“Behind a bend of the Maenam, the entire town of Bangkok appeared in sight. I do not believe that there is a sight in the world more magnificent or more striking. This Asiatic Venice…” – Ludovic Marquis de Beauvoir
Thailand, one of the most traveled destinations in the world, has left an enchanting allure, more captivating than its majestic temples and gastronomic delights. Also dubbed as the “Backpacking Capital of Asia“, Thailand is definitely one of the most visited countries in the world. If you see how I travel in Korea here, here and here, you know that I can be a little crazy when I really like the place, but to be completely honest with you- I was 50:50 on visiting Thailand. I was so convinced that it will probably be just one of the typical city areas with the buildings, or skyscrapers, and that culture will probably be similar to the Philippines because well, we all came from the same race – the Malays. I rarely get hyped or excited when visiting big cities because I find that most of them are similar in many ways. But then again, who am I to judge something I’ve never seen before?
To begin with, we booked our ticket to Thailand out of sheer impulse after hearing about their famous Songkran Festival. That three days out of a year where you can drench, splash, wet or sprinkle people with water, with or without their consent (some even add ice to water to kill you faster – kidding!). To be honest, I have never heard about the said festival but was basically intrigued by it. I mean, it’s an experience – so why not?
Preparation and Accommodation
For accommodation, we weren’t really that fastidious – all we needed was a clean bed, air-conditioning (it was like 32-35’C in Bangkok that time) and a nice toilet, which is all available at Everyday Hostel. What we didn’t know during that time was, we could have gotten a similar price (maybe even lower) for a private room in Bangkok by simply booking via Zen Rooms! (use the code CATCHINGCARLA to get an exclusive 20% off discount on your booking). The first thing you should know about Thai people, is that they are actually very welcoming. Although the language barrier can be a problem at times, just make sure you take a snapshot of your hostel/ hotel location from your google maps, so you won’t have issues talking to the taxi or “tuk-tuk” drivers, even if there is no internet.
On the hindsight, if this is your first time to travel – I think it is also very important to keep notice of certain landmarks around your area or keep a photo of your place stored on your phone, in case you do indeed get lost and nobody could understand you. Upon arrival at the place, we were pretty much bummed out and it was a little late at night so all we could do was grab dinner and sleep – to get ready for the next day.
Transportation and Going Around
The best way to travel in Thailand is via a tuk-tuk (a tuk-tuk is like a tricycle in the Philippines) or a taxi (they are pink!). But if you want to avoid getting scammed over and over again, I suggest using the taxi with strict implication to use the meter. If the taxi haggles with a fixed price just say no and wait for another taxi, who would agree to use the meter. The tuk-tuk drivers sometimes charge twice than the taxi, which shouldn’t be the case. Although getting an “honest” taxi can be tough (just like in Manila) I would rather wait than to be scammed. I mean, I am a Filipina ok? I like to get things as cheap as I can and haggle my way into oblivion. Plus, it was way too hot when we visited! so it is a hassle to constantly take a tuk-tuk because we do enjoy that 5-minute rides in a well-airconditioned taxi.
First things first, if there is one thing Thailand that will never run out of, it’s Buddhist temples. Originally, we were supposed to go to the ones recommended by Lonely Planet, but when we asked for directions to a random stranger on the street (who turns out to be a police currently off-duty) to help us find the pier, he recommended a couple of temples nearby that he “thinks” we should visit. He even found us a tuk-tuk driver and told him to charge us the right amount. So – we went. The first temple we went to was pretty chill. There were monks who are praying and nice guards who allowed me to go in, despite my not-so-conservative outfit. *So, just a word of warning always wear appropriate clothes if you plan to visit any temple. Most temples are strict with dress codes.*
Chao Phraya River
(from Pha Ya Pier to Grand Palace)
One of the fastest ways to go around Bangkok is through Chao Phraya River. Since we needed to go to The Grand Palace (which is close to the river) we decided it would be fun to try and ride the boat. The closest pier to us is the Si Pha Ya Pier, so our tuk-tuk driver happily sent us there after our short stunt in a nearby temple. I can’t exactly remember the exact price we paid, but I distinctly remember their poor attempt to scam us. They wanted to charge us for the entire price of the tour even though we just wanted to be transported from one place to another without doing the entire boat tour! In the end, we won this argument. Here are some shots from the short 15-minute boat ride:
The Grand Palace
(Entrance fee – 500 Baht)
This is probably one of the most hilarious things over the entire trip! Remember how I was wearing shorts and a sleeveless? (obviously because it was like 33-35’C in freaking Bangkok at that time and even a Filipina like me knows that heat stroke is real) so, there are two entrances before you can actually enter the palace.
The first entrance is free, and the guards would just look at you if you are covered. So for that, I just bought Thai pants in a nearby store and covered my sleeveless top with my handy scarf. No issues there! The problem aroused on the second entrance. The second entrance requires you to have a ticket worth 500 baht and a much stricter dress-code. The guard literally stripped off my scarf and refused to let me in until I wore something with a sleeve! So I had to literally go out again and buy a t-shirt that costs around 150 baht! I was dripping with sweat and thought I was gonna pass out from the heat! but the tickets were already bought so I had to go in. I completely understand the customs and all, but come on – I can cover myself with my long scarf and they should have told me that before they even allowed me to buy the tickets? (road rage) Anyway, enough said, I cannot win this one because it was partly my fault for not double-checking.
Upon entering the palace, I was really shocked with how stunning everything is! The palace was glorious, and shining perfectly as the sun radiates ever so brightly upon the well-decorated temples made of gold, emerald, and silver glass. I have never seen anything made on such keen details, I think it will take months to accomplish just one column or panel! It’s like a whole city by itself. There is no doubt there were flocks of tourists around the area when we arrive! It’s probably one of the most vibrant places ever. Although, I gotta say – it was really too hot when we were there. I was literally drenched in sweat and crying from dehydration on the inside. But it’s still undeniably majestic in all forms! Check out these photos:
(Entrance Fee – 100 Baht)
Also called as Wat Phra Chetuphon Vimolmangklararm Rajwaramahaviharn is one of the old temples in Thailand. It has an extensive collection of buddha’s images and of course houses one of the biggest reclining buddha in the world! A little trivia from one of their temple guards: each roof color signifies the hierarchy of the person living in it. For example, the Royal residence of the emperor has yellow or “golden” roof. The residence of the prince will have green or “emerald” roof, and dtc.
The Songkran festival was ongoing during this day so there were a lot of people praying and celebrating around the temple grounds. While I was lining up to get one of the Buddhists blessings (and my friends have gone MIA), there were 4 young monks looking weirdly at me and giggling. I thought they were making fun of me, coz I was soaking in sweat, but apparently one of them approached me and asked me where I am from because they were making a bet of my nationality (lol), I asked them “what do you think?” they said they were hesitant if I was: Thai, Indonesian, Vietnamese, or Singaporean – I laughed because well, I was neither of those! When I said I’m Filipina they all laughed. They said they didn’t know Filipinas have really pale skin *facepalm*. I smiled and because they somehow liked the fact that they cannot understand my race- they blew me some sort of an incense and said some sort of a prayer to bring me “good luck”. It was quite funny lol.
Wat Trai Mit
This one is more like a random find while we were touring around Bangkok. One of my companions was just overly eager to see every single thing, despite the heat. I wasn’t looking forward to entering another temple because (1) I don’t wanna stress over the dress code again, (2) I’ve seen enough buddhas in one day, (3) I don’t wanna climb up the ladder just to be sent back down because I’m not wearing a t-shirt. So he went in while we waited for him in the lounge area with a really huge fan “whew!”. When he came back, he was nice enough to show us the photos and told us that it was really really golden inside. So here are his photos:
For our first day, it was pretty okay – I think I would have enjoyed it better if it wasn’t too hot but I think overall it was a great experience. Yes, people, I loved the vibrant city! but I really hate being scammed -regardless of where I am. But the people are generally friendly! I remember dropping one of my dim sums before entering the grand palace, and the really nice lady replaced it with a new one for free! We weren’t particularly berated to purchase any merchandise while randomly looking at souvenir shops and the people will always give you a nice warm smile. Be wary of taxis though, that was our main issue – because they always tend to somehow overcharge you (or yell at you), but you just have to be smart about it. For the food, they do indeed serve delicious food, and they also use their hands when eating rice! (which is normal for me because well, Filipinos in the province often use their hands to eat.) There are areas where there are rats the size of a kitten running around (yikes!) but it wasn’t the worst thing I’ve seen in my life so, it was quite okay. In all honesty, I still feel like it’s a bit similar to Manila in a lot of ways, so I think I will fit in Thailand quite nicely.
I will be writing about other places to visit, shop, party and eat out while in Bangkok on my next blog post, so stay tuned! Here is a nice photo of me eating a Thai Food, with a made-up bib coz I tend to splash the sauce all over my shirt all the time: (Stay Tuned for my next blog post!!!) Sawasdee Khrup!!!
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