reside.  Bangkok now has two pillars with the taller one from Thonburi across the river being relocated here when that became part of greater Bangkok.  There are brown information boards located all around the city giving details in both Thai and English and these are great for finding out things about an area, building, etc.  The road next to the shrine is called Thanon Lak Muang and according to one of the brown notices this road usedto have one of Bangkok's three tramlines.  Built in 1887 by a Danish engineer it originally used horse drawn trolleys and later electric trams.  The last tram ran in October 1968 but you can still see the tramlines poking up through the tarmac - at least you could if they werent largely covered by parked cars and coaches !  On the opposite corner is the Ministry Of Defence building and quite a grand place it is as well although the pink ribbons around the top of the entrance wouldnt do much for the army's machismo.  In front is a canon museum and a few big old beasts there are too.  Turning around to retrace my steps the Grand Palace is glittering in the late afternoon sun above the huge walls that surround it.  Sanam Luang itself is circled by elephants, concrete ones that is, no idea why.  Time is passing quite quickly so I make my way back to the guest house for a shower and to cool off before we check-out at 18:00.  Taxi out to the bus station at Mo Chit which due to traffic chaos we dont reach until after 19:00.  Bus is due out at 20:30 and when we board at 20:15 things look hopeful but it is more like 21:30 before the wheels are in motion and we leave Bangkok behind us.
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