I finally managed to rescue the iPad from Pez’s clasp!!

Yesterday (Saturday 22nd) we had made plans to get up super early and do the tourist thing. We had been advised to do our sight seeing early before the heat and the hoards of people arrived. However, after a terrible nights sleep we woke up at 11 am and so had missed our free breakfast and well and truly missed our early start.

So, like the fools we are we set off in the heat of noon. After all the saying goes “only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun”. Our first mission was to hail a taxi from the main road. The taxi drivers are cunning and switch off their meter for white folk so they can charge astronomical prices. We were quoted 150 Baht (£3 approx.) which may sound reasonable but for the 4 minute journey we would pay no more than 30 Baht on the meter. We moved on and haggled a more acceptable 50 Baht and the driver dropped us right at the front gate of The Grand Palace. Pez nearly took the taxi drivers door off by trying to get out onto the main road rather than the pavement, but survived the ordeal.

The Grand Palace is a walled off area (218,000 square metres) in the centre of the old city where the Chakri dynasty used to reside. Now it is a tourist’s haven and a “hotel” for dignitaries visiting Thailand. The buildings, the palace and temples are breathtaking. Every inch is covered with gold and mosaic tiles of every colour. It is extremely well preserved and looked after. The entire interior of the wall surrounding the grounds is covered with an intricate mural, again in gold and fabulous colours. The main highlights were the Grand Palace itself, the Emerald Buddha and the coronation thrones, one made of gold, the other mother of pearl. The Emerald Buddha is housed in an ornate temple, sat high up on a shrine made of gold. Although the Buddha is relatively small it is astonishing that it is so old (discovered nearly 600 years ago) and made of solid jade. In the temple you were welcome, once your shoes were removed, to kneel and bow to the Buddha. Many were doing so, including a special area sectioned off for the Buddhist monks.

After walking the entire grounds and being bombarded with the locals on the tourist stands outside we walked around the walled palace to Wat Pho, which is the temple of the reclining Buddha. Again housed in a stunning gold temple (which seems too small to house it), this is the largest gold object I have ever seen. It is 46 metres long and 15 metres high, covered in gold leaf and mother of pearl at the head and feet and symbolises the passing of the Buddha into Nirvana.

We then returned to our hostel on Koh San Road as 3 or 4 hours in the heat was more than we could stand – air conditioning is the best invention ever!

We don’t know whether it was because we are hardened to the hassling by the locals or whether it was the Chang beer but we were more relaxed to wander up and down the Koh San Road and haggle for unwanted knock offs of which in the end we bought none. I desperately wanted a sun shade made of wood and paper like Geishas carry but Pez sensibly advised that they will be cheaper elsewhere. Besides he insisted that if I was allowed a Geisha’s brolly he was allowed a Geisha himself.

—–

Today we managed to wake up in time for our free breakfast. Hooray! Many had complained but we were pleasantly surprised by the real yummy coffee and 2 pieces of toast, as that’s about all you can eat in this heat.

We have taken up some excellent advice from Chris Whyld about staying at the Atlanta Hotel on Sukhumvit Road. It was an hour of sitting in hot, sticky, smog-filled traffic, but he was quite right, this place is an Oasis in Bangkok.

Stepping through the traditional glass doors was like stepping back in time. The foyer is decadent, dark, and red, and has black and white tiled flooring with a sweeping spiral staircase leading up to the rooms. The room is basic but we have a balcony and air-con once more. The real hidden treasure of this historic hotel (the first ever built in Bangkok in 1952) is the outside space. There are coca nut trees galore in a small canopy of jungle-like gardens where they are keeping pet turtles, the largest and oldest of which is called Archibald! Then on the other side of the jungle is the first ever swimming pool in Bangkok, which although we haven’t ventured into yet looks very tempting to get out of the 34 degree heat (and that’s in the shade!).

We sat quite happily soaking up the atmosphere and imagining the British 1950s holiday makers wandering the foyer listening to the wireless… I imagine we will be staying here more than 1 night.

Location:Sukhumvit Road,Thailand

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Peter Walker
    Oct 24, 2010 @ 04:35:53

    You want to get on the Singha’s. Don’t want to be dealing with Changovers.

    Reply

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