4 Days in Bangkok

Before we arrive to a new place, we love to picture in our mind how that place will look like, don’t we?
I have imagined Bangkok as a dirty, smelly city, hot and humid, crowded and very polluted. Well, I was right.
As soon as I arrived in Bangkok I had a feeling of deja-vu. The humidity, the grey buildings, the noise, the traffic jams reminded me of Hong Kong and Denpassar, two major international hubs that you either end up loving or hating. The loving part depends on how much chaos you can tolerate or if you enjoy becoming one of the chaos factors yourself.

Say you want to rent a car. Perhaps you’ll be happy to know that there are no traffic rules one must obey, no traffic lights frightening enough to slow you down and no verbal abuse by fellow drivers. Or perhaps not. Perhaps you’ll be horrified at the first red traffic sign where it will be obvious to you no one considers stopping. Enjoying the thrill? Go ahead, it comes with the bill.

From the airport to the hotel of my choice, Galleria 10 Hotel, I took a taxi. For 350 Baht, about 12 AUD, it offered me the illusion of safety and the pleasantries of chit-chat.

The hotel was cozy, clean and quiet and the location, let’s just say, unbeatable. Right next to a huge vasectomy centre. That, I found out in the morning. Well, I always said that all the information we gather on the road, one day might come in handy. What was next? Dentistry? Fertility clinic? Skin clinic? Because, yes, in the last few years, slowly but surely, the medical tourism in Thailand flourished. And for very good reasons. 5000 AUD for a dental crown in Australia or 500 AUD for the same crown in Australia? You pick. If you have a choice. Most Aussies don’t. And voila, Thailand wins.

But I wasn’t here for any medical procedures. I was here to lose myself in the beauty of Bangkok’s temples, museums, exhibitions, enjoy its restaurants, its night markets, lose myself in the crowd. Yes, living in Australia, you end up missing the crowds. A few days in SE Asia is a quick fix.

First day in Bangkok

On the menu, the Grand Palace, The Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and Wat Pho, famous for the giant reclining Buddha, all in one big place.

Once I arrived, I was impressed by how many jobs can be created out of nothing. At the gate, one person invited me to go in, at the ticket office one person handed me the ticket for the palace, the museum and the Emerald Buddha, at the entrace to the museum another person made sure I do have the ticket, then another one checked again I still had the ticket. Pretty soon, it became clear to me the ticket was THE Precious.

The Grand Palace complex was established in 1782 and, to see it properly, might take you about two hours, half of the time being dedicated to trying desperately to take a photo without tons of people in it. It is very touristy and, at some point, I was more focused on avoiding the crowds than on trying to absorb the beauty of it. Nevertheless, it is a very beautiful and impressive place. The entrance costs 1000 baht, which is about 35 AUD.


The Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles is located to the right of the visitor’s entrance to the Grand Palace and displays textiles of Her Majesty. Despite being quite an impressive building it has a small number of textiles and the only thing which I found interesting was the story about the life cycle of the silk worm. Thank you, dear worms for saving my day!

Wat Pho and the Reclining Buddha are impressive sites that also offer unusual services. Yes, here you can also get a professional Thai massage for around 20 AUD per hour. Quite a bargain. And, after walking for hours, well-deserved.

In the afternoon, I went shopping and had a bite in one of the food courts. The paying system was interesting and efficient. Payment for all the food stalls was done by prepaid card, which could be bought and topped up at a central location.

Second day

The second day was a big day. I wanted to see the largest golden teak palace in the world – Vimanmek Mansion, once home to Thailand’s King Rama 5. As there is no sky train or metro close enough, the best way to reach it is by taxi. The entry is free for those, smart enough, who keep and can present the ticket for the Grand Palace. Not my case!
Inside, long pants are a must. And, if at the Grand Palace you could borrow a pair for no extra fee, here, if you do not have one, you must buy one from their shop.


As in all Thai houses you must leave the shoes outside. This made perfect sense in my mind until I have realized that from the place where I was “compelled” to leave my shoes until the actual entrance to the house it was a 2 minute walk on a wet and dirty footpath. Only after this arduous and exquisite journey, one is considered to be ready to step on the nice carpets inside the house…
Unfortunately, there were no explanatory signs inside the mansion and I had pretty much no clue what was the meaning of different objects. Everything was in Thai which made me think that it must be a popular place with locals and definitely not a must see for tourists. I could have hired a tour guide, but their English was so poor that it was better admiring the rooms at my own pace.

You are not allowed to go inside any of the rooms so, all you do is walk along a long hallway taking a peek into the rooms still open to the public eye.
Each room is fiercely guarded by two to three or even four Thai people earning their living by making sure that no matter how determined you are, you cannot overstep the boundaries.
With not much to see, I soon left the place happy to be on my way.

Next stop, the popular public boat to see the city skyline.

But getting to the pier can quickly turn into a real adventure as the taxi drivers can be quite fussy if you travel short distances. Some asked me for 200 Baht, others for 150 Baht and just when I was prepared to let them rip me off, an oldie but a goodie charged me only 45 Baht. Finally a starving, but an honest taxi driver. Honesty pays off, huh?

The boat trip was fun. At each stop, the mooring was done with the help of a high pitch series of whistles from the guy at the back to the captain at the front. Considering the bumps at quite a few stops, the system wasn’t the most efficient. In fact, it was terribly annoying. So much so that by the end of the trip, I was willing to do almost anything to shut his mouth. Doubtful that could ever happen, I was content to just get off.

On the bright side of things, from the water you could see traditional water villages or what was left of them. They were in a terrible state of disrepair and it was quite a contrast with the high rise buildings found on the other side of the river.


For a fancy get together with old time friends like Tom Cruise, I stopped at Madame Tussaud at Siam mall. The price of the ticket varied depending on the floor you were buying it from. On the 5th floor you could buy the ticket for 720 Baht, on the 6th floor for 800 Baht or, if you had internet access you could just buy it from any floors for just 500 Bath from www.hotels2thailand.com. Clearly, the best site I have found in terms of pricing for all the trips and shows around Bangkok.


Sadly, Tom Cruise wasn’t the highlight of my trip. He seemed rather unwilling to chat and his manners a bit too stiff for my taste. The highlight was Siam’s mall toilet with its funny signs and wise words:

“If you cannot be the best at least be different.”


The toilets at Terminal 21 mall even offered a challenge: flushing. A complicated water cleaning system attached to the toilet with multiple setting for different jet speeds, temperature, direction and so on required a manual that was not easy to find. Oh well, life is complicated in Thailand. I wonder how complicated it gets in Japan…


Third day

The third day started with a visit to the pharmacy. You see, for an Aussie, buying medicine over the counter, like antibiotics, is a luxury. Buying them at decent prices is double luxury one can simply not ignore. No more pricey appointments to the family doctor. Goodbye long waiting times. Here, I could buy an antibiotic with no fuss. And, while I do not contest that some people might abuse the use of antibiotics which made countries such as Australia or Canada to overregulate their prescription,  I am questioning if all of us should be thrown into the same bucket. Say you have an ear infection. There are places, especially in the outback, where you do not have a doctor 24/7 or a pharmacy and times when you need an antibiotic. Don’t abuse it, but if you need it, use it. Or, at least, have the option to.

But what I truly like about Thailand is that there is always more than meets the eye.

For example, at the pharmacy, a sign was depicting the erection hardness score, starting from the tofu stage until the cucumber one. Hmmm? I always loved cucumbers, didn’t you?


Later in the day, I went to visit Suan Pakkad Palace Museum. It is a collection of seven traditional Thai houses and it was the residence of a Thai prince and his consort. It is an off the beaten path attraction and I was really impressed with it.
The central piece was the Lacquer Pavilion dating from the 17th century. Inside the Pavilion there were magnificent mural paintings, with gold and black lacquer depicting the life of Buddha and stories from Ramayana, the Indian epic.


Also there, you could see the Khon Museum, displaying masks and puppets. Khon is a masked dance telling stories from Ramayana.


There was also a display of traditional Thai musical instruments that belonged to the royal family. Particularly rare were the drums, gongs, idiophones and chordophones.


The houses were surrounded by beautiful gardens. You could actually enter the houses, escape the crowds at the Vimanmek Mansion and really go back in time. There were signs in English explaining to you the history of each house. It was a beautiful authentic Thai place, an unknown gem in the heart of Bangkok.


My next stop was at The Snake Farm. Despite its humble name, the place is impressive. It has a large collection of snakes, live demonstration of venom extract and handling snakes, and lots of information about everything you might want to know about snakes.
I loved it.


One more day was gone.

Back at my hotel, things were quiet and the Thai, flashy dressed lady, I kept seeing for the last few days coming and going out of different rooms, was nowhere to be found.


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