Sunday, October 28, 2007

Bangkok Day 3: The Grand Palace

Day 3! The plan is to visit the Grand Palace and Wat Po (the huge sleeping Buddha's temple) and after that, there's no more plans! Which means, shopping.

The canal boat stop is right behind the hotel, and that means, it beats the drudgery of walking to the road to take the bus, or even further to take the BTS.

Taking the canal boat is a pretty harrowing affair though. The boats really do rush - and you gotta jump on or off them even before the boat has docked neatly. The ticket conductors walk along the perimeter of the boat, holding thin ropes to steady themselves on the speeding boat.

When the boat speeds along, the conductors and passengers alike hoist the canvas covers to prevent water splash.

Indeed, taking the canal boat is amazingly quick and for a reasonable 10 baht. However it goes only as far as Golden Mount, which is just at the east end of historical Rattanakosin.

Old houses by the canal.

Wat Saket, where we came across a group of primary school students having a visit there and to the museum.

Gold, gold, gold!

CON MEN! There was this elaborate scheme which involves a young lady approaching us to have a friendly chat, on the pretext that she wanted to practice English speaking as she was a student studying English. After a long convoluted chat, she told us that:

1. Grand Palace is closed
2. You should visit a certain few specific temples that visitors all go to
3. Tuk-tuks offer a 20 baht day tour
4. Only the government tuk-tuks can be trusted
5. She could flag down a tuk-tuk for us

Oh well, at least it sounded convincing until the tuk-tuk part, when it all became bullcrap. The reputation of tuk-tuk cons sprads beyond their national borders.

Walking away, being hounded by tuk-tuk touts. Absorbing the sights of the city.

And then we reached Grand Palace! It's grand, no doubt about it. Everything glittery and gilded, and whatever isn't covered with gold is covered with a fresh clean coat of paint.

It costs 250 baht for foreigners to visit the place though. Free for Thais.

Adjacent to the huge Grand Palace is Wat Po, home of the sleeping Buddha.

All crowds, nothing much to see here.

And after asking for directions for a while, we found ourselves heading towards Chao Phraya river to take the express boat to the Saphan Taksin BTS station.

The express boats are more touristy and safer. It's amazing how the guy at the back of the boat signals to the boatman in front which direction he should move to position the boat at the jetty. He uses a whistle to blow different pitches and patterns!

Reached the BTS station and we bought 100 baht day passes for unlimited rides, which we later used numerous times, once to go across the gates of the same station in order to use the station lobby as a shortcut.

A lower-end Thai restaurant that serves quite good food. It's called Thai Thai and is in one of the buildings in Silom. It's tasty and exotic, but doesn't quite match the standard of Thai Express in Singapore.

Green curry, my favourite Thai food! It's more exotic tasting here, with herbs and spices you hardly taste in Singapore.

Patpong signboards by day. Oh check out this hilarious page by the way: Bangkok Bob's Strange Things.

Headed to Siam Square, which was boring as stuff wasn't really cheap, and it's just like Singapore's Far East Plaza.

Went back to the hotel, pretty exhausted, and changed into lighter clothing (you had to wear long trousers and dress neatly to enter the Grand Palace). Dumped the camera there and got around with only 1 sole purpose - to shop!

Slightly north of the hotel along the road, we found a wholesaler of real-fake football jerseys. What they do is to print jerseys on original Nike Drifit cloth, so it looks almost like the real thing for 350 baht ($15 Singapore Dollars). Bought one. But you gotta be really careful as some of the jerseys aren't printed properly and you got corners peeling off and all.

There's these Africans who were ordering 600 jerseys from the wholesaler to sell at home! Overheard that Africans NEVER wear black as they believe it to be bad luck.

Walked on to Platinium Fashion Mall, which is an excellent place to buy clothing and accessories - especially for females - at a good price.

Pantip Plaza, which is a huge IT mall which is way bigger than Sim Lim Square, and bought a laptop sleeve and DS lite screen protector for cheap.

Irritating thing is, there are these touts that literally grab you by the arm and want you to buy pirated DVDs. One even said, "You want sexy DVD?"

Hungry, so BTS to MBK. Ate at Chester's Grill. Imagine KFC but with grilled chicken instead of fried chicken. That's Chester's Grill.

What Singaporeans say about Bangkok is that you can buy cheap and good bras.

I ate street food! It's pretty scary eating street food cause of the rumours about unhygienic practices. And well, it seems like only iron-stomached locals eat there. Got a stick of squid barbecued and drenched in sour spicy sauce for 10 baht. Overrated though. It tasted... weird.

Ambled around a little, BTS back to Chit Lom (the stop nearest the hotel.)

Random graffiti.

At Isetan, they sold my red Casio Mudman watch at 4200 baht, which is like 50% more than what I had paid in Singapore. And the watch is made in Thailand to boot! Bangkok simply isn't a good place to buy branded stuff, as the prices are simply exorbitant.

What's fun to shop here are no-name T-shirts and imitation stuff (think 100 baht LV-lookalike wallets, football jerseys, etc.)

Got more food and alcohol from Big C, and back to the hotel again.

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