28 March 2010
Our second day in Bangkok started quite early; we managed to get up before 8 in the morning and headed down to the lobby of our hostel. Breakfast there (consisting of bread, fruits and coffee) was quite expensive (200 BHT if I remember it correctly) – this was why we bought instant noodles the previous night in Khao San Road. The staffs didn’t have a problem giving us hot water for our noodles. As a return gesture, I ordered myself some freshly brewed coffee. We spent at least half an hour in the lobby, eating, checking mail and asking with the hotel staffs regarding direction of places we wanted to visit.
It was almost 9 in the morning when we were finally out of our hostel; this will be a very quick day as we are supposed to be back in the hostel at around 1PM as Babes will be joining a half day cooking lesson in the afternoon somewhere in Bangkok. At that time we were very low on cash as we have spent the small amount of BHTs we bought at the airport. One money changer to another, they were all closed as it was still relatively still early in the morning. I was already computing the ridiculously low exchange rate and the exorbitant transaction fee if and when I would withdraw from the local ATM machine as a last resort. Luckily, we saw a money changer just very near our nearest BTS station and the rate was much better than that of the airport.
With our money purses replenished, we boarded the BTS from Chong Nonsee to the National Stadium. In Bangkok, the trains plying the city (BTS and MRT) are very efficient and very clean as well. I used to be confused with the difference between the BTS and MRT; it was only recently that I learned that the BTS is for the an elevated rapid transit system in Bangkok while the MRT is an underground metro system of the city. Tickets are sold at vending machines near the turnstile and are operated using coins; if you don’t have enough coins with you, there is a counter that will always be there to exchange your bills with coins.
Four stations and less than 10 minutes later, we alighted at our destination and slowly walked our way towards our first destination, The Jim Thompson House (admission at 100 BHT for adult) - for starters and for those who do not know this person, JT was a former U.S. military intelligence officer who helped revitalized the Thai silk and textile industry. He is also famous for disappearing mysteriously while going for an Easter Sunday walk in Cameron Highlands in Malaysia.
JT’s house in Bangkok was converted into a beautifully preserved museum which contains beautiful ancient artifacts from all over ancient Indochina. The compound is composed of six antique Thai houses, most of which were 19th century houses which were originally from Ayutthaya. Accordingly, The Jim Thompson House is the second most visited tourist attraction in Bangkok, surpassed only by the Grand Palace. As we didn’t have time, we opted for the free guided tour that was conducted at least every hour. This gave us a brief overview and appreciation of this attraction.
At around two hours later, we finished our brief tour of JT’s house and started looking our way to the nearest canal to take a river taxi towards our next destination. In order to be very efficient in your time in Bangkok, it is very important to know the routes not just of trains and buses but also river taxis. Since there are numerous canal in and around the city, river taxis has been in existence to make life easier (and faster) for commuters. It is relatively cheap and will really help you escape from the dreaded Bangkok traffic jam.
A quick river taxi and an equally quick tuktuk ride (but more expensive) brought us to the gates of Wat Pho, more famously known as The Temple of the Reclining Buddha. There was someone who greeted us outside the entrance and said that the temple is closed for lunch and instead offered to take us somewhere nearby which we politely declined. My suspicion that is a set-up for a scam was confirmed when several other people came towards us and said the same thing. Fortunately I was able to locate the entrance after a few minutes, paid for our tickets and made our way inside the temple complex.
Wat Pho is one of the largest and oldest wats in Bangkok with an area of around 80,000 square meters. This houses more than a thousand Buddha images, including the famous the Reclining Buddha. The famous religious icon is forty-six meters long and fifteen meters high, with gold plating on the body and mother of pearl on the eyes and the foot soles.
It was very hot during that time as it was already almost noontime (which means time was running out), although the architectures were very nice, all we could think at that very moment was to find our way to the Reclining Buddha. If you have an ample time to spend, it would be nice to explore the various buildings in the complex. Apart from temples, a massage school can be found can be found in the northern part of the compound.
We capped our visit in the temple complex by dropping coins in the money pot at one side of the building that housed the reclining Buddha. For a minimum donation of 20 THB, you will be given 80 coins to drop into the money pot. Apart from the Thai belief of this being auspicious, the dropping of the coin provided a constant “ting” inside the building (for me it provides a relaxing atmosphere).
Shortly, we hailed a cab and headed back to the comfort of our hostel. I parted ways that afternoon with my partner in crime as she went out and tried to learn Thai cooking. I, on the other hand, got myself some light lunch in a stall somewhere in Silom Road. Since it was very hot that day, I retreated to our room where I rested for most of the afternoon and recharged my energy.