Friday, April 16, 2010

First Day in Bangkok

I was checked in at the Centre Point Silom, which I can highly recommend as a place to stay in Bangkok. It is much less expensive than the luxury hotels, such as the Mandarin Oriental, which is about a block away. It provides all the necessaries and if you really want the luxury atmosphere it's near at hand for a drink, dinner, or afternoon tea. I will probably give a complete review in

After showering and changing clothes I went down to the lobby with plans to visit the Jim Thompson museum and that area. As I was explaining this another guest mentioned to the staff that the government had planned to arrest the leader of the Red Shirts in the area I would have to go through to get there and that it wouldn't be advisable to do that. I then opted to take the river ferry to the Grand Palace area and tour that. I had saved that for this morning (Saturday) so I could go early and miss the heat and crowds; I spent four hours up there and I had both heat and crowds, but came away with some good pictures.

The express ferry is only a short walk from the hotel and will take you up the river for 13bhat. A bhat is about .03 US and all my cost figures will be in bhat unless other wise noted. The ferry is quick and there is a good breeze to kill the oppressive heat and humidity. The sky was overcast when I started and so I brought a rain jacket, which I didn't use.

The big attraction at the Grand Palace is the Emerald (actually Jade) Buddha. It is off in a building by itself and one of the most sacred spots in Thai Buddhaism. No cameras are allowed in the building itself, and I was trying to remember everything to describe it when I went outside and found that tourists were able to take pictures through an open window. I naturally joined in and was able to get this one.
Emerald Buddha through a Window

The Grand Palace is full of buildings all covered with gold. It is a large complex and I probably spent about two hours walking around and taking pictures. By this time the sun had come out in full force and every breeze I could catch was really welcome.
Rub Aroom
I found that a cafe named Rub Aroom (see photo) was just outside the Grand Palace complex and on my way to my next stop, Wat Pho. So I dropped in for a a mixed fruit drink and to be able to sit down. It was very refreshing.
Reclining Buddha at Wat Po
I then went to Wat Pho, the home of a large reclining Buddha. After visiting that, I went to the ferry for the hotel.
Riverview Sight
On the way back, I was able to get a seat near the window and take some pictures of interesting sights along the way, such as this.

I went back to my hotel and took a shower and went out for dinner. I went to a restaurant called Jay Fai, that specializes in noodle dishes. I took a taxi there and back and that is a whole nother story. Taxis are really inexpensive in Bangkok and there are scads of them. The only problem is as I read in a guide and found for my self is that the drivers are just in from the hill country and have no idea of where things are in Bangkok. On the trip out, the hotel gave the driver explicit directions and he still had to call the restaurant when he was near and walk me across the street. On the way back, I had a card from the hotel. The driver delivered me to a spot in the general area but quite a distance away. I told him it was wrong and he had to consult with another taxi driver to find where to go. All that time the meter was running. The good news is the price. The first drop is 35 bhat and the first trip cost 60 bhat and the second one 70. Each trip was less than the first drop charge in Santa Barbara, and probably most other US cities.
Jay Fai is unpretentious to say the least, An open plain dining area with tables and chairs on the street outside. The cooking goes on in an open charcoal brazier that was right next to my table. I had drunkard noodles with prawns. There were three giant prawns, giant noodles, and fresh vegetables all stir fried. The asked me if I wanted it hot and I said yes. It was quite spicy while I was eating it, more so than any Mexican I've tasted in Santa Barbara. Oddly enough, it didn't cause any long term problems. I washed it down with a large bottle of local beer and that seemed to work.
I taxied back to the hotel and checked my mail. I looked out the window and the bridge was putting on a light show. I set my camera up on my tripod to take some pictures and here's one to end today's post.
Bridge at Night from my Room

Checking the published post, I can see that I need more practice in locating pictures. I'll work on that next time. Today, it's off the the Weekend Market.

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