After a strange travel day filled with more monkeys in the airport, delayed flights, new friends made while waiting for said delayed flights, and a desperate sprint through Delhi airport to make a connecting flight, I finally made it to Bangkok. As soon as I walked out of the airport I was smacked in the face with the dizzying heat of Thailand. The air is so thick with disarming humidity that you almost have to wade through it like you would a swimming pool. Having come from two weeks trekking in snowy mountains and still wearing several layers, it took me a bit to adjust.
My first day in Bangkok I wandered around doing the most common things tourists do on their first day there – I took a train and a tourist boat to the Royal Palace, followed with a visit to Wat Po and it’s giant reclining Buddha statue. Both places are huge tourist draws for a reason because they really have spectacular architecture and beautifully ornate details, but the crowds were a bit overwhelming.
The Royal Palace is a huge compound and was the country’s administrative and religious center for around 150 years as well as the home of the Thai royal family up until 1932. I’ve seen some beautiful palaces in Europe in the past, but this place was something else. The mirrored glass and ornate materials used on the exterior of the palaces glimmer in the bright Bangkok sun in a way that I imagined palaces in heaven looking like as a kid. There were statues meant to decorate and in some cases protect the home of the royal family, and some were quite menacing while others were hilarious (especially the ones wearing top hats).
By far the most spectacular thing at the Royal Palace was Wat Phra Kaew, a temple that houses the most holy of all Thai Buddha images – the Emerald Buddha. It is housed in a temple with hundreds of statues surrounding it to protect it, and there are three doors to the main temple, the middle of which can only be entered by the holy family. The tile and mosaic work on the temple was incredible and I sat with tourists and Thais alike on the floor in the temple to admire the buddha for myself. Even though it is made up of jade and not actually emerald and isn’t more than a few feet tall, it is still stunning with it’s bronze attire, which is changed 3 times a year in a ceremony by the king, the only person allowed to touch the statue.
After checking out the rest of the palace grounds, I walked next door to the giant temple Wat Po, another set of stunningly beautiful buildings, the largest of which holds the giant bronze reclining buddha. This buddha is massive, with the bottom of it’s feet being the most interesting thing of all – inlaid mother-of-pearl in 108 panels depicting the 108 auspicious signs of the buddha.
Having exhausted myself temple gazing, I wandered down by the river, where I ate some delicious papaya salad from street vendors, even after a passing your guide from another group stopped to tell me I was crazy for ordering it because it would be too spicy for me and I’d get sick (neither were true). I met up with a friend who lives here and played drinking games at his hostel, where I met some amazing people from all over the world, and I managed to stay out until 4am, where I realized I could no longer keep my eyes open in the Thai nightclub I was in and finally took a cab back to my hotel.
I spent the next day resting, nursing a massive hangover, and only managed to write my long post about my trek in Nepal before meeting up with the group I’d be joining for 2 weeks for an active trip around Thailand. The group is awesome – made up of 6 other people plus myself, all about my age from England, Ireland, Denmark and Australia – and I’m so excited about what the next two weeks holds for us as we hike, bike and kayak our way around this awesome country I’m growing to love!