MARCH 16, 2016 (WEDNESDAY)
I was supposed to start my temple run day at 8AM but the bed was just too comfortable that I ended up having breakfast at 9:30AM. My first breakfast at Mooncome Homestay was spicy fried rice with pork bits and cucumber slices at the side. It was really delicious and quite spicy but still tolerable for me.
Before leaving, I made sure I was wearing appropriate clothes for visiting the temples i.e., no shorts or skimpy skirts, no sleeveless tops. If you forget about this rule, do not fret since there are a lot of stores and vendors near Grand Palace that sells scarves and cover-ups.
I left the house a few minutes before 10AM and I knew that I would end up regretting not going to the palace at the start of its opening hours. I consulted Google Maps to check how to reach Grand Palace but all suggested directions had a bus involved. Good thing I decided to search and found in the official BTS website that I should get off at Saphan Taksin (change lines from Siam Station).
Upon getting off at Saphan Taksin (Exit No. 2), looking for CHAO PRAYA EXPRESS was easy since there were signs on how to get there. I bought a ticket to Maharaj Pier (No. 9) so that I could reach Grand Palace. Ticket price is 150 baht.
I was lucky enough to score a seat that was away from the shade of the sun but still had a good view of the sights we would see during the ride.
When we reached Pier No. 9, I walked quickly since I saw the tourists ahead of me being approached by different locals who were selling tour services. After a few minutes of walking, I already saw the walls surrounding the Grand Palace. I went to the side and after some more walking, I figured out that I was at the wrong side and entrances are usually at the center part.
True enough it was at the center part… and yes, I regretted coming there “late” because the crowd was insanely huge. So having lots of people there plus the unbearable heat of the sun (almost 40C) was a bad start to my day.
I paid 500 baht for the entrance fee, which also includes access to WAT PHRA KAEW, The Royal Thai Decorations & Coins Pavilion, and Queen Sirikit Museum of Textile. I had no map and no tour guide so I do not know if I visited all of these. I was only sure with Wat Phra Kaew.
Despite the number of people inside GRAND PALACE (wouldn’t be surprised if it was more than 1,000), the structures and intricate details, wall paintings, statues, and worshipping areas were breathtaking and jaw-dropping. Similar to what I did in Angkor Park temples, if an English tour guide was nearby, I would stop and listen to what s/he was telling the tourists to check if I would pick up any interesting historical details.
It took me around 2 hours to check out both Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew. I was forced to buy cold coffee milk to quench my thirst since the stalls I passed by were not selling bottled water anymore (sold out!!!). Towards the end of my visit, there was a cafeteria-like place that had plenty of bottled water so I rushed there to buy one.
It was already past 12PM by the time I made it outside Grand Palace. Hooray for lesser people! I passed by a fish ball noodle store while checking out where to eat. I did not go inside at first since I thought there were other more interesting stores along the area but I was mistaken.
The weather probably made me insane enough to order soup in the middle of the sweltering heat (and apparently it was not even summer!!!). But I did not regret it since it was really delicious and filling enough for just 40 baht.
By the time I finished my lunch, the heat was already a killer outside. I checked how much the tuktuk was offering for a ride to Wat Pho — 100 baht which was very unreasonable because the place was just 10 minutes away if I decided to walk. Since I thought that taxi would be cheaper, I rode one. The driver did not leave the place right away and instead talked to me about road rules. I was already annoyed at that point so I asked him to just drive and turn on the meter. He told me he would charge flat rate of 200 baht instead. I could not hide my annoyance anymore so I left the cab right away and heard him bringing down the price to 150 baht.
In the end, I walked for about 10 minutes and finally saw WAT PHO. It was like seeing an oasis in the middle of the desert. LOL. When I entered, it was a relief to see very few people in Wat Pho. I guess everyone was still having lunch and taking a break from the heat. Entrance fee is 100 baht.
The highlight of this place was the reclining Buddha in gold color. Upon entering the area with the reclining Buddha, there were less than 10 people inside so I was able to peacefully go around and fully admire it.
The place had a lot more to offer aside from the reclining Buddha. I liked looking up every time I enter a building because I could see more details and art even on their ceilings. In fact, all parts of the building had a lot of intricate details carved or painted.
There was also an area where there were a lot of golden Buddha statues which, according to a tour guide, were dedicated to donors and monks who died.
After going around Wat Pho, I walked to Tha Thien pier to ride a boat that would take me to the other side where Wat Arun was. The boat ride was just less than 10 baht.
Prior to my flight to Bangkok, I read in TripAdvisor that WAT ARUN was under restoration so climbing to the topmost area was prohibited. This was supposed to be my last stop for sunset viewing but because of this information, I decided to just go there after Wat Pho. The only downside of visiting here at early afternoon was that I felt the full strength of the sun, especially since there was no any form of shade present there.
I did not let the ongoing restoration stop me from visiting… which turned out to be a good decision because one could still admire the structures, details, and other works of art here. I only saw less than 5 tourists during my visit. Everyone was probably avoiding the heat of the sun since it was around 2PM. Entrance fee is just 50 baht.
Because of the intense heat, I left the place after around 30 minutes to grab some snacks and cold refreshment. I rode the same boat to take me back to Tha Thien pier. Near the pier, there were a lot of street food stores and vendors. I went to the vendors I passed by when I was just about to go to Wat Arun.
They were selling all sorts of street food that can be placed on a stick. I was tempted to buy squid but I was not sure of the freshness so I bought chicken balls and shrimp (which was actually fake — think crab stick) then went to the nearby park to eat.
I checked out how far WAT SUTHAT was from the park and it was about a 20-30 minute walk. I decided to get a cab and the two drivers I met were charging me 200 baht (parang sa Manila lang). The third taxi I hailed charged me 100 baht and at that point, I already agreed since I would not walk that long under the unbearable heat.
A few hundred meters away from the temple, I already saw the GIANT SWING so I knew that the driver was taking me to the correct place. The area was much quieter than the one with Grand Palace and Wat Pho.
Entrance fee to the temple is 20 baht only. There were only 2 tourists and inside the worshipping area were purely locals. I stayed there for almost an hour to pass the time since I had one temple left before going to Thip Samai (opens at 5PM).
My last temple stop was WAT RATCHANATDARAM, which houses LOHA PRASAT. Google Maps was not functioning well around the Wat Suthat area so I had this feeling that I was already lost. I saw Mont Nom Sod in the map, which was recommended to me by a close friend. My original plan was to eat in the MBK branch but since I was nearby, I decided to look for it… which I did not find.
I looked again at the map and decided to make a guess on my route. When I saw a 7/11 store, I decided to go there to buy a cold bottle of water. And before I entered, I was surprised to see a sign that points where Wat Ratchanatdaram was and the distance left. I was happy to know that my guessed route was correct.
Lo and behold, I finally reached Wat Ratchanatdaram after some minutes of walking (also passed by Thip Samai so I had an idea where to go after). Entrance fee here is free. Before entering Loha Prasat, I saw a tourist approaching me with a map and I thought to myself that he probably thinks I am a local. So, I told him that I was a tourist but he probably did not hear that because he asked if the place was Wat Pho. I replied no and pointed in his map where he was. He was surprised that I spoke fluent English, and asked how to get there. Uhm, I am not a local… but I still showed him the route and told him to just take a cab since the temple would be closing for the day soon.
At the ground floor of Loha Prasat, there was an exhibit that shows the history of the place. After going around, there is a staircase near the exit which I decided to climb. Each floor actually represents a state of Nirvana, and has instructions on how to meditate or walk around the floor. It was difficult to get in the zone though since the place was under construction.
I did not know what was at the topmost floor so I was surprised that it led to the rooftop. I was seeing face-to-face with the spires of Loha Prasat. I also had a good view of the city and it was just breathtaking. There were only 2 locals around so it was quiet at the rooftop. At one side, there is a small flight of stairs that leads to a Buddha relic which has a prayer, written in both Thai and English language.
While it does not attract a huge number of visitors, Wat Ratchanatdaram + Loha Prasat are now part of my favorite temples because of the serene atmosphere. I bet the different floors would look even better once the construction/restoration is done.
After Wat Ratchanatdaram, I walked to THIP SAMAI and saw a crowd outside. I was puzzled with this because it was just 5PM and supposedly people would start coming at 6PM onwards. It turned out that the place was just about to open so when I reached the entrance, the staff motioned to us that we could already enter.
Thip Samai is dubbed as the restaurant that offers the best pad thai in Bangkok… Not sure if this is true though since some locals I talked to told me the pad thai tastes good but not necessarily the best out there.
I ordered Superb Pad Thai since this one has pieces of shrimp. My only worry was that the serving was big but I was able to finish everything. Probably famished from all the walking I did after lunch. My verdict? The pad thai was really delicious but I am not sure if this was the best since I had no other point of comparison in BKK anyway.
After eating, I took a cab outside the restaurant so that I could go to a BTS station. It was a relief that the driver did not charge me flat rate!
When I got back home, I grabbed some free snacks and took these to my room just in case I would get hungry. Called it off a night quite early so that I could have a looooong sleep.
LINKS TO OTHER BANGKOK 2016 POSTS: