June 6, 2016

Bangkok

Between Kim and I, we’ve been to Bangkok 6 times but we want to keep coming back for more because we don’t run out of things to see and do. And eat! Food is plentiful and delicious, shopping is abundant and cheap and the culture rich if you venture out of the uber touristy Khao San.


It’s good to revisit places because then you are not too focused and rushing on the must see sights and can just absorb, really experience and appreciate the real nuisance of the place.

On this trip, aside from stuffing our faces with glorious Thai food (more on that later), we even get to participate in their custom.



Tak bat or monk's alms collection is a tradition where monks walk barefoot around the village to collect food donation for their daily meal.


A monk does not openly ask. They quietly walk the streets awaiting a donor to come to them which allows the donor to give freely and only what they can afford to provide. In return for the people's generosity, the monk blesses them. Although there’s a language barrier, I had goosies during the chant!


I also got to try my hand at this 200 year old tradition of crafting monk's bowls for tak bat at the Baan Bat or Monks bowl village. A bowl is constructed from metal slabs, hammered by hand and heated to take shape. A small bowl takes 3 long and laborious days to make. The polished bowls are purchased by the faithful and donated to monks.



Located at 71 Soi Baan Bat, this place is not on the usual tourist trail and a bit tricky to find but is a highlight and worth a visit in my book.  There were lots of pantomime mimicking pounding and begging before our tuktuk driver understood where we wanted to go.

We brought home a souvenir to remember this hundreds of years old tradition by and it now sits prettily on our coffee table to coral our remote controls.


But no matter how many times we visit Bangkok, the trip would not be complete without seeing at least a couple of its temples.

Gilded in gold, glittering in the sun with awe-inspiring architecture. These temples are not just tourist attractions but also places of worship so dress appropriately with shoulders and knees covered and footwear off. Most temples are open only until 6 PM. 

This time, aside from going back to the ever popular Wat Pho, we visited the smaller and lesser frequented temples we missed from our previous trips.

Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha). Located at 2 Sanamchai Road at he Rattanakosin district directly adjacent to the Grand Palace. Admission:  100 baht.




Wat Benchamabophit (Marble Temple). Located at 69 Nakornpathom Road at the corner of  Th Si Ayuthaya & Th Phra Ram V in Dusit district. Admission: 20 Baht.




Wat Indrawiharn (Temple of the Standing Buddha). Located at 114 Wisut Kasat Road on the northern edge of Banglamphu in Nakhon district. Free admission.



Wat Saket (Temple of the Golden Mount). Built on a man made hill located at 1344 Ban Bat in Pom Prap Sattru Phai district. Admission: 20 baht.




Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn) was under rehabilitation at the time of our travel (February 2015) so we did not cross Chao Praya river anymore. Instead we had a delicious gourmet dinner with wine and cocktails on a restaurant deck by the river fronting Wat Arun as the sun was setting on the horizon. Best to reserve in advance at your chosen riverdeck restaurant so you are guaranteed a table as the place gets packed at sunset.


That dinner was a bit pricey by local standards but it was worth it and just too romantic. It was the perfect way to cap off a day of temple hopping and sightseeing.




Bangkok ultimately is a cheap place to visit and indulge in the local cuisine even if you are on a budget. You can just walk on the streets sampling the most flavorful treats and eat until you burst without paying too much.



If you have sensitive tummy and or intimidated by street food, you can ease your way in by eating at mall food courts. They are one of the best places to sample a wide variety of tasty cheap eats but in a more hygienic air-conditioned setting. It is also often packed and patronized by locals and not just tourists so you're not missing out on the authenticity. You pick up a cash card or voucher from the cashier loaded with the value you want and then use it to pay at the food stalls. Any unused value can be redeemed when you return the card.


Bangkok, and most part of Thailand is well versed in the art of tourism and perhaps over caters to tourists but that makes it an easy country to travel to and a great value for your travel dollars.

Transport tip: The BTS sky train is an excellent way to travel around Bangkok. With 36 stations along 2 lines, it can get you to temples, food and shopping meccas, local markets and tourist places.

Another tip: Upon check in when traveling overseas especially in non-English speaking countries, I always grab a hotel's business card so that if ever we get lost, which happens all the time, we have the hotel name and address in the local language to show the driver. 

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