Heather's Thairy

Heather's journey to Bangkok, Thailand: a year of adventure!

Sunday, August 06, 2006

A Grand Day Out

Last weekend Steph, Catherine, Amber and I were taken touring around Bangkok by Zinc, a oh-so-sweet Thai staff member who has a very good knowledge of English. She took us to Grand Palace, Wat Phra Kaew, a great Indian restaurant, a floating market and on a river tour.

Zinc is so cute- she's this tiny wisp of a person but she's strong and agile. She's also wearing a bandaid on her forehead. Thai people don't have any problem putting bandages on their faces- which makes sense, really; you have a cut on your skin, put a bandaid on it. Doesn't matter where...

We took a boat to get to Grand Palace. It's inexpensive and quite nice (though crowded). The fresh air and breeze is a welcome change from the fakey air-conditioned atmosphere of a cab or the polluted choke of a tuk tuk.

Some of the buildings along the river are quite impressive...

...while others are not. This building (a house?!?!) was falling into the river.

The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew are located together. They are a busy attraction; shorts and sleeveless shirts are not allowed. It was funny watching people get pulled aside and told to go to the change rooms to borrow clothing. I was surprised how many Thai people had come unprepared; the majority of people not appropriately dressed were foreigners, though.

There are massive sentinels guarding the entrance to the temple. Zinc told us legends about Thailand's history- stories of giants and magic and love.

The wat and the Grand Palace are apparently very old, but they are constantly maintained and restored. While we were there we spotted a man in the process of painting a new mural for the wall.

The architecture of the temple is incredibly intricate and beautiful. Everything is spotless and glittering and looks amazing. There is so much to see- it is almost overwhelming.

There is a sand castle-like sculpture in the middle of the temple grounds which is apparently a recreation of the original Wat in Chaing Mai. "Phra Kaew" means Emerald Buddha; the Emerald Buddha now residing in Bangkok used to be on display in Chaing Mai in a different Wat.

The Emerald Buddha, who is actually made of dark green jade, sits atop an elabourate throne in this building. Cameras are not allowed inside. The Emerald Buddha is not very large but it is very beautiful: it wears golden clothing that the King changes with the seasons. Zinc told us that "He wears a rain coat in the rainy season, cool weather clothing in the cold season and hot clothing in the summer months".

The Wat was incredible and full of mystery. Even with Zinc as our guide, it seemed that there was so much about Wat Phra Kaew that we have yet to discover...

We could only view the outside of the Grand Palace, which was quite impressive. I'm not really sure what function the Grand Palace has- if the King and the Royal Family actually ever reside there, or if it is used for government purposes, or if it is simply a spectacular symbol.

The Palace has guards similar to those in England- they work half hour shifts and are not allowed to move at all. We all shouted and laughed when we saw a guard (not this one) move his arm (probably because some nasty bug landed on him). Zinc joked that we should call his boss. I felt sort of bad for the guards- they must be incredibly hot and uncomfortable, especially with tons of tourists taking ridiculous pictures with them.

After the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew, we went for a really good lunch at Roti Mataba, which is actually featured in the Lonely Planet Bangkok guide. For good reason, too: although cramped, hot, and with questionable service, the food was absolutely delicious.

After lunch, we took another boat over to a sort of back-alley neighbourhood that led to the floating market. It didn't even seem like we were in Bangkok anymore- I felt like we had been transported to an entirely different country. We walked through narrow paths behind houses and shops; it was quiet and the air was thick with strange smells. The people stared and everything seemed really different.

When we emerged, it was clear we hadn't left Bangkok after all, and we found the floating market after a short taxi ride. It wasn't as we had imagined- it was only a few food boats lined up along a makeshift eating area. Apparently, Thailand had only one true floating market leftm about two hours outside of Bangkok. I'm not sure that the floating market holds a lot of appeal to me; it's a sort of strange novelty that doesn't seem all that practical or exciting. It also seems like a prime opportunity for food poisoning and dropping things into the water.

From the floating market we took a long boat through the canals on a little tour to the Orchid Farm and to feed the fish. Our guide gave a history of the area in Thai, which Zinc translated for us. We suspect he said a lot more than she was willing to translate- we were pretty sure he was trying to pick her up because she would laugh and blush, and when we asked her what he said she would say "Oh that house is in the classic Thai style". Right. Why would that make her giggle?

The Orchid Farm was pretty. It is amazing how many of these flowers are grown here, how they flourish and are so inexpensive. There were many different varieties in the gardens; apparently the owners do a lot of hybridization and create new flowers frequently.

Orchids are grown without soil here- the roots hang loose under the plant suspended in the air. The roots are misted everyday. I have no idea how to care for orchids back home but I don't recall them being without soil...just another testament to how much more moisture there is in the air here.

The boat stopped at a place where we could purchase loaves of bread to feed to the fish, who gathered around the boat in hundreds. The fish seemed to be some kind of catfish, and were at least a foot long. There were so many gaping mouths and flopping tails around the boat...it was a bit disconcerting. We all dared each other to jump in the water, or at least stick our hands in, but we were all pretty grossed out. Zinc put her hand in. I felt kind of stupid.

It was a busy and exciting day in Bangkok with Zinc as our energetic and informative tour guide. It's so great to get out in the city- often we just want to leave because of the pollution or how busy it gets, but on weekends when we have to stay it's nice to know that there are wonderful things to do right here in Bangkok.

Until next time,


  • At 6:25 PM, Blogger ViciousTim said…

    The thai uniform actually looks not too bad. And the hat would actually help with the sun, unlike the british mop-hat.

    Not saying "sign me up!" tho.


Post a Comment

<< Home