The best way to go sightseeing in Bangkok is to rent a tuk-tuk. A very common deal is that a full day trip will cost you as little as 20 BAHT (around 50 cents) but apart from stopping at some popular must-sees the tuk tuk will also drive you to a tailor (of course you don’t have to order anything if you are assertive enough) and a travel agency, in each case your driver will get a commission. Check out the next post if you may happen not to be assertive enough or really willing to get a suit:)
The first place the driver left us at was the Wat Indra Viharn, the Big Buddha as most tuk-tuk drivers call it. The central point of the temple is a 32 meters high and over 5 tons heavy statue of Buddha in the colour of gold. It’s the only thing that makes it stand out from other Buddhist temples, and, well, for ignorants like me Wat Indra Viharn is nothing special.
Our next stop was the Wak Saket temple, called the Golden Mount. It’s one of the oldest Buddhist temples in Bangkok, located on top of a 79 meters high artificial hill. To reach the golden chedi (ie. stupa, a type of tower or dome) we had to climb 318 steps. The chedi itself is 58 meters high and houses a Buddha relic. The hilltop offers a quite magnificent view of the city: the Grand Palace, Wat Phra Kaew and Wat Arun.
The next stop: Wat Sommonat, is were the story becomes interesting. Check out the next post if you want to know why, or if you are planning to buy a suit or a dress in Bangkok and don’t want to get scammed. Anyway, if you happen to be driven by your tuk-tuk to the “Lucky Buddha” (you can call it the temple of Elvis, or Yeti just as well), urge him to go to the next place at once.
As far as the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew are concerned, well, let’s say we were not lucky enough to see it. On the first day we were lied to, that it was closed because of some Buddhist holiday, a holiday which I think never existed. On the second day our new tuk-tuk driver promissed to take us there but, surprise surprise, only after having visited a tourist agency, and in the end he left us on the other side of the palace, some 500 meters from were we actually started, and a thirty minute long walk away from the entrance, in an incredible heat. When we finally got there, it turned out that the line to buy entrance tickets (500 baht per person, more than twice as much as our room at Khao San Road ) is incredibly long and in the end the heat beat us and we gave up the sightseeing of the palace.
Wat Arun, “The Temple of Dawn”, was the most remarkable position on our Bangkok monuments must-see list. To reach it we had to cross the Chao Praya River, which is very cheap if you take the ferry for local people (less than 20 baht) instead of the touristic one (~60 baht). The central prang (Khmer-style tower), which is between 70 to 80 meters high according to different sources, as well as its surrounding smaller towers are decorated with china and seashells, which originally were used as ballast by ships travelling between China and Thailand. Both the name and the architecture of the temple represent elements of the Hindu cosmology. The entrance fee is 50 baht.
The final stop of our tour was the Lumphini park, a vast green area close to the centre of Bangkok. From Khao San you can get there directly by bus. Its main attraction are huge monitor lizards which can spot both swimming in the large artificial lake and lying freeily on the lawns. We saw one of really impressive size, probably resting after a lunch as big as it The lizzards show no interest in people passing by, though I tried to take some photos quite discreetly. The park offers a quite magnificent view on the city and several stands with delicious street food close to the entrance.