Day 05: Bangkok – Starting our last day at the Grand Palace

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Our last day in Bangkok! How quick time flies!

We had to check out of Abloom before heading out today but that left a dilemma. We had Magnum ice cream bars (which we “only” bought at 7-11 for around $1 as opposed to $4-5 in Australia) which needed to be eaten… and it was only 8am.

Problem easily solved! As you can see, happily and satisfyingly solved too. Chocolate brownie! I’ve never even seen that flavour in Brisbane.

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We then headed out to Sathorn Pier to make our way to the Grand Palace, home of the famous Wat Phra Kaew or Temple of the Emerald Buddha.

In a previous post, I said you should take the Express Boat over the Tourist Boat because of cost – but when the next express boat isn’t coming for another 20 minutes… the difference in cost becomes negligible, especially on your last day 😛

We were soon our way! Relaxing on the boat and enjoying the scenery as a guide provided commentary on every interesting sight we passed.

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Almost there, just passing Wat Arun!

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To get to Grand Palace, you could get off at the same pier (Tha Tien) as Wat Pho, but it is a longer walk. I suggest getting off at the next pier – Tha Chang instead.

We both found the admission fee of 500 baht a little expensive, especially compared to the costs of visiting other temples.

Don’t forget to wear appropriate/respectable attire! Closed shoes (or sandals with socks) long pants/skirts and no bare shoulders. If needed, there is a place for you to rent clothing by the entrance gate.

It was a beautiful (read: scorching hot) day with slight breezes and a clear blue sky. And it was a VERY busy day. People everywhere! Tour buses carrying hoards of Asians, all the females armed with umbrellas – I wish I could snap every single one of those umbrellas so they wouldn’t be poking innocent people in the face, or worse, in the eye!

The Grand Palace is a complex of buildings at the heart of Bangkok. The king, his court and his royal government were based on the grounds of the palace until 1925. The present monarch currently resides at Chitralada Palace with the Grand Palace still used for official events.

It is divided into 4 main courts: The Temple of the Emerald Buddha, the Outer Court, the Middle Court, and the Inner Court.

First up, was the Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha) court. This was the central ubosoth that houses the statue of the Emerald Buddha. Unfortunately, no photos were allowed inside the temple so we’ll have to be satisfied with this instead!

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Surrounding buildings

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Phra Si Rattana Chedi, the main stupa. Covered in beautiful golden mosaic tiles imported from Italy, the stupa was a beautiful contrast against the blue skies.

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Beside the stupa was Phra Mondop, Repository of the Royal Golden Addition of the Buddhist Cannon. “The four pairs of demons that stand guard on top of the stairways, a pair at each entrance, are the work of the King Rama I period and regarded as the most perfectly proportioned of all existing classical sculptures of Rattanakosin craftsmanship.” Although we couldn’t enter, the the floor of the Phra Mondop is apparently lined by a woven mat made from strips of pure silver.

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One of the 2 Phra Chedi Thong, the Twin Golden Stupas. The stupas were built by King Rama I, one dedicated to his father and the other to his mother. They are made of brick and covered in copper foil and gilt.Each of the stupas are supported by a row of twenty demons and monkeys whose distinctive features, colours and crowns mark them as individual characters from the Ramakian, the Thai version of the Ramayana epic. The fact that they all wear crowns indicate that they are demons and monkeys of noble rank.”

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I loved the monkeys and demons…. 🙂

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“Yaksa Tavarnbal (Gate-keeping Giants): Six pairs of mythical ogres stand at each gate of the Balcony. These are the main Giants of the Ramayana.”

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Prasat Phra Thep Bidon, the Royal Pantheon contains life size statues of King Rama I to VIII and is only open to the public on April 6th each year (anniversary of the founding of the Chakri Dynasty), so they can pay homage to their past sovereigns.

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We left the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and walked through the Middle Court.

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Have you noticed by now how amazing our selfies have become? We don’t even need someone to help with photographs anymore!

Here’s one of us with the Phra Thinang Chakri Maha Prasat in the background.

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And one last shot in the Grand Palace: Phra Thinang Dusit Maha Prasat.

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We had been walking in the sun for too long. Time to recharge… with food of course!

Sticky rice topped with coconut milk and crunchy deep fried mung bean served with a sweet ripe mango! We both love sticky rice and mango – the combination was fantastic!

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We also got some glutinous dumplings with a sweet peanut filling – very tasty!

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Lots of food being sold in the market by the river.

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We decided at this point to catch a boat across the river (again, only 3 baht) to visit the Forensic Medicine Museum at Siriraj Hospital. What can I say, we’re medical students. But, surprised we were to find out that the entrance fee had jumped from 40 baht a few months ago to 200 baht. Thought that was a little ridiculous and decided that as attractive as the air conditioning and gory specimens may be, our last few hours in Bangkok would be better spent seeing more of the actual city.

So off we went!

And soon we were on a boat heading back into the city…

FULL ALBUM (so far) HERE!

Day 04: Bangkok – Chinatown and Snacks

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

This was the view as we headed back over to Tha Tien Pier from Wat Arun.

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The driver of our little ferry boat!

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Since we had plans to meet Laura and 2 of her work friends in Chinatown for dinner later, we decided to head down there early and check it out during the day time.

We took the Express Boat back towards the city and got off at Ratchawong Pier (N5). From there it’s just a short walk up to Sampeng Lane and Yaowarat Rd.

Some tuk tuks just beside the pier.

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As we were walking, it started to rain! Luckily there was a closed shop where we use it’s front steps as refuge 😉 As we waited out the rain, an elderly lady walked by pushing her cart full of tasty looking dumplings. I had to run after her to get her to stop in order to purchase a few! I don’t know why I didn’t take any pictures, but the dumpling cakes were delicious. A doughy exterior with fillings of bamboo, turnip, or cabbage. Yummy! We also bought some fried coconut banana from another stand – amazing! Balls of banana coated with a layer of coconut sticky rice and deep fried to a crisp – such a delicious treat. Thinking back now, I’m a little disappointed we only ate that once!

Soon the rain died down and we continued to stroll through Chinatown, taking in the sights, smells and sounds.

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This lady’s stand soon caught our eye. A variety of deep fried, vegetarian snacks. You take a bowl and pick out the items that you want. She then chops them up into bite sized pieces, throws them in a bag and pours sauce and chili on top for you to snack on-the-go using skewers. It was also kind of her to throw in a few extra treats we didn’t pick out for us to try – yay! The food was tasty but not something you can have every day! 😉

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Dinner plans with Laura and her friends eventually became too complicated due to weather and location and was cancelled. Disappointed, but it was still suggested that we meet up with Laura later in the evening for drinks instead.

Due to the change in plans, we decided to head back to the hotel instead of staying in Chinatown.

We chose to take the Metro followed by the BTS back to the hotel rather than take the boat back into the city. It’s a pain in the ass using public transportation to Chinatown and back!

We passed through Odeon Circle where the ceremonial Chinese gate marked the entrance to Chinatown.

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Did I mention Mike found what he had been craving for since forever? Rambutans! And for only $1-something a kilo!

Back at the hotel… only to continue eating!

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Mike’s one kilo of rambutans! Look how fresh they are 🙂

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I bought some fresh lotus seed pods! The whole lot was around 30 cents? Couldn’t finish them all but it was definitely worth it! Something I’ve never seen available in Australia and that Mike’s never tried before. You may have seen dried lotus seeds sold in packs before but these are fresh – you pop out the seeds and remove the green peel for a crisp, crunchy, fresh, slightly sweet, and nutty snack!

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One of the treats we bought from a vendor outside our train station – BBQ’d meat sausage with some cabbage and green mango.

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Another snack we bought from a nearby vendor – Banana Roti – crispy sweet crepe with fresh banana filling and drizzled with condensed milk. So delicious! Best eaten right away 😉

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Fresh taro bread we picked up at a bakery in Chinatown. It was sweet, flavourful and delicious, with a cute cake cube within!

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We also bought fresh quail eggs to boil and have with salt and pepper! It has always been one of my favourite snacks and when Mike was back in Ottawa, my mum introduced it to him and now he loves it too!

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Unfortunately, again, our plans with Laura were canceled because she was too exhausted to go out.

That was too bad. So Mike and I decided to head back down to Chinatown again, just to see the liveliness at night. By the time we got back down there though, it was pretty late and most places were already closing up. We were able to grab a light (boring, not too tasty) dinner because heading back and calling it a night.

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End of Day 04… finally! 😀