August 26, 2008

Day 3: Having a Ride

I started my third day in Bangkok a bit early. I woke up around nine, and went to a bank after I dressed to change some money. I then set forth to Siam Station to catch a train to Saphan Taksin, the last stop of the Silom Line. From there I went to the Central Pier to buy a one-day pass for boat rides.

One impressive thing about Bangkok is that the transportation system is very integrated and efficient. The boats that originate from Central Pier serve stations along the river bank all the way to Phra Arthit pier, which is near Khao San. The line actually goes further up, but tourists only go up to Arthit. Along the way, you can see several landmarks located in the banks, including the Wat Arum (Temple of Dawn), the Santa Cruz church, the old building of the East Asiatic Company...)

My first stop was Maharaj Pier, the jump off going to the Grand Palace, which is very imposing and impressive - with its gold-leaf domes and intricate carvings. I spent more than an hour exploring the grounds and the insides of the temples.

From the Grand Palace I took a tuk-tuk to Wat Pho, which is the oldest temple in Bangkok. Here you can see the largest reclining Buddha, golden in all its splendor. While inside the temple I bought a bucket of coins that are dropped in the offering urns, its plink-plink sounds resonating inside the building like a ceremonial chant.

From there I took another tuk-tuk to Khao San, the mecca of backpackers from all over the world. Like Silom and Patpong, Khao San is a bit of a sense overload, with the multitudes of farangs milling around, getting their hair braided while having beer and exchanging tales with their fellow backpackers. When I was planning this trip I was actually considering staying there, but I was glad I didn't, as the place is noisy and chaotic. Maybe next time I will give it a try though.

From Khao San I went to Phra Arthit to catch a boat going back, but made the mistake of boarding the wrong one. I wasn't concerned at first, as I see it as another way of seeing more of Bangkok, but I soon realized that the stations are getting farther up from the city limits. I got off Station 18, and waited for about 20 minutes for the next (and right) one to arrive.

Back in Thong Lor, I met Bong and his Thai friend, O, for coffee (Starbucks, where else). I then went back to Paragon to meet another Thai friend for dinner, in a Thai-Portugese fusion restaurant, then had coffee again in a swanky cafe called True, located in the fourth floor.

pics: the golden domes of Grand Palace; at the entrance; a woman nursing her child at the Temple of Emerald Buddha

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