Thailand has been on my travel bucket list for ages and now we’re finally here! Adrienne and I land in Bangkok on Valentine’s Day and we definitely don’t mind being here instead. After 17 hours traveling from Seattle, we decide to taxi to our hotel. There’s a decent metro system in Bangkok, but taxis are super cheap, and there isn’t a metro stop near where we’re staying. The drive takes about an hour, and I’m absolutely amazed at how this city seems to go on for ever and ever. As soon as we check in to Fortville Guesthouse, we head out again to look for food. I CANNOT WAIT to have my first Thai meal in Bangkok. We find a little place across the street from our hotel and I am immediately in Panang curry heaven. It’s so good we end up coming back two more times during our stay.
Fully satiated, it’s back to the hotel and straight to bed. Except we’re one floor down from the open deck and the live band that plays there Friday and Saturday nights. We might as well be sleeping on stage for all the good the walls are doing us. After tossing and turning for an hour, Adrienne heads down to talk to the manager. They are very nice but tell her the band plays until midnight and there’s nothing they can do for us right now. We have no choice but to wait it out and sleep in a little later the next morning. It’s not ideal, but we make arrangements to move to a new room for our second night and ensure we’ll be on the first floor when we return at the end of our trip. It’s the only complaint I have about an otherwise decent hotel.
After breakfast at the hotel next to ours, we head to the river to catch the pedestrian ferry. We use the ferry to get almost everywhere in Bangkok. It’s so easy and cheap to use and has several stops on both banks, including the tourist center of Bangkok. Plus, it allows you to skip the Bangkok traffic entirely, which makes it worth every penny.
Once we disembark, we head towards the Grand Palace. We aren’t entirely sure where we’re going, but once we make our way through all the little shopping stalls, it becomes immediately apparent. It’s pretty hard to miss!
Upon entering, a security guard makes sure everyone (men and women alike) is wearing appropriate clothing. The Grand Palace is still considered a very sacred site. Both Adrienne and I planned ahead and have our legs and shoulders covered with lightweight clothing. If the guard deems your dress inappropriate, you are required to rent conservative clothing at a nearby kiosk. A deposit is required.
Once fully inside, I’m blown away by the size of this place. Everything is on an impressive scale, including these giant demons keeping guard. In both Hindu and Buddhist religions, demons play as an important role as gods do, and neither is all good, nor all bad. Each god and demon has it’s good and bad qualities, similar to most humans.
This long hall depicts scenes from Buddhist legends and lore. I’m once again impressed by the scale and the detail.
Only a few hours into the morning and I’m already a hot, sweaty mess. I hope I get used to this heat and humidity soon (spoiler – I don’t).
Everything is so opulent and gold. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this much gold in one place before. Most of it is actually gold leaf, not solid gold, but it still makes for an impressive sight (how many more times will I say “impressive”?).
Buddha looks out over the crowds, watching over everyone.
Somewhat randomly, there’s a miniature copy of the Angkor Wat complex in Cambodia. I’m excited to see this place with my own eyes in a few days!
The Grand Palace complex includes the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, where the emerald buddha lives. It is considered the most sacred temple in all of Thailand. Only the king is allowed to be near it. Visitors are allowed to go inside the temple and view/pray to him, but he is perched high up and no photos are allowed.
Next we head over to Chakri Maha Prasat. The first floor is built in traditional European style, while the top floor/roof is Thai. It’s an interesting blend of architectures, of east meets west.
The Royal Guard still guards the palace, even though the king no longer resides here. Similar to the guards at royal palaces in England, these guards stand very still while tourists take pictures of and with them. What an odd job though, right? I can’t imagine what it must feel like to be a tourist attraction in your own right, with no ability to move while people take pictures of you. But apparently I have no qualms about taking pictures of them.
Chakri Maha Prasat is where important visitors and heads of state stay when visiting Thailand, including the Clintons and Queen Elizabeth II.
Photo op with this guy.
The palace complex is quite large and I feel like we could spend more time beyond the several hours we’ve already been here, but we’re both getting hungry and I for one can’t wait to eat more delicious Thai food. We find a little place on the river to have lunch, then walk through the little shopping stalls lining the street on our way to Wat Pho and the Reclining Buddha. More on that to come!