Don’t you trust me?

Trip Start Sep 01, 2010
Trip End Jun 18, 2011

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Friday, March 25, 2011

Wow!! Today has been a really busy day. Once again we were up early to enjoy our amazing breakfast…is it sad that I mention our breakfast in every blog?! After some food we decided to head out and see the main sights here in Bangkok: the top of every tourist itinerary is the Grand Palace and Temple. The king doesn't actually live at the Grand Palace anymore but it was the home of many previous kings and is one of the most striking buildings in Bangkok. I don’t think I have mentioned before just how much Thailand loves its king: people genuinely worship him, there are posters and statues of him everywhere, it is actually illegal to bad-mouth him, it’s disrespectful to put money on the floor because it has his image on it and everyone has to stop whatever they are doing and stand up if the national anthem is played. When we went to the cinema yesterday they played the national anthem before the film started and everyone in the cinema had to stand up and pay respect to the king, it was a very strange experience. Adjoining the palace is a huge complex of temples used by the monarchy and one of them houses Thailand’s most holy statue of Buddha called the Emerald Buddha. We have now learnt the Emerald Buddha isn’t actually made of emeralds but jade but it is still the most sacred site in Thailand and we couldn’t wait to visit.

The Grand Palace and Temple is only about a 15 minute walk away from our guesthouse so we decided to have a lazy morning and walk over there quite leisurely. On our way we were lucky enough to meet our first ever Bangkok rip-off artist!! The con-men are legendary around here and we had been warned against listening to anyone who asks where you are going and then tries to tell you that your destination is closed for the day. Well that is exactly what happened to us. We were walking down the road when we stopped to look at one of the street maps when a very nice Thai man came over and overheard us say the words 'Grand Palace’. Hearing that we were looking for the palace he started giving us directions and telling us what a great place it is and that we would have a wonderful day. We thanked him for his directions and said goodbye. He smiled and waved us off, before then running down the street after us because he had just ‘remembered’ that the Grand Palace is actually closed today until 4pm! Isn’t that a coincidence?! Considering that we now had so much spare time he very kindly offered to help us out finding some other activities to do, like visiting an art gallery or take a tuk-tuk drive. We could see this guy coming a mile off so we decided to have a little bit of a giggle with him and asked why exactly the palace had been closed today. Some of the answers he came up with were hilarious: first he told that the king was performing a ceremony today, then he told us that the Emerald Buddha was having its annual bath in holy water and then (this was my favourite) he told us that all the Buddha statues at the temple were having their clothes changed today and we weren’t allowed in because the Buddhas would be naked. We smiled, said thanks and then carried on walking towards the palace and he looked absolutely shocked that we didn’t believe him, he even started walking down the street with us saying "Don’t you trust me?". After a few minutes he gave up on us and went to sniff out some more unsuspecting tourists: funnily enough when we did arrive at the palace the king wasn’t performing a ceremony, the Emerald Buddha wasn’t in the bath and there were no naked Buddhas. The Grand Palace and Temple were actually open!! Isn’t that a funny co-incidence?!  

At the palace we bought our tickets and headed in for a look around: the first place we went was the temple complex. Thai temples are so incredibly different to all the other temples we have been in so far, they are just so shiny and glittery! These temples were covered from top to bottom in shimmering gold, green and purple mosaic tiles and when the sun hit them you couldn’t even look directly at them because of the glare. Today is the first day in ages that we have been somewhere that is over-run with other tourists; you couldn’t even move in the temples without bumping into another person. There were hundreds of people on guided tours and some of the guides were nut-cases, especially the Chinese tour guides who literally scream at the top their voices and scare the crap out of most people they are showing around.  We saw one Chinese tour guide take a photo of some of their customers and I’m sure that they only smiled for the photo because they were scared he would start screaming at them again if they didn’t.  After having spent so much time in Asia we are old-hands at temple etiquette now and we understand how most of the blessings, offerings, chantings etc work. For instance, we know the proper direction which you should walk round the temple, we know how to give incense offerings and we know how to sit on the prayer mats without causing any offence (never point your feet at a Buddha statue, always sit with your feet pointing behind you). It probably sounds really sad but we love visiting temples, we could sit in them all day long. So it sent shivers down our spines when we saw tourists who had no idea of how to behave respectfully in the temples; it was even worse when they started talking and you realized that they were British, it’s just embarrassing. We saw a woman having her photo taken in a very disrespectful position with a Buddha statue; she was giggling away with her mates and when I heard they had English accents I was so embarrassed I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me. Don’t people realize what a bad impression they are giving of British people when they do that?

Anyway, the temples were magnificent and we were really lucky to get a chance to enter the housing complex of the Emerald Buddha. As I said earlier the Emerald Buddha is Thailand’s most sacred statue and is kept inside a huge golden temple. When we entered there were about a hundred people and monks sitting on prayer mats and paying respect to the Buddha. The statue itself was a lot smaller than we were expecting, but it was absolutely beautiful and sparkled in the light from the candles and lamps. After we had finished in the temples we went next door to visit the palace; you can’t actually enter the palace, we were slightly disappointed to discover that you can only see it from the outside. It was a huge building and was surrounded by dozens of Thai guardsmen in crisp white uniforms and wielding riffles and bayonets…they are like scary-assed versions of English beefeaters. Even though they looked pretty frightening they were actually really sweet and even let Tom pose for a photo with them. We got to see the changing of the guardsmen while we were there, which was brilliant. There was one crazy Chinese man who risked life and limb to get his photo taken with the guardsmen as they were doing the change-over: the guards are nice but you probably don’t want to mess with them when they are performing their duties! On the way out of the palace we realized that the reason the guardsmen were so nice is because the whole place was actually teeming with armed security; there was a raft of army officers patrolling the perimeter and carrying rifles…they don’t do things by half in Thailand when it comes to protecting their monarchy!      

Once we had finished at the palace we still had most of the afternoon left so we headed around the corner to visit another complex of temples, this one houses Thailand’s largest statue of Buddha lying down. It was called Wat Pho and is pretty famous here in Thailand. Once we had paid our admission we went straight to visit the big Buddha. Since we have left home it is fair to say that we have seen some pretty amazing sights… but the giant reclining golden Buddha at Wat Pho is one of the most incredible things I have ever seen. It is over 46 meters long and 15 meters high and is housed in a giant purpose-built temple. It is so huge that you can’t really see it all in one go; it makes you feel so joyous to think that someone built this statue out of love and devotion. The rest of Wat Pho was also wonderful; there was even a TV crew filming while we were there, we couldn’t decide if we recognized the actress or not…we’ll let you know if we figure out who she was!    

After we had finished at Wat Pho we headed back to the guesthouse to freshen up and then went out for some food. The veggie café that we had eaten in the other night hosts a Saturday night all-you-can-eat buffet party with Thai dancing for the grand price of £2.50… needless to say we went along and had some of the most amazing food we’d ever eaten!  Later in the evening we walked back home via Khoa San road and got a taste of Bangkok’s infamous nightlife. It wasn’t actually as bad as we had expected although Tom got approached by dozens of men trying to sell him ‘ping-pong’ shows (if you don’t know what a ping-pong show is, then whatever you do don’t type it into google!). 
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lisa on

This must be fate - i woke up last night 4am - to find a travel programme on visiting the exact place - Wat Pra Krew,
by the time the programme finished it was 5am and i was wide awake - curse u Bangkok for the stunning locations......
they even visited the buddhist retreat - the pic of the little boy by the hindu tree carving - it was very surreal - knowing my little sis and bro in law had visited the very same place xxxx

caz&co on

Hiya guys, sorry but coz uve not updated ur blog im now avin 2 back track on ur others to keep me amused!!
ha ha ha ping pong shows!!! i think even J knows wot they r, ive seen them on dirty sanzez so that says it all really lol luv u guys soooo much, cnt wait to av u home wiv us, Lil Charlie bear (as benji calls him) is a cheeky lil monkey cnt wait 4 u 2 av cuddles wiv him xxx

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