Bangkok, Thailand. When you think about Bangkok, what kinds of things do you imagine? I can say for certain that it included heavy partying, eating pad thai, and playing with elephants. While there are those things, I got to experience much, much more in Bangkok. Except for the elephants. Those aren’t in Bangkok. With the help of friends, I made the most of my five days in Bangkok mostly on my own. The first and foremost thing was of course, exploring all the different famous Buddhist temples. Temples and shrines in Japan are fairly plain, with wooden structures and stone statues inside. The temples here, however, are on a whole other level!
Chao Praya, the river that cuts through Bangkok and offers boat services to different temples.
One convenient and cheap (although difficult to navigate at first) method of traveling to all the different temples was by ship! There are several docks along Chao Praya that had different lines of boats leading to temples that lined the river. Each boat ride cost less than a $1 USD, and it was another interesting way of traveling. While there are many people on the ships, most of them were tourists also heading to the same temples as you. It was easy to find the temples once you reached the docks. Overall, I quite liked the experience of traveling by boat!
Inside the ship with plenty of seating.
On the first stop of my “temple run” I decided to stop at Wat Arun Ratchawararam. I couldn’t help compare the temple complex to look like the complexes I had seen at Angkor Wat in Cambodia, but way more ornate and highly embellished. I also thought about the temples and shrines I have seen in Japan and these Thai temples are the flashiest. The temple is known for its prang, also known as spires. These are the highly adorned structures featured in many Thai temples. I included a picture of one below this passage. However, Wat Arun was not as vast as the temple complexes like Angkor Wat, since it could take you a few minutes to walk around and take pictures of rather than hours and hours. Definitely a tourist spot! Not only can you visit the temple, but you can purchase souvenirs and food stalls.
Next to the spires was an ordination hall that is part of Wat Arun but part of a separate building structure. In front of the ordination hall are two warrior-looking guards that were also very embellished. They were very intimidating, but interesting to look at. Again, I am marveled by the things that humans are capable of creating.
Another stop on my temple run was Wat Pho, the great temple complex across the river from Wat Arun. Inside holds the famed Reclining Buddha, even more spires, and even more tourists. My favorite part was getting to look at even more embellished spires. These specific ones are full of flowers and so intricately decorated, here’s a picture I was able to get from all three of them:
Instantly the new background screen on my phone.
A photo I caught of someone working on the decoration of a statue in Wat Pho. I think he was adding jewels into the embellishments.
The outside of the building holding the Reclining Buddha.
A look at the Reclining Buddha from its toes. The entire statue is 46 meters long at 15 meters high. The reclining position meant that the Buddha reached nirvana, and this statue is one of many Reclining Buddhas are the world.
After visiting these two main temples complexes, I decided to walk around the area and eat at a cafe. After visiting a cafe, I ran into another temple complex, Wat Ratchabophit Sathitmahasimaram, which was not as full as the other places I’ve been to, but undeniably beautiful. The structures were built in much closer quarters than the other places I visited. It was refreshing to walk around a temple complex without there being a ton of tourists all over.
I am so fortunate to see how stunningly decorated these temple complexes are, and the one in Wat Ratchabophit Sathitmahasimaram takes the cake.
Another popular place to visit near all these temples is Chinatown. The entire neighborhood is full of stores and stalls for bargaining, shopping, and eating. The shops and food stalls were quite tightly packed and therefore, so were the people. Therefore I kept my backpack of important things in front of me to make sure I don’t get pickpocketed. I walked all around the neighborhood to see if I could find a good and cheap pair of sandals, which I did for 200 baht which is about $6 USD. I’m actually really bad at bargaining and feel bad for trying to get a lower price (why? I don’t know) so I tried this time but the lady selling the shoes was not having it. Regardless of my bad bargaining, I was really happy for the price of the shoes—I wore them almost every day after getting them. At least my comfort was worth the price.
There are lots of places to eat at Chinatown and it’s been recommended to me to eat there for dinner. The only thing, however, was that I didn’t want to stay out too late at night all by myself so I left before sunset. However, by the tons of restaurants I passed by on my way back to my hostel, there are a ton of places to eat at for all three meals in your day.
It’s amazing how almost every major city I’ve been to in the world has some kind of Chinatown.
Anyways, back to my temple run. I tried visiting the Grand Palace the other day after visiting Wat Arun but it turned out to be a Buddhist holiday that day so it was closed. The Grand Palace includes another temple complex as well as the royal palace. Aside from the main royal building, the other famous landmark there is the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. Inside the main praying hall there was a small emerald Buddha that I…missed? I stood inside the the main hall for a while to take in the whole setting, and I decided not to take pictures since it was prohibited and seemed to be more sacred than anywhere else on the temple complex. I don’t remember being able to see the Emerald Buddha in the least, maybe the lights were too low? I’m not sure. I forgot to go back inside to see it again. The outside of the temples, however, are incredibly elegant and worth the 500 baht ticket price (about $15 USD). Here are some pictures I took of the temple complex:
This golden spire was one of the highlights of my exploration of the Grand Palace.
Picture of my feet! Every time you enter a temple, you have to take off your shoes. I decided to take this picture because I loved the marble floor.
The exquisiteness of the temples leaves me speechless! I’ve never seen something like this.
A look at the royal palace grounds—with some more beautiful spires.
I asked one of my Thai friends what are some other great places to visit in Bangkok, and she mentioned the Floating Markets. There are many different kinds of floating markets, but she mentioned that the best one is the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market. I decided to get on a guided tour of the floating market and I was pleasantly surprised!
The market is more than an hour away from central Bangkok, so I met up with the tour group early one morning and we drove to a port that took us to the floating market by speed boat. It was exhilarating to ride on the boat and we were so close to the water that I was splashed a couple of times. On the ride towards the floating market we passed by neighborhoods of people who work and live in the floating village. The area was quiet and gorgeous, and I tried to imagine what it must be like to live in a place where the sidewalks are just waterways. We reached the entrance of the floating market and got off our speed boat. I was ready to explore the market!
The entrance of the Floating Market! Very distinct.
The Floating Market was full of people working and riding on their businesses—literally, people sold foods and souvenirs on boats and rowed around in order to sell their things. There was a market place surrounding the river, which was also full of foods and souvenirs. The entire floating market really lived up to its name!
A look of the floating market from above. So lively and colorful!
I got coconut ice cream served in a coconut! You can see the ice cream seller behind my coconut on his boat.
While I really enjoyed the floating market, there is much more to see beyond temples and shopping. I decided to visit another popular spot in the downtown area of Bangkok. Lumphini Park felt like the Central Park of Bangkok except I ran into these iguana-looking lizards while I strolled around the lake. I appreciated being away from the hustle of Bangkok for a little while. I could walk around these kinds of parks forever, I love to see the cityscape behind a flurry of trees and greenery.
I call this photograph a greenscape.
Another highly recommended place to visit in the downtown area is Bangkok Art and Culture Center. As an artsy person, I knew I had to visit any art galleries or museums I could. The Arts and Culture center had multiple exhibition spaces and is completely free! The inside of the arts and culture center was a spiral like the Guggenheim in New York City. It was nice to be inside in an air conditioned room appreciating art for once!
The view of the arts center from the train station above ground.
Now back to shopping, as Thailand is known for its massive luxurious shopping centers. Right in front of the Arts and Culture Center is the MBK center, one of the biggest shopping centers in Bangkok. At night, that entire area is lit up and full of screens.
A great place to explore at night! So many lights and screens with shopping centers full of clothing, souvenirs, and restaurants.
All around the MBK center are other shopping centers like Siam Square and the Siam Discovery Center, therefore there are lots of places to eat! One food I was suggested to eat is somtam, aka spicy papaya salad. Luckily there is a restaurant called Somtam that I could try out. Along with the somtam I had chicken wings, pork shaving, and hard boiled eggs. Aside form the wings, I had never eaten these foods before and I was not prepared for the spiciness. I had about two bottles of water to get through the entire dinner.
After the dinner, my friend suggested checking out After You, a chain dessert cafe that had a pretty long line before we were able to sit down. We ordered a french toast ice cream dish with ferrero rocher chocolates and a mountain of whipped cream. It was delectable, and something I’d like to recreate on my own at home.
What lovely (and spicy) spread!
I hadn’t eaten ferrero rochers in a while so I was excited to eat something with that particular chocolate candy flavor.
One of my favorite excursions while I was in Thailand was traveling to see the Maeklong Railway Market. The premise of this market is that sellers established their stalls and booths along the train tracks of the Maeklong Train Station and when the train enters the station and departs the station, the sellers remove their items and tables. They have created a unique system of moving their things according to when the train passes or not. In the tour I booked, we would be arriving to the market by train, and we would ride through the market to get to the station!
Our first stop was getting on to the train in Ban Kalong Station, and riding through the countryside before arriving at Maeklong Station. This train ride was one of the highlights of my entire trip! I got to see a little bit of the countryside, just a taste of the places beyond Bangkok. There were few tourists on this train, but was otherwise pretty empty. Once we got closer to Maeklong Station, is when we were able to poke our heads out the window and take a look at the market. Not only where there locals there watching the train move past, but also many, many tourists filming the train passing by. I couldn’t help but wave at them!
Once we got to Maeklong Station, we got to explore the market itself beyond the train tracks and see the kinds of things people sold and bought. I noticed a lot of fresh fruits and shrimp paste! There were also fresh cuts of meat and other groceries, but nothing really that I could take with me throughout the rest of my trip around Southeast Asia.
After walking on the tracks of the station for a little while, the vendors began to move their items out of the way. I tried to find a good spot to be able to see the train pass by, but admittedly there were a lot of tourists too, all trying to get a spot to best record and take pictures of the train moving past. While I admit that seeing a train pass through doesn’t seem like much of a spectacle, the fact that everyone was there to see this one thing made it feel more special than I had imagined. I also took my phone out to record, and soon after it was time to get going! I’m happy I got to see another side of Thailand during my trip around Bangkok. Next time, I would like to spend some more time in that area before leaving!
Waiting in this station for the train that will take us to Maeklong Station. We got to see some salt farms right next to the station.
A look outside my window of the countryside of Thailand!
Passing through the Railway Market! As you can see, it’s all in tight and close quarters…
The entrance of the station where the Railway Market is located.
Walking through the part of the market that isn’t located on the train tracks.
Walking through the market that is on the train tracks! You can tell how crowded and tightly compact this whole place was.
Alas, my time in the Kingdom of Thailand has ended. While I only really got to experience just a little bit of it, I know that I’ve got to come back. I keep finding myself ticking cities off of the list of placesI would like to visit, but every time I go somewhere, I end up just wanting to return again. Thailand is one of those places! I got to only see some parts of Bangkok all the way through. There were parts of my journey I hadn’t mentioned in this post, and that’s because I chose to mention the vey best parts. There’s so much to learn about this city. I’ll end this post with something interesting! One thing I had found out about Bangkok while researching things to do was visiting an abandoned apartment complex called the Sathorn Unique Building. Due to a financial crisis in Thailand in 1997, the housing complex was abandoned mid-construction, and it became a place where the homeless could stay, but it also became a notorious place where dead bodies were found. This doesn’t stop some travelers, however, since people have traveled all the way to the top to see incredible views of Bangkok and the Chao Praya river. I got to see the building pretty often since my hostel was nearby, and I thought it was so unique…although a little scary. If I were to come back with friend, I think I’d be interested in trying to see the building up close. So it’s facts like these that make Bangkok so interesting. It’s filled with art and delicious food and many adventures to be had!
An eerie-looking building…but nonetheless, interesting!