We ended Monday night with the most virtuous of intentions, made flesh in the form of an alarm set for 6 am the next morning. The idea was to get up bright and early, figure out how to get to the Grand Palace from our hotel (public transport links seemingly pretty poor) and be there by the time it opened at 8:30, to beat the crowds, the heat and the ticking clock.
What actually happened in the morning was that Jules turned the alarm off and I woke up at 8.15. Oh well, best laid plans of mice and men and all that. The pace of the morning did not exactly pick up from there, and by the time we got ready and ate breakfast, it was 10 am and our early bird dreams were dust.
Lacking the energy to come up with a creative way to get to the palace, we just hopped in a taxi for another frustratingly slow ride across the city. I will stop complaining about Brussels traffic after experiencing Bangkok! (Well, at least for a month!) That is, when we found a taxi that would take us. The first two wanted to take us on a "tour" of the city (including the "best tailor in Bangkok" aka the tailor with the best kickbacks for that particular taxi driver in Bangkok). Unable to agree either a price or a route, we were left walking along the road until we managed to flag another one down. This one was snacking on some sort of strong-smelling curry mix, which made me feel sick, but at least he took us straight to our destination instead of holding us hostage for the entire morning in a cheap tailor's.
We had changed plans over breakfast, daunted by the size and alleged crowds of the Grand Palace. Instead, we went virtually next door to Wat Pho, home of the 46 metre long Reclining Buddha. This massive, gold, reclining (yes) statue is definitely a sight to behold. Housed in a small temple not much bigger than the Buddha himself, he perhaps seems all the larger for the intimate setting which enables you to get glimpses of the different parts of his body between the pillars, before squeezing through the crowds for a perspective on the whole statue. For crowds there were also at this temple, manically taking photos and selfies at every turn (us very much included, as you will see). As you can also see, I was a hot mess in here, unbelievably hot and sweaty and limp haired.
|Jules and Buddha's pillow|
|Crowds in the narrow temple|
|Pots for offerings to the shrine|
It was a nice surprise, since we hadn't done too much research on the place, that there was a lot more to see besides the Reclining Buddha (although you couldn't really ask for much more for the 2.50 entry fee). You couldn't go into many more of the buildings, but it was wonderful wandering around the grounds and seeing all the beautiful temples. This was my first trip to Asia, despite it being very popular for young Kiwi backpackers, and I don't have much knowledge of or exposure to Asian cultures. Obviously it looked more or less like what I might have imagined, I have seen some photos and artworks etc., but for me at least there was a sense of experiencing something new and different that I wouldn't necessarily have visiting a European church. The colours and the intricacy of the carvings was beautiful, and there was also a general sense of harmony and visual interest in the way the complex was laid out, particularly the "forests" of chedi (small mound-shaped temples).
|I made a monkey friend|
|And a lion (?) friend|
|Smaller than the Reclining Buddha, but probably a lot bigger than it looks here|
|Jules got a fancy new camera, so expect a lot more depth of field from here in|
We could definitely have spent longer walking around, and it was a shame we missed out on the Grand Palace and the other important temples, but we were really glad that we got to go there and see Wat Pho. And once you got out of the temple with the Reclining Buddha, it wasn't so hot or crowded.
We had begged the hotel for a late check-out, so we could leave our bags in the room and come back for a quick shower and a change of clothes before heading to the airport, so we had to be on our way at about 12.15. Another semi-frustrating taxi ride back later, we got ready and were downstairs for the hotel shuttle back to the airport train at 2 pm. We were quite early for our plane, but between some pretty decent Thai food for lunch (finally a dish with plenty of coriander, it was strangely lacking from the other meals we had), picking up our bags from the left luggage and checking in, and doing some window shopping in the many airport stores, the time passed quickly.
We're in Auckland now, it's the middle of the night and I can't sleep. We arrived to grey, rainy, windy weather, with the city not looking its best, although it has cleared a lot now and I can see the city lights out the window of my parents' house. We didn't sleep a wink on the flight, and the plane was a bit smaller and more cramped than the first one (and with worse seat-back TV screens). Still, the break in Bangkok helped - unfortunately, we don't have a stopover on the way back, and the flights are an hour longer each, so there's 28 hours of fun to look forward to.