A Visit to Bangkok, Part 3: Wat Pho Temple

If I had to choose the one place in Bangkok that I found most inspiring and alluring, it would have to be Wat Pho.

The head of an immense reclining Buddha at Wat Pho

The head of an immense reclining Buddha at Wat Pho

Wat Pho is a Buddhist temple complex in the same neighborhood as the Grand Palace. As a tourist, I was directed to take the SkyTrain to the pier where the tourist boats go up the river. I took the tourist boat twice.

Travel Tip 1: You can either purchase an all-day pass on the river boat for 150 baht, or if you are really heading to one destination and plan to get off the river once you arrive, ask for the one-stop ticket. Then you’ll only pay 40 baht.

Travel Tip 2: Women are not permitted into temples unless they’re covered. You can’t wear anything above the ankle. A pair of light weight slacks and a tee shirt that covers your shoulders and the top of your arm, is fine. If you aren’t wearing the right clothing, you’ll have to “rent” a wrap which you’ll tie around your waist and will cover you to your ankles.

When you get off the tourist boat, you have to walk through a make-shift bazaar building that is on the pier. There are a bunch of vendors selling a variety of souvenirs. Once you exit the bazaar, you come out into an area where there are street vendors selling food and drinks.

A young man selling freshly made pomegranate juice near Wat Pho.

A young man selling freshly made pomegranate juice near Wat Pho.

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Good Good Good Papaya Salad. 40 baht is about $1 US dollar.

Good Good Good Papaya Salad. 40 baht is about $1 US dollar.

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A woman looks over her choices of grilled meats at a street vendor's stall

A woman looks over her choices of grilled meats at a street vendor’s stall

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But once inside the temple complex, your eye is drawn to the ornate and intricately tiled buildings that adorn the large tract of land that composes the complex.

The architecture of Wat Pho

The architecture of Wat Pho

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When you are not looking at the amazing architecture, there are many wonderful places where you can stop and rest.

The man made waterfall and koi pond is delightful

The man made waterfall and koi pond is delightful

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I only saw one monk while I was there, which surprised me

I only saw one monk while I was there, which surprised me

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For some reason, the majority of people I saw at Wat Pho were tourists and not monks. I only saw one monk while I was there, and he walked so quickly across the courtyard I could barely snap a photo of him as he passed me.

Within one of the courtyards, I found...

Within one of the courtyards, I found…

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You can take many hours to explore this wonderful site because there are so many nested courtyards, each with their own set of sculptures, or alters with flowers, or perhaps you’ll see a line of buddhas sitting and meditating. It’s all beautiful and peaceful.

A charming monk figure sits nestled in some greenery

A charming monk figure sits nestled in some greenery

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Beautiful handmade flower alter

Beautiful handmade flower alter

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Flower Alter detail

Flower Alter detail

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My advice to anyone visiting Wat Pho:

  • bring water
  • dress appropriately
  • don’t rush
  • allow the serene nature of this place to inspire you
  • investigate courtyards and other out of the way spots
A mythological creature stands watch over one of the temples

A mythological creature stands watch over one of the temples

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A moment of peaceful solitude

A moment of peaceful solitude

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A Visit to Bangkok, Part Two: Peeking Into Chinatown

Red Lanterns festively displayed by a street vendor in Bangkok's Chinatown

Red Lanterns festively displayed by a street vendor in Bangkok’s Chinatown

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There’s something familiar about Chinatown.

No matter what city you’re in, whether it’s New York City, San Francisco, Hong Kong, or Bangkok, the images you’d conjure up for Chinatown are roughly similar.

Street view - Bangkok's Chinatown

Street view – Bangkok’s Chinatown

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Street vendors hawking their wares, a variety of foods for sale – some of which look totally unfamiliar – and lots of small Chinese grocery stores selling packages of dried fish, along with Chinese tea shops and restaurants.

Colorful rolling carts displaying fruit in Bangkok's Chinatown

Colorful rolling carts displaying fruit in Bangkok’s Chinatown

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Bangkok’s Chinatown felt familiar in the way that I described, but there were unfamiliar sights too.

I WISH I could have gotten a photo of the strange machine I saw on many street corners used to roast chestnuts in what looked like circulating black gravel stones. I’ve never seen such a machine before.

But, to me, the way to see a place is by watching the people.

Woman washing pans in a food stall

Woman washing pans in a food stall

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More washing going on in the alley

More washing going on in the alley

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Walking along the crowded streets

Walking along the crowded streets

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And, of course, tasting the food. The vegetarian fare I sampled included Mapo Tofu, Chinese green leafy stuff with mushrooms, and something new to me: Iced chrysanthemum tea with lemon and honey. It was all delicious!

Dinner was delicious

Dinner was delicious

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If you’re wondering whether or not to take a stroll along the crowded streets of Bangkok’s Chinatown, stop and buy some fruit from a rolling cart and then ducking into one of the many restaurants or tea shops to eat a snack … the answer is yes, you should. But I would say that for Chinatown in any city around the world………

 

A Visit to Bangkok, Part One: Chatachak Weekend Market

A line of serene buddhas sit in contemplation at the Wat Pho temple in the heart of Bangkok

A line of serene buddhas sit in contemplation at the Wat Pho temple in the heart of Bangkok

 

I must begin with this note:

I began writing this post after I returned from my trip to Bangkok, which was BEFORE the bombings occurred in the city. I’m deeply saddened by the news that whoever bombed center city Bangkok was intending to target tourists and locals, in an attempt to damage the tourism that Thailand enjoys.

Tourism is a major point of economic support for the country. If you are thinking of taking a trip to Thailand, I think you should proceed. I wouldn’t hesitate to go back to Bangkok.

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It’s been a long time since I wrote a blog post. Just after my last posting, I took a 10 day trip from Manila to Bangkok, Thailand … with a mini-trip to Siem Reap (Angkor Wat) Cambodia embedded with the main trip.

One of the many incredible faces carved into the sides of the Buddhist temple within the Angkor Wat temple complex in Cambodia

One of the many incredible faces carved into the sides of the Buddhist temple within the Angkor Wat temple complex in Cambodia

Since arriving in Manila back in June, I’d only ventured to Hong Kong for a brief weekend. So a planned 10 day trip to Bangkok was very exciting for me, since I have not seen much of Southeast Asia and Manila is “too close” to these places not to have some “local” adventures.

I had never been to Thailand, and I was anxious to go. I had heard so many wonderful things about Bangkok, but I also heard scary things too about pickpockets. It turns out that, just like any big city in any country around the world, you DO need to have your wits about you. You need to pay attention to your surroundings, and you need to go to normally reasonable lengths to protect your belongings. But if you do, I honestly don’t think the vast majority of tourists would have a problem.

I had no issues in Bangkok with safety, and I roamed around many neighborhoods in the day and evening, and I also went to densely packed locations with tourists like the Chatachak Weekend Market and loved it.

In this post, I will focus on some of my experiences at the market.

If you go on Sunday in the middle of the day, be prepared for large crowds at Chatachak Weekend Market!

If you go on Sunday in the middle of the day, be prepared for large crowds at Chatachak Weekend Market!

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If it's made in Thailand, chances are you will see if for sale at the Chatachak Weekend Market.

If it’s made in Thailand, chances are you will see if for sale at the Chatachak Weekend Market.

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Everybody comes out to shop.

Everybody comes out to shop.

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Chatachak Weekend Market was a major highlight of my trip to Bangkok. If you are in town on a Saturday or Sunday, I strongly suggest you plan to spend a minimum of 2 hours walking the market, although you could spend much more time than that.

It’s very easy to get to… just take the SkyTrain to the Mo Chit exit, then when you walk down the stairs of the SkyTrain (follow the signs directing you towards the “Chatachak” exit) walk alongside Chatachak Park. You can follow the crowds because that’s where everyone else is going too.

This is one place where I would be more careful with your belongings because the crowds are very dense and inside the market “hallways” it’s a tight squeeze. Also, if you don’t look like a local, you automatically look like a tourist… so try not to be obvious about where you keep your money, phone and camera. If you’re snapping tons of photos with your camera and not attending to your wallet, well, that’s not a good idea.

I had no problems whatsoever both times I went to the market, and I spent hours walking around each time. I kept a small, zipped purse with a short, strong strap clamped under my arm … but my larger canvas bag with my purchases I didn’t feel concerned about since I doubted anybody who was there to pick-pocket wanted to steal the incense or t-shirts I was buying! All of the photos I took, I used my cell phone camera (that includes all my photos, I don’t have a separate camera with me on this trip) and that worked well because I could quickly snap my shot, and slip my phone back into my purse and zip it back up.

Most of the vendors were so nice! They love to haggle with customers over the prices, and if you are a good customer, you will haggle (a little bit) with the merchant. If they are asking 100 baht for something, offer them 60 baht, then they will say they’ll give it to you (special!) for 80 baht, and you can settle for 75 baht and everyone is happy. Once you have concluded your purchase, it is customary to say thank you, and bow a little bit with your hands clasped in front of you. If you do this, the merchants will truly love you, because it shows you respect the local culture.

When I haggled with this soap vendor, she was so charming! She got excited when she found out I was an American from New York City, USA, and traveling alone no less! She insisted we take our picture together. It was a terrific experience!

When I haggled with this soap vendor, she was so charming! She got excited when she found out I was an American from New York City, USA, and traveling alone no less! She insisted we take our picture together. It was a terrific experience!

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I will be writing more posts about my experiences in Bangkok, but I want to emphasize how wonderful the city is and how welcoming and helpful most (not all, especially cab drivers, but most!) people are that you come in contact with in the city.

More to come soon!