Bangkok seems to be one of those cities that people rarely have anything nice to say about. It is hectic, noisy, smelly and can have the slowest flowing traffic that I have ever seen. Even the locals seem to have pretty similar feelings.
This is my second time in Bangkok. I have to admit, the first time I came, I was one of those people who found it difficult. Maybe my expectations had shifted, or maybe it’s the length of time I spent in Bangkok, but this time I felt like I managed to connect with the city.
I spent around two weeks in Bangkok, using it as a base for my job hunt. Whilst I didn’t do very much sightseeing, I used this time to explore the city further than the likes of Khao San Road. Saying that, Khao San Road, a hub for backpackers, is definitely worth a trip if you fancy a night out, eating a scorpion on a stick (no thank you…) or picking up a pair of the famous Thai elephant trousers.
We spent our first few days in Bangkok‘s Old Town, near Khao San Road, where some of the city’s most revered attractions are located. Due to the close proximity of a lot of the sights, you can fit a fair amount into one day.
We started our day at Wat Pho; the oldest and largest of Bangkok’s temples. Entrance is only 100 Baht and includes a bottle of water, bonus!
In the courtyards there are 91 chedis, or pagodas, exquisitely decorated with colourful ceramic flowers and tiles.
The shapes, colours and intricacies of the tile work are incredibly beautiful.
We also got to witness the stellar health and safety procedures followed for some repairs…
The grounds of Wat Pho contain over 1000 images of Buddha! This is more than any other temple in Thailand.
At Wat Pho you will also find the Reclining Buddha. Of the 100+ asanas, or poses, illustrating the life of Buddha, the Reclining Buddha represents the passing of the Buddha into final Nirvana after death.
This spectacular figure is an impressive 46 metres long and covered in gold leaf giving it that brilliant, shimmering golden colour.
My favourite part has to be the soles of Buddha’s feet. The feet, around 5 metres long and 3 metres high, are ornately inlaid with mother of pearl. They really are stunning.
The interior of the building in which the Reclining Buddha is housed is decorated with amazing murals and wall coverings. Is anyone looking for a bit of wallpaper inspo?
Next door to Wat Pho is the Grand Palace. I visited this when I was last in Bangkok so this time I gave it a miss as it is quite pricey. I would say however, if you do decide to visit the Grand Palace, go as early in the day as possible, otherwise it will be swarming with truckloads of tourists.
We headed towards Wat Arun via a boat ride across the Chaopraya River which is just a short 10 minute walk away. The boat doesn’t simply cross the water in a straight line. It skillfully swerves in a large semi circular path to reach the other side. I suppose a bridge would be too boring.
Wat Arun, also known as the Temple of Dawn, is so old it actually predates Bangkok. After paying the entrance fee of 50 Baht, to enter you must pass under the gaze of these temple guradians.
Its iconic prang, or tower, is majestic, reaching approximately 80 m. A steep staircase on each side of the tower leads to the top and provides excellent views of the river.
The prang has a very unique appearance; its white walls are adorned with an ornate mosaic of floral Chinese porcelain. The porcelain pieces were actually discarded by Chinese ships when they visited Bangkok harbour as a means of ballasting. Their loss was definitely Wat Arun‘s gain!
Of the temples that I have visited, Wat Arun is one of my favourites. I love the use of the Chinese porcelain as decoration. To me, it almost looks like it’s covered in hundreds of broken tea sets!
If you visit these temples, remember to dress respectably. This means you must cover your shoulders and legs past the knee. These are some of the highest esteemed temples in Thailand, so you will be turned away if you don’t follow the rules.
After the temple hopping, we headed to Bangkok’s Chinatown
Across Chinatown, you will see signs for two of their most popular delicacies: bird’s nests and shark fin soup.
- Bird’s nests are made of dried and solidified bird saliva and often served in soup form. So yeah, it does sound a bit like a bowl full of bird saliva… While this might sound strange to those unfamiliar with the dish, many people will spend a small fortune to get their hands on bird’s nest. I’m talking thousands of pounds here! The health benefits are thought to boost the immune system, maintain youthfulness and aid recovery from chronic illness, amongst others.
- Shark fin soup is a considerably more controversial delicacy. The shark fin farming industry has received a myriad of criticism for their practises. They are known to cut the sharks’ fins off onboard following capture then discard the remainder of the shark in the ocean. However the demand in East Asia is huge and people are willing to pay over £100 for a bowl of soup. Unfortunately the current level of demand is hugely detrimental for shark populations threatening to even extinct certain species.
On a lighter note, people also flock to Chinatown for the street food stalls which line Yaowarat Road. Sampling different and diverse foods as you travel the length of the road seems like the thing to. Little did we know, this food fun is not open on Mondays. Guess which day we went to Chinatown… Yup, Monday.
Rather hungry by this point, we popped into the first restaurant we could find. Now I’m sure a lot of you have found this at home but Chinese restaurants can be really quite hit or miss. Unfortunately on this occurrence, we missed. Of all the choices in the huge, encyclopedia-sized menu, we sadly ended up with rather flavourless, uninspiring food. At least we learnt the lesson of not going to Chinatown on a Monday!
But don’t worry, there are some incredible food successes to come!