48 hours in Bangkok
Confessions of a non-shopaholic to discover the treasures of Bangkok! With only 48 hours to experience Bangkok, I started with the most obvious site in Bangkok – Grand Palace & Wat Phra Kaew.
Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of Emerald Buddha)
Wat Phra Kaew which is also famously known as Temple of Emerald Buddha, is a stunning piece of architecture. I was awestruck by the intricate and glittering gold work inside the complex. The statue of Emerald Buddha carved in a precious single piece of jade dates back in 14th century. The temple complex includes library, beautiful murals, a model of Angkor Wat and galleries of past kings. Lost in wonder, I stood between the towering gold stupas, among colorful mosaics and beside huge statues guarding the temple. A visit to this humongous complex with too many attractions is an absolute must!
Grand Palace, built in 1782, has been the residence of the Kings of Siam. It used to be the home of the Thai king, royal court and administrative seat of the government till 1925. Today it is partially opened for the tourists. I was fortunate to see the change of guards in front of the palace. The royal guards looked spectacular as they marched in the scorching heat in their bright white uniforms.
Wat Pho (Temple of Reclining Buddha) is a 10-minute walk from the Grand Palace. The main temple complex has a jaw-dropping 46 m long reclining Buddha covered in gold leaf. The posture of reclining Buddha represents the entry of Buddha into Nirvana (end of all reincarnations). The sole of the feet are inlaid with mother-of-pearl and center of the feet represents chakras (energy points).
After getting blinded by the glitter of gold, Wat Arun is a sight for sore eyes. Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) is opposite to Wat Pho and can be reached by a boat ride. Built in Khmer style of architecture, the towering prang looked majestic from the shores of the Chao Phraya River.
After my visit to Wat Arun, I took a boat ride to Rajini Pier to visit the famous flower market (Pak Khlong Talat) of Bangkok. It is Thailand’s largest wholesale flower market and is open 24 hours. My senses were overwhelmed by strong scents of fresh marigold, roses, tulips, lilies, orchids and other flowers. It was still noon when I visited the market and was not bogged by the crowd of tourists. I walked down the narrow lanes of the market observing the locals watering the flowers to keep them fresh and arranging them beautifully for the prospective customers. What amused me was the presence of Starbucks nestled in the corner of these local vegetable and flower markets!
The cheapest and the most traditional way of transport in Bangkok are still the waterways. After my visit to the flower market, I stepped into the boat from Rajini Pier to reach Marine Department Pier. Riding amidst the locals and monks and watching the setting sun in Bangkok was truly a Thai experience. Amidst the busy bustling city, smartly dressed commuters hop on and hop off the motorboats as though they were riding a bus. Additionally the ferry timings and schedules are available on Google Maps! It is amazing to see a modern vibrant city that is full of life, still depending heavily on one of the oldest forms of commuter transport.
Tuk Tuk Ride
No trip to Bangkok is complete without a tuk tuk ride. After getting down from the boat ride at Marine Department Pier, I took a tuk tuk to Hua Lamphong Station. I relaxed and enjoyed the ride as the driver swarmed around the city traffic. Be sure to negotiate the price before getting in!
From Hua Lamphong Station, I took an MRT to Sukhumvit. The ride is smooth but expect crowds at all stations. Unlike Singapore, every MRT line requires a separate MRT card. Overall the MRT system appeared more organized and efficient than Hong Kong, but still did not match up to the Singapore MRT experience.
Maeklong Railway Market is a departure from my regular sight seeing list. The market is fully functional with fresh produce of local vegetables, fruits, meat, spices. The train runs through the middle of the fully functioning market. The market adjusts itself according to the arrival and departure of the train. I have seldom seen better co-ordination and resource utilization in a market elsewhere! A true case of symbiotic coexistence!
Having seen floating villages in Cambodia, I was thrilled to visit the largest floating market in Bangkok. It had all the hallmarks of a regular bustling market. Vendors on boat were selling pancakes, noodles, meat broth, coconut ice cream and many more local food. There was lots of haggling and bargaining across boats between customers and vendors. The place created a good ambience to experience the culture and how the floating markets used to operate in earlier days.
My most unforgettable experience in Bangkok is watching a live Muay Thai fight in Rajadamnern Stadium. 9 matches in one night! There were few “Deshi Basara” moments when the crowd chanted each of their contender’s names during the final knock out rounds. That was the night that saw it all – right from adrenaline rush, hair raising moments to sheer shock when the fighters fell on the ground during the knock outs! Strongly recommend to include this in the itinerary!
I could not leave the city without trying out the local flavors of Bangkok. Of all the special dishes I tried, The Local on Sukhumvit 23 deserves a special mention. Their appetizer set is outstanding. One of the dishes in the set reminded me of Misal Pav in Mumbai. The main course just blew my senses not in terms of taste but spice! It was the most spiciest dish I ever had in my life – Southern Style Fish Curry “Gang Tai Pla”. The heat from the chilies was so unbearable that I had to gulp Kaffir Lime Ice Tea twice. It was an interesting introduction to the spice levels in Thai Cuisine.
Copyright ©2017, Lakshmi Nair . This article may not be reproduced in its entirety without permission. A link to this URL, instead, would be appreciated.