Wat Pho and around the way…in Krung Thep–the City of Angels

On my last day in Bangkok, I had some free time.  The lovely lady with whom I had happily spent most of my time in Bangkok could not see me due to family obligations and then work.  So…I had to entertain myself.  I arose early and took the BTS to the Chao Phraya river.   Walked to the pier and boarded the river bus to cruise up to Wat (Temple) Pho.  I’ve visited this temple on numerous occasions.  Usually alone, sometimes accompanied by friends like Becca.  It’s one of my favorite places in the City of Angels.

The grand and golden reclining Buddha of Wat Pho.  Magnificent.  A site to behold.  I’ve posted about it before.

These are the pics of my morning.

Probably come back and write more later…

A view of Bangkok

Over the past few years, I’ve had several conversations with folks back in the States about Thailand. I’ve found that there is a common misconception that Thailand is a backward Third World country. People seem to have this idea in their head that Thailand and it’s capital city, Bangkok, is nothing more than a small backwater with a few hundred prostitutes, a couple of Buddhist Temples and not much more. I get this glazed look from folks when I tell them that Bangkok is a modern city that is larger than most US cities.

Reality. Thailand is a modern country. Bangkok is an ultra-modern city.

Bangkok or Krung Thep as it is called in Thai is the 22nd largest city on the planet. It is home to an estimated 15 to 20 Million Thais and foreign guests. It’s historical and cultural attractions make it one of the most popular destinations in all of Asia. It is the major Asian Business, travel and tourism hub.

That’s just the beginning. A trip to Bangkok is a visit to one of the most visually stimulating cities on the planet. It’s BTS Sky Train system makes the city easily accessible. The Chao Phraya river adds to both the beauty and accessibility of the city. One can travel the Chao Phraya river and see some of the most incredible and beautiful sites in all of Asia. Wat Arun, the Canals, the early morning floating marke, The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew as well as numerous other Wats (Temples), Cathedrals, Mosques. Magnificent Statues. Crocodile and Monkey farms. Most of the major hotel chains of the World find their home right along the Chao Phraya. The Hilton. The Sheraton. The Shangri La. Sofitel. In addition, there are innumerable wonderful B&Bs, Guesthouses and Boutique Hotels all along the river and throughout the city from Silom to Sukhumwit to Sathon and Petchaburi.

The city has a magnficent night life with numerous restarurants, bars, discotheques. There is something for every taste in Bangkok. Shopping at Siam, Silom, Pratunam. There are numerous cinemas which play both Thai and Hollywood films. There is a huge Chinatown. Little Arabia is along Thanon Sukhumwit at Soi 3.

Of course, there are Patpong, Nana and Soi Cowboy and the infamous sex districts. Patpong was a bit of a surprise for me. I ventured into the place without knowing where I was. Of course, I had heard of Patpong. I expected something completely different. I was with a Thai friend shopping along Silom Road. We walked along the road and through a maze of street vendors selling everything from beer and t-shirts to Thai Silk and tailored suits. We turned down into a larger maze of stalls and shops and, though I didn’t know it, we entered Patpong. We’re walking through the stalls and there are little blonde haired Aussie and British and Swedish children all about. I’m looking at a stall with t-shirts when I hear techno music. I turn towards the music and not more than 8 feet behind me is an open door through which one can plainly see half naked girls shaking her little Thai booties to the music. Surrounding the whole Nightmarket are Go Go Bars and all manner of Red Light shows. It was quite surreal to see all of these little Western Children and their Mothers shopping in the midst of what amounts to a sexual Disney land. I started laughing and my Thai friend looks at me and asks what it is that I find so funny. I just point to a huge Go Go sign and then to a blonde lady carrying her baby. She shrugs her shoulders as if to say; “And?” It was quite the contrast. And no one seemed to mind or pay it any attention.

Thailand is a land of contrast. None more striking than Bangkok. Pornography and prostitution is illegal in Thailand. Drugs are illegal in Thailand. Even so, there is a thriving sex industry in Bangkok that centers on these three areas–Na Na, Soi Cowboy and Patpong. You see old pot bellied men walking around these districts with sexy, slinky little Thai girls who are a 3rd their age. It’s quite a site.

Sex is not the only attraction to Bangkok.

For those who are more culturally minded, there are numerous cultural sites. Beautiful Temples and Palaces. Wat Arun, Wat Pho, Wat Phra Kaew also known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and the Grand Palace being the most famous. The famous backpacker district known as Khaosan Road. Full of global travelers. You will meet folks from every corner of the world. Folks of all ages. I’ve met women in the 60s amongst the Khaosarn trekkers. Africans, Israelis, Euros, Arabs, Brazilians, Argentinians, Aussies and Americans. Singles, friends in twos, threes and larger groups, couples, families. Any combination imaginable. If you find yourself at Khaosarn someday, make sure to stop by Gullivers. You can’t miss it. Over the entrance hangs a Tuk Tuk.

Tuk Tuks are the three wheeled open air taxis that are ubiquitous in Bangkok. Be careful to arrange your price before getting into one of these for a ride you won’t soon forget. It’s a must have experience when visiting Bangkok.

Bangkok is a phenomenal experience. If you aren’t careful, you’ll find yourself enchanted or even addicted to the city. I know I fell for it’s charms. I love Bangkok. Might even make it my home someday.

The pictures below are the view from my hotel room in the Landmark Hotel. Landmark Hotel is downtown on Thanon Sukhumwit. It’s a great hotel. Not too pricey. Central to Bangkok. Easy access to the BTS. Close to numerous popular clubs and bars.

The official name of Bangkok:

Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Yuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit

It’s listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the longest city name in the world. The short name is Krung Thep which translates to “City of Angels.”

Wat Pho — The Temple of the Reclining Buddha

Across the river from Wat Arun is Wat Pho (Wat Phra Chetuphon). Another of my favorite tourist stops in Bangkok. The Reclining Buddha. Golden. Majestic. At 15 Meters high and 46 Meters long, it is the largest reclining Buddha in Thailand. The Temple is beautiful and peaceful even with the thousands of tourists who visit each week. The temple also houses over 1000 Buddha images on it’s grounds. The most of any temple in Thailand.

The Temple serves as the the official Thai Center for Traditional Medicine and Massage. You can get a massage here for around 200 baht. But be careful. Traditional Thai Massage is a fairly rugged experience. It’s not for the faint of heart and you may come out feeling a little sore. Even so, you’ll feel refreshed. I usually opt for the foot and leg massage at other outlets. Nothing better than a relaxing hour long massage of your feet and legs after 8 hours of tourist treks through the hundreds of incredible sites in Bangkok.

Not too far away is Wat Phra Kaew. The Temple of the Emerald Buddha and the Grand Palace. If you make it to Bangkok. Don’t miss these magnificent structures. They are incredible.

As you make your way to these three sites, you are likely to be approached by seemingly genuine folks who will attempt to steer you to other destinations. It’s a scam. Usually involving gems or a tailor shop. A nice fellow will approach you and give you advice on different sites to see in Bangkok. Then he’ll ask you where you are headed–even though it’s obvious that you are headed toward Wat Pho or the Emerald Buddha. They’ll tell you that these sites are closed for a holiday or for cleaning or some ceremony. Then they will steer you toward a “random” Tuk Tuk who will take you to another Temple. BUT along the way, you should stop at a Jewelry Store or a Gem Shop or Tailor Shop. It’s a scam. These places will attempt to overcharge you in the hundreds of dollars for Jewelry. The Tailor Shops will attempt to charge two to three times the amount of other Tailor shops. Don’t fall for it. There are hundreds of quality tailor shops around Bangkok that have reasonable prices and the more you purchase, the better the bargain. I was lucky. The first time I visited Bangkok, I met a Thai girl who took me to Wat Pho and the Grand Palace. One of the touts attempted to approach us, she yelled at him and warned me about the scam.

The last time that I visited Bangkok and Wat Pho, I ran across a tout hitting up three Japanese girls. So I stopped and watched for a minute or two. Let the guy run his scam and then stepped up and told the girls what the tout was doing to them. He had actually tried to take them on a trek around the city to make it to a Temple that was a few hundred feet away. I laughed and then pointed the girls in the proper direction. The tout got pretty angry and made as if he was going to get violent. I laughed at him and lunged back and he ran off. It was pretty funny and I felt pretty good after helping those three girls out. One of them was actually cute. lol

When I gave Becca the grand tour of Bangkok, one of the touts got us and pulled the Jedi Mind Trick on us. We almost fell for it. But came to our senses and walked on to the Grand Palace and Emerald Buddha.