On the 24th October James and I flew into Bangkok to start our month long Thai adventure. Unfortunately after we had booked, we found out that this was possibly the worst timed flight of our trip due to the cremation ceremony of the late king taking place. This led to the closure of half of Bangkok for part of the first day of our trip and all of the second. A lesson learned for us- always check what’s going on in the country before you book the flights!
Nevertheless, we managed to see some things in Bangkok. Sadly, all of the area around the royal palaces were closed, this meant that the surrounding temples including Wat Pho which houses the reclining Bhudda was also shut to the public for the entirety of our trip. However, the staff at our hotel were incredibly helpful and recommended visiting the Golden Buddha which is housed in China Town and remained open.
The Golden Buddha is hundreds of years old and has a rich history (!!) the gold of the statue was covered in plaster to protect it from theft, this was a forgotten fact until the statue was dropped from scaffolding and the plaster started to chip away, revealing the gold beneath. At 120 baht each (£3) I would say that the statue is well worth a visit as included in the price is a visit to the museum explaining the history of the statue as well as a visit to the museum dedicated to the history of China Town in Bangkok.
In the afternoon, we walked to the Salom district of Bangkok where we looked in a few shops including a Boots (who knew that they were in Thailand?!) and then we walked up the street to Lumphini Park.
Of all the things to find in Bangkok, a big green nature park with a lake in the middle of it was not something I was expecting. It was a really pleasant surprise amongst all of the concrete in the city. We spent an hour wandering around and relaxing when we saw the biggest lizard roaming free! I’ve gotten so used to watching geckos roaming around that I forgot how massive some lizards can be!
Around 4pm we made our way to the Siam shopping district. It was around this time that the stage areas were being set up for crowds to watch the ceremony for the following day. The areas were immense, catering for hundreds of people in each section. The Siam area seemed to be where the majority of people in the city would be watching the ceremony.
We chose to go into the Siam Centre shopping centre and I’ve never seen a mall like it before. It was huge. It covered 8 floors and went across three towers. Like the outside, the inside had been set up for the ceremony with the bottom floor being full of Thai people wearing black mourning clothes and queuing for a seat ticket for the following day.
We spent a couple of hours wandering around the shops before I started feeling overwhelmed from all the choice. If you are a lover of make up (like myself) then you’d enjoy wandering around as all of the top make up brands had shops as well as there being a Sephora – a shop that I get excited to visit as there’s not one in the UK. However, the added tax on these items in Thailand is quite large and you’ll end up spending more than if you just bought them online.
By this point, it was starting to get late so we decided to head back to the hotel via Patpong Market. If you didn’t know, this is supposedly the seedier area of Bangkok and I must admit that curiosity got the better of me and I wanted to see if it was as bad as everyone says. Again, we were stung by our choice of dates for our trip because the market was only running at half pace and the majority of bars were closed. James was however invited to see one ‘ping pong’ show which I think he sees as a novel triumph haha!
On the day of the actual ceremony, I spent the morning in the hotel gym and swimming pool. Nothing was open so we had no choice but to relax until our flight that afternoon to Chiang Mai (a hard life I know!) It was interesting to see how the locals reacted to the ceremony. For days, most of the Thai people that we saw wore black. Gold marigolds were arranged outside most of the buildings we sore along with black and gold ribbons wrapped around portraits of the late king.
James and I have agreed that we will definitely return to Bangkok at some point in the future, even if it’s just for a quick stopover so that we can see some of the things we missed. A lot of people slate Bangkok, but in all honesty, I kind of like it.