We took a slight detour from our plans to go to South East Asia and both headed home for a month to spend some time with our families after our South American adventure. This was a both a good and a bad thing; good because we were able to spend some downtime with the folks, get in a lot of home cooked meals and try digest what we had been thorough during those incredible 5 months through the fascinating continent that is South America; bad because you quickly become comfortable in your own bed and forget that soon you’ll be back on the road always alert, always wondering where you’ll be sleeping that night or even when your next meal will be. I think I miss my parent’s fridge more than anything… but then you start packing again and that über excitement comes back and before we knew it we were back in London for a crazy weekend with mates then on a plane to Bangkok for the beginning of the SE Asia leg of our round the world trip!
Feeling fresh, clean shaven and prepared for Bangkok is one thing but without ever visiting this city before one can never be fully prepared for what it’s really like. And I loved it!
Stepping off the plane the first thing you feel is the intense heat and humidity. Coming from a London winter made it even more of a shock so the layers came off quickly. We caught a train from the airport to the end-of-the-line Phaya Thai station and then a cab into the old part of town. Fortunately I’d read a bit about the scams people sometimes pull on tourists so when the taxi driver said it’ll be 300 Baht I insisted he run the meter and even after driving us the long way round the ride only came to 90 Baht. Ian 1 – BKK 0 🙂
We hadn’t yet arranged a hostel for the night so we just made our way to the very popular Khao San rd in the old part of town. There are plenty of hostels and hotels there so finding a place to stay just off the main road was easy. Adjusting to the heat wasn’t and with a bit of jet lag we slept through most of the first day and woke up later that evening to walk around and find some dinner. Well walking out into Khao San road around 10pm was an experience in itself. The multitudes of bars, restaurants and shops had all spilled out into the road with its bright lights and people touting everything from beautiful cheap clothing to tailored suits, fresh coconut shakes to scorpions on a skewer, yummy Pad Thai noodles to flying lights to tattoos and minion balloons. That, together with the music pumping out the clubs and live gigs in most restaurants, and the hordes of tourists from all over the world makes for one fascinating experience that has to be seen to be believed.
Wat Arun – Temple of Dawn
Not wanting to spend much time in Bangkok, as we’ll certainly be passing through here again, our next morning we made arrangements to catch the overnight train up to Chiang Mai. Word of advice here – book your ticket as far in advance as possible as it’s not easy arranging same day or even next day tickets in peak season. We found tickets but not at the times we wanted and also way at the back of the train.
This left us with an afternoon to see what we could of the city. As the Grand Palace closed at 3:30pm and we missed that we made our way down the river to Wat Arun, the Temple of Dawn. Getting there was fun. An easy walk north from Khao San road takes you to the Phra Athit Pier where you can catch a ferry down river to Wat Arun and many other attractions. We mistakenly got off a stop earlier and wondered into what seemed like a locals market as we were the only foreigners around. Among the fresh fruit and veg were also live water snakes and turtles for sale along with loads of other natural herbs and remedies. There was an interesting temple complex there and after wandering around a bit we caught a tuk-tuk through some crazy traffic to our destination. The Temple of Dawn is named after Aruna, the Indian God of Dawn. Towering over 70m high it is largely considered one of the most beautiful temples in Thailand. I agree…
After watching a beautiful sunset over the river with the temple’s silhouette creating the perfect backdrop we headed back up river to Khao San for another night of crazy. The following morning we grabbed some fresh watermelon and pineapple for breakfast from one of the many street vendors and made our way to the Hua Lamphong Railway Station to catch our 16 hour (which turned out to be 18 hour!) train up north to the charming Chiang Mai.