Highlights of Bangkok
This was my first visit to South East Asia and I wasn’t too sure what to expect. Most people told me to head out of Bangkok at the earliest opportunity but I had to be there for a couple of weeks and I intended to make the best of it. I wanted to know what the best bits of Bangkok were and I was offered a place on a tour which was designed to show off the highlights of Bangkok in a day. After checking into my hostel with its 34 bed dorm!! (more about that later) I set out to explore the city. I set off with several other travel bloggers and writers to experience the Highlights of Bangkok tour which was organised by the Tourism Authority of Thailand. As the sun beat down on us and the humidity rocketed we were treated to a whistle stop tour of some of the best sights in the city. Our first stop was Wat Pho – better known as the place which houses the reclining Buddha. I would get to see a lot of Buddhas over the next few weeks, but this one, my first, holds a special place for me. The Buddha is MASSIVE. And gold – and it has hordes of people around it all jostling to get a better photo with their selfie sticks held aloft. It’s so big that it’s impossible to get it all into one picture on an ordinary camera so you can only capture tantalising glimpses through the pillars.
Those pillars which hold the ceiling up and hide the Buddha from you are a work of art in themselves and they are covered with intricate paintings and pictures; as are the walls. Along one side of the hall is a long row of little brass bowls. You buy a tub of coins and then walk along the row while dropping a coin with a gentle chink into each pot. At the end, if your coins match the number of bowls then your wishes will come true. The entire complex of Wat Pho is magnificent with chedis and stupas (pointy bits) in every direction and it has to be top of everybody’s list of the highlights of Bangkok. There are ancient drawings depicting the pressure points for Thai massage and small outcrops of rock gardens. The sun bounces off the jewelled walls, the colourful tiled roofs and the mosaic encrusted snakes and everywhere there are tourists. But if you want a really magical experience, get along to Wat Pho in the evening. You will virtually have the place to yourself and it takes on an unearthly glow under the floodlights (click here to read about my night time tuk tuk tour of Bangkok with Expique)
After Wat Pho we went to the Grand Palace where the word grand is an understatement. Like Wat Pho there is simply glitter and bling and grandeur in every direction. Strangely, at first glance, many of the buildings appear to be decorated with cups and saucers and plates….and when you look even closer, you realise that they ARE decorated with cups and saucers and plates
The Grand Palace was even more chaotic and packed with tourists than Wat Pho so eventually we were quite relieved to get out of the relentless sun and find refuge in a riverside restaurant for lunch. The Supatra River House was a peaceful haven from the crowds and we all enjoyed a tasty, traditional lunch in the upstairs restaurant before boarding one of the longtail boats which ply the river. We were given a tour of the canals -the klongs that Bangkok is built around and we buzzed among the waterside neighbourhoods where mail boxes stand on posts at the water’s edge, a hat shop was operating from a rickety wooden jetty and a fish feeding frenzy was taking place outside one of the temples. In the klongs, ramshackle wooden houses balance precariously at drunken angles over the water next to upmarket and very expensive riverside real estate. This was a glimpse into another part of city life. We spotted a water monitor basking on a rock in the sun, boys bathing in the water and wizened old men swinging in hammocks in the shade on verandas.
Our final stop of the day was to the iconic Wat Arun. Much of this temple is currently covered in scaffolding as it is being renovated but we could still climb some of the steps and look out over the other buildings. The teacup art is taken to a new level here with whole pieces of crockery adorning the walls. Despite the renovation work taking place, Wat Arun should still be on your highlights of Bangkok list. We had a lovely introduction to Bangkok, if tiring day, thanks to our guide Dom and the cute On and the Tourism Authority of Thailand. I was also pleased that On was able to accompany us the following day when I went to the Silom School of Cooking, and we had a chance to chat a little bit more
A hostel with a difference
The 3Howw Hostel, Sukhumvit
After a hot busy day it was back to my hostel. Always wanting to try something new I had snubbed the standard 10-bed dorm and chosen the 34 bed dormitory at the 3Howw Hostel in Sukhumvit. I like to be different and this certainly was different. On my arrival I was greeted by the delightfully friendly Pon and shown to my bed. Described as a pod it looked remarkably like one of the chambers in a Spanish or Latino graveyard. Chambers were set into the walls and you climb in and you lie down head first with your feet pointing out.
I also experienced firsthand the benefits of a VA. A VA (virtual assistant) is like a PA (personal assistant) but as the name suggests, she (or he) works with you virtually. Louise has an awesome capacity for grasping concepts and new ideas, teaching herself from online seminars and courses and then puts into practice what she has learnt for the benefits of her clients. I mercilessly picked her brains, but we also got out and explored quite a bit of the city too. I will tell you some more about what we saw and did in a later post, but if you want a VA, check her out at Louisetheva.com and see what she can do for you. Hopefully I have given you plenty to whet your appetite with these highlights of Bangkok. It is worth spending a few days here – be brave – learn how to get about on the metro and the skytrain and find out for yourself what makes this vibrant Asian cosmopolitan city tick. Disclaimer: I must thank the Tourism Authority of Thailand for the Highlights of Bangkok tour and also thank the 3Howw Sukhumvit Hostel for a discounted stay. All opinions are, as always, my own and have not been influenced in any way