TBJ TRAVELS: Bangkok, Thailand Diaries 1: Sawasdee Ka, Thailand + Temple Hopping (Wat Pho and Wat Arun)
Sawasdee Ka! This week, I'll be taking you to awesome Bangkok, Thailand. This out-of-the-country vacation is my birthday gift to myself and at the same time, my BF and I's month-sary and first international vacation. :)
Why did we choose Bangkok, Thailand? First of all, it's one of the most affordable international destinations--that was the biggest factor in our decision. Second, we loved the perfect mix of tradition and modernity in the country. Finally, Food; Bangkok is a known food destination in Asia and it's perfect for foodies like us!
The BF and I stayed in Bangkok for 4 days and 3 nights. We flew via Thai Airways (yay!). One of my dreams in life is to ride all the airline carriers in the world and that dream came true once again with Thai Airways. We intended to fly via Cebu Pacific, but before checking out, I felt the urge to check Thai Airways' website, hoping I could score a pretty good deal. In the end, I scored a MUCH better deal because I paid the roundtrip fare for P11,000.00+/person plus food only (excluding baggage allowance fees and seat reservation) while Cebu Pacific was charging me P13,000+/person (excluding baggage allowance and seat reservation fees). With that, I leave everyone with a tip: All airline companies offer seat sales, especially on off peak seasons like mid-May to August, so be sure to check around and don't just settle for the usual--you might be surprised with the deals that you might chance upon!
Travel time was approximately 3 hrs. and 45 mins. from Manila and I believe we arrived 10 minutes earlier than expected. Here I am posing at Suvharnabhumi International Airport, which is a pretty AWESOME airport.
Here's what Suvharnabhumi International Airport looks like from the inside. It's a rounded airport that's as massive as Kuala Lumpur International Airport. When we arrived, temperature was about 35-36 degrees; it's hotter than the temperature in the Philippines, but it's not that bad considering that a week before we went there, temperature shot up to 41 degrees! Weather forecast also advised that it would rain so we brought umbrellas and it did rain so good thing we packed one!
Kameans "Hello". Sawasdee Ka is used by women while Sawasdee Krab is used by men. Ka and Krab are used at the end of sentences to express politeness. Thank you to my Thai reader, Narissa, for the correction. :)
We arrived at our hotel, Baiyoke Sky Hotel, at 6pm. I booked our hotel via Agoda.com. I prefer booking trips manually because I always find that I get to save more in the end. What I like best about Agoda.com is they have a lot of on sale rooms! I booked via Agoda twice already, one for Boracay and one for Bangkok, and I was pleased with both transactions. We didn't hire a coach though, but taxi's readily available at the airport.
Most Thais, especially the taxi drivers, can only speak and comprehend very little English so if you're going to visit Thailand soon, try to learn a few common greetings in Thai.
Baiyoke Sky Hotel is one of the highest rated budget hotel in Bangkok, Thailand, but is considered the premium hotel in the Baiyoke group--there's this, Baiyoke Hotel, and Baiyoke Boutique. It's also considered as the highest peak in Bangkok. A lot of tourists go here for The Observatory, a room at the topmost floor of Baiyoke Sky Hotel that offers a stunning view of the metropolis.
Here's our room. It's called Superior Standard Zone, no breakfast, and 3 nights at P8,910.72 inclusive of taxes (approximately for USD 197.01), although we were asked to deposit around 1000+ Baht upon check- in, but it was refunded to us when we checked out. The hotel's pretty old, but clean enough for us; it's just a bit far from the main malls though.
1 Baht is equivalent to about 1.17 Philippine Peso at that time.
For our first night, we just familiarized ourselves with the hotel, its amenities, surrounding areas, and nearest hospitals and police stations. The next day is when the real adventure began. Click READ MORE for our temple hopping itinerary in Bangkok featuring the famous Wat Pho and Wat Arun. :)
First destination was Wat Arun Ratchawararam Ratchawaramahawihan or simply known as Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn). We left the hotel at 9am 30 minutes after having breakfast. As advised by the hotel staff, quickest way to get to Wat Arun is via taxi. Taxi is not that expensive in Thailand (around 3.60 Baht to 4 Baht, if I'm not mistaken) unlike in other countries. It is also important to note that we left for Wat Arun and Wat Pho early so there was no traffic, ergo we did not have to pay too much for taxi fare.
Wat means Temple in Thai.
Wat Arun is one of the most visited temples in Bangkok because of its pearly, porcelain prangs that glisten under the sun; It is named after Aruna, the Indian god of Dawn.
One time entrance fee to Wat Arun is 50 Baht/person.
Wat Arun is a complex of porcelain- adorned prangs (tower- like shrines with carvings) that feature demons and monkeys, which is perhaps due to its Indian background.
The prangs have passageways and they have steep stairways so we had to be really careful when going up and down these as one slip could be fatal. This stairway leads to the biggest and tallest prang, and has a balcony where you can take better photos of the complex; It can normally be accessed by tourists, but the time we were here, it was closed down for rehabilitation.
Wat Arun is such a work of art. I wondered how they were able to produce such intricate, towering structures considering that the architectural techniques then weren't as sophisticated and advanced as now. Must be the gods, I guess!
We wandered around Wat Arun some more and learned that there are shrines in it too where people pray and offer gifts to ask for divine intervention. Even if you're not a Buddhist, you can pray as well just as long as you're open to these things.
It is considered disrespectful for Thais when someone wears Buddha on their clothes, as accessories, as tattoo, and poses parallel or on top of the Buddha in photography. Similarly, purchasing Buddha souvenirs is considered sacrilegious so please be mindful of these before visiting Buddhist countries.
Right across Wat Arun is Wat Pho or Temple Of The Reclining Buddha, one of the notable temples in Bangkok (you'll find out later why). To get there, the easiest not to mention most affordable way is riding the ferry at Chaophraya River. The ferries travel in two directions: vertically and horizontally. Fare is 1+ Baht and travel time is around 4 minutes only--waiting time is longer than the actual trip because the boatmen fill up the boat slightly before crossing the river to maximize the trip.
To get to the ferry station from Wat Arun, just head to the riverside. Wat Arun is located right beside the river so you won't get lost and besides, there are only two exits: the road side and riverside.
Now at Wat Phra Chettuphon Wimon Mangkhlaram Ratchaworamahawihan or Wat Pho (Temple Of The Reclining Buddha)! Entrance at Wat Pho is 60 Baht/person and it comes with a free bottle of water. Women are required to wear a robe (which is handed to women at the entrance) before entering the temple and everyone is required to take off their footwear before setting foot inside the temple; there are shoe bags provided so take one and put your shoes inside it. Never leave your footwear outside the temple.
When visiting temples not only in Bangkok, but in other countries as well, wear a decent outfit. Those who are wearing very revealing clothes are oftentimes forbidden from entering temples. Bring a cardigan or shawl at least to cover up exposed body parts such as the shoulders and legs.
Wat Pho houses the 46 metre- long reclining Buddha covered in Gold Leaf. This image represents the dying moment of Buddha.
The temple where the reclining Buddha resides is a long, hallway- like area with ornate walls and pillars. It's another work of art, just like Wat Arun. People come here to pray and offer gifts to the Buddha as well.
Somewhere at the end of the temple, there's an area that's intended for picture- taking. Don't miss it in your visit. :)
At the foot of the reclining Buddha, there are carvings that depict the life of Buddha, perhaps?
At the foot of the Buddha, you'll find these coins. They cost 20 Baht per pot and they're for the 108 Bronze Bowls ritual. It is an optional activity, but if you decide to do the ritual, you're going to help the monks maintain the Wat so please, support them and do your part in preserving history. :)
The 108 Bronze Bowls represent the 108 auspicious characters of Buddha, which are believed to bring good fortune. All you have to do is fill up the 108 bowls with the coins. My BF and I did it. :)
Wat Pho, by the way, is one of the biggest temple complexes in Bangkok. Here I am posing at the chedis (which is like a prang) for Kings in the area.
Wat Pho is also home to over 1000 images of Buddha. I was informed that the reason why Buddha has a lot of images is because each image represents a certain pose; every pose is important for Buddhists, therefore they should be recorded/documented via statues; The difference is not that very obvious at first look, but once you observe the statues, they do have varying poses!
This shrine somewhere around Wat Pho houses the relic of a certain King.
By the way, Wat Pho also housed the first university in Thailand and it is where Traditional Thai Massage was first developed and practiced.
We both got really, really famished and felt beaten by the heat in Bangkok so we decided to end our temple hopping adventure at Wat Pho. There are A LOT of temples in Bangkok and you'd probably need 2- 3 days to explore everything. Best thing to do is just pick the notable ones, in my opinion. Aside from Wat Arun and Wat Pho, other popular temples are Wat Saket (Golden Mount), and Wat Phrakaew (Temple Of The Emerald Buddha).
Black/Lucky Buddha Grift?
Okay, I just found out about this now and I had to write it down here because our experience was scarily close to the Black/Lucky Buddha scam.
According to some sources, the scam goes like this: A stranger will approach you and offer to bring you to "Black Buddha" or "Lucky Buddha", a temple that is only open 7 days a year and the stranger would say that you are lucky because it's open today; they would even say that the certain temple you're visiting is close to persuade you to go to the alternative temple. Stranger will offer a tuk-tuk ride that will take you to the Black/Lucky Buddha, Golden Mount, and other tourist destinations for only 10 Baht, but the tuk-tuk driver would have to make a mandatory stop at a factory to claim a free petrol coupon. You will find out eventually that the Lucky/Black Buddha temple is non-existent, but you'll continue with the trip anyway because it is what was planned. When you get to the factory, some people will approach you and try to sell you gems at a factory price. Others were even brought to hidden boutiques that sold expensive suits and were forced to buy. Clearly, the stranger and tuk-tuk driver were all part of a conspiracy for a commission, perhaps!
We've almost had this experience, but it's fairly different. When we arrived at Wat Pho, we checked out the map right outside it and a nice, old man approached us; he chatted with us for a bit and told us that there's a certain "way" to pray in the temples. He got a piece of paper and enumerated 4 temples that we should go to and pray in in order: 1.) Black Buddha 2.) Golden Mount 3.) Wat Phra Kaew 4.) Wat Pho. He told us that we should've started the visit in the morning, but also said we still had time as it was 1PM when we got to Wat Pho. I asked if the 3 other temples were close by, but he said that we can take the tuk-tuk and hire one for the entire trip. The traveling requirement killed it for us so we declined and said "We'll see." The man was kind enough to let us go and proceed with our itinerary for Wat Pho. Whew! Good thing we declined. Laziness is important after all because it saved us! :D
These Lucky/Black Buddha guys are always hanging around temples, waiting for a catch. If you're vacationing in Bangkok and will go temple hopping, and someone approaches and tells you that the temple is close and offers an alternative, the first thing that you should do is go to the information center of the temple to inquire and validate. I'm not saying though that all tuk-tuk drivers and locals are unscrupulous--just protect yourself at all times.
That's all for today. Tomorrow, let's visit the famous house of the man who revived the Silk industry in Thailand, Thailand's answer to New York's Central Park, and the famous shrine in Bangkok that apparently has made a lot of decrees come true. ;)
Check out my other Bangkok Diaries:
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Beauty. Fitness. Fashion. Food. Travel. Unicorns. World Peace. Digify Corporation.