I decided to cram everything I wanted to do into the one day. Turns out, my Bangkok tourist friends have everything in place for me to do that, superb!
About a 750 yard walk out the gaff, heading to Sala Doeng Sky Train station, it’s proper beeling for 9.30am and I’ve left without the trusty sun tan lotion my good friends at work bought for me. No going back now, times precious. Quick stop for a Café Latte and I’m good to go. 3 stops on the Sky train at a cost of about 60P and I’m at the bay baby.
I follow the crowd who drift by the hawks offering different boats until you get to the official Chao Phraya Tourist Boat and my One Day River past. The cost for one single journey to any stop is 50 baht. To put that in context, the day pass costs 180 baht. £4 folks for unlimited boat travel up and down the Chao Phraya river. If you compare that to the cost of a pint of Stella or Cider @ 295 baht, there’s no comparison and who needs drink?
I buy my ticket and get a doozy travel guide along with it, talk about a bargain. I’m ushered straight onto a boat, while others wait in a queue, seems strange? If you have single journey tickets, yer last on the boat matey and therefor you don’t get the best seats – tất cả trên tàu.
Going since 1971, the express boat co has a fleet of 65 boats, carrying around 34-40k passengers each day, wow! That’s about 13 million per year neebs and it’s done with military precision. Be ready to get off and on as it stops for about 5 seconds, with 3 whistles quickly blown. There’s 9 piers serviced, covering all the tourist attractions from The Grand Palace to markets, shopping malls, Chinatown and a couple of doozy museums, my stop in number 6 – Wat Arun Pier.
Wat Arun hosts the Temple of Dawn (not DT tho), which dominates the north Bank of the River. Built from 1809 through to 1851 and over the term of two Kings, the central tower is 76 meters high and at the top is decorated by thousands of tiny seashells. I’m was thinking as I was reading this out of the book, they must have run out of money cos it took so long, so they finished it with what they had to hand.
Arun means morning and the temple is best viewed at dawn or sunset – we’ll I’m here now. It’s mesmerizing. There are multiple entrances to step up the tower, each guarded by two Jan Kurek like chaps. The detail involved, so intricate, I’m staring at it for ages. Check this guy, check the next guy and the next – all identical. It’s not just the main tower that’s there. Many temples and gardens to lose yourself in for a day. Shoes off for the prayer rooms to pay your respects.
The thing I found most interesting was that there are man/woman sized statues in some mini temple squares. Each with about 100 statues going around the square and under each people are remembered, with photo’s – I like that, bit watery in the eyes, wishing I learnt more before I came. Quick 25p for a very chilled bottle of water, I head off to the local ferry to the other side of the river, it costs 4baht – 10p.
Markets as soon as you get off the boar selling, juice, water, ice cream and all manor of cloth, bags, bracelets, fridge magnets etc; get you spending candy early doors. It’s a 2 minute walk to my next stop but I go for a wander to get some local lunch. Some fish Khao Gang, which is a fish curry with rice is on the go from a street vendor, who has some tables and chairs at the side of a building and I’m in about it. I did not know till later there was a big fish market round the back called Tha Tien famous for its dried fish, which is where all the cats kept coming from.
Off to Wat Pho I go. It’s a 46-meter-long reclining Buddha statue housed in its ordination hall. Quick note, I had to look up Buddha, to make sure I was spellin it right. £2.50 to get in and you get a free bottle of water. The locals get in free with their ID card. There’s a wee temple at the start and a bit of history. Then come the many gardens, fountains, halls and temples round the back. Some of the same decoration as over the river, but there’s so many and sooo interesting.
The ordination hall is packed and why not, but to be honest I was a bit underwhelmed. I had got chatting to this lass Joyce outside who was also on her todd. Now there’s a name nobody uses anymore – Joyce. I was giving it big licks as you have to take off your shoes, which is fine by me, but you have to put them in a red plastic bag and carry that round with you until you come out. Think about how many bags are used and sent to landfill and think of the planet. Anyway, Joyce thought it was great to get her shoes off and give her tootsies a well deserved airing. Her words by the way neighbour.
We wander round and its massive alright, but nothing special methinks. I get a few shots and head out. I tap Joyce for some knowledge about the Grand Palace and she said its no great, plus its jam packed when you in like sardines and to give it a miss. I head back a couple of piers, cos I can, I have a day ticket. Stop off and wander round Chinatown, which the booklet said was the first place many Chinese immigrants settles on arrival. god how they have thrived since judging by the stalls. Nothing special at some medicine I’m thinking of buying for my dodgy knee, Tiger Balm, have you heard of it?
I’m back on the boat after a great day, thinking of walking back to the gaff as well, which takes me about 2 hours (couple of pint stops mind you), but I get to see some parts which is not necessarily Go Go bars and lady boys. It’s the big hands you need to watch out for and not the adams apple. It’s interesting, I was told many of them can’t get normal jobs, but I’ve seen one cutting hair and another on a make up counter. Hard to tell tho.