After starting a new job at the begining of the year, it was difficult to take a real break from work to fully disconnect from everything. Around June I got back in contact with an old friend from school who was working in Thailand and by August I had announced my holidays at work and tickets were booked.
The trip on the way there included a 10 hour layover in Abu Dhabi, this lost me a day in Thailand, but also saved me approximately 50% on the cost of tickets, so evens out.
Day 1: Bangkok
Jim Thompson House: This museum is located in a very industrial area and the architecture has a striking contrast. Guided tours are compulsory, and allow to really capture the history and to catch a glimpse of life at the house approximately 50 years ago.
From there I went to the river and caught a boat to visit Wat Rakhang, Wat Arun and Wat Pho. All temples are of an impressive size, and the height of the buildings suggests almost a small town.
Wat Arun is very colourful and uses pottery to create a fractal mozaic throughout the entire temple. Unfortunately the temple was being renovated and I could not climb to the top.
Wat Pho has a giant reclining Buddha, representing Buddha’s final moments. On the Buddha’s feet are 3 fingerprints per toe and the palms are separated into squares with images, each one representing one of his stories/teachings. The stone statues are not of local Buddhist descent, but were gifts from the Chinese in the 19th & early 20th centuries from the trade between the 2 countries. This temple is home to a massage parlour, which is the authority for the certification of other massage parlours.
In the National Museum there is a gallery with sculptures of Buddha and some related divinities. It is very interesting to notice how the features of Buddha change depending on the region where the sculpture originates. Given the transition in royalty, there is also a gallery depicting the work of King Rama IX showing how the effort he put into helping his people was both constant and immense.
Day 2: Ayutthaya
Ayutthaya was the capital of Thailand until the old palace was destroyed by the Burmese in 1767 burning everything that is not stone to the ground and destroying many statues along the way. Here we visited
Wat Yai Chai Mongkhol, which is home to a plethora of Buddhas;
Wat Wihan Phra Mongkhon Bophit, which is an active temple, close to the old palace, however it was under renovation so the visit was relatively short;
Wat Phra Si Sanphet, which houses 3 chedis containing remains of past kings;
Wat Maha that, where you can find a Buddha’s head with a tree that grew around it;
Ayutthaya ancient palace;
Ayutthaya Royal Elephant Camp.
Of these only Wat Yai Chai Mongkhol involved taking a vehicle to visit, all other were within walking distance of each other.
Day 3: Amphawa
The Floating market of Amphawa, or how I now know it, The Tourist Trap of the unorganized. My trip to Amphawa started out as more of an adventure than anticipated. The expected van to Amphawa no longer left from the central station and getting the correspondence to the terminal was difficult (not impossible thanks to the aforementioned generosity of the Thai people). Travel to Amphawa came out to the following:
– Trip to the terminal: 35 BHT
– Trip to Amphawa: 80 BHT
TOTAL: 115 BHT
Once at Amphawa the cost for 1 hour of boat was 3000 BHT. I assume the cost per person would be greatly reduced for groups. As I was alone the pilot attempted to stop at every “stall”, however the stalls have limited choice. The beautiful part of the floating market was seeing the fruit vendors, as well as some meat & fish vendors selling fresh fruit and meals cooked on the water to the other tourists. At the end of the market was a visit to the Bazar where there is a much larger choice in items and bartering is a lot easier. The bazar is an excellent place for acquiring dried spices at relatively low prices. The original price was 4 times what I was offered at the end.
Returning to Bangkok proved to also be an adventure:
Cost to BKK centre: 220 BHT or almost double than the trip there. Consider asking to buy the return ticket from the same place as your going ticket.
Day 4: Weekend Markets
There are several markets in Bangkok, one of which is the Chatuchak week end market. Due to a previous engagement I was unable to spend more than 2 hours here, but in that time I am certain to have missed more than half of the stalls. Clothing, leather and accessories are the most common stalls, followed by foot massage parlours and soap/beauty products. Haggling is a requirement and if you are not satisfied with the price, you can litteraly walk 10m and find the exact same product. As the name of the market says, this is open on week ends. I would suggest taking a half day (i.e. saturday) to visit and find which stores interest you and visiting and then return the next day (i.e. sunday) with small bills to haggle to your hearts content. Bring small bills.