Visiting Temples in Bangkok – Wat Pho?

One of the neatest things for me about visiting Bangkok was seeing Buddhist temples everywhere.  I am no student of their faith and much less of all the specifics of the architecture of these temples but they are impressive and that’s why I am glad I made the time for a stop -however brief- in Bangkok as I traveled between Bali  and Cambodia.  Time was short so we had to keep it only to the main temples in Bangkok (plus the one we visited during our bike tour of the countryside).

Once we finished our bike ride outside of Bangkok after lunch that day, we headed into the heart of Bangkok to visit Wat Arun and Wat Pho. (Be careful with this latter one as asking about it may lead your fellow traveler to think you are messing with him and almost earn you a fist to your face!  Remember “Who is on first?“, etc.  Yea, that.)

I will not try to tell you the story of these two places as there are plenty of resources out there for that. These temples are very colorful thanks to what seem to be porcelain tiles and mosaics everywhere.  It is great to admire from a distance but getting up close allows one to see the details of the decorated exteriors.  Also, know that these are the very abbreviated names for these temples (which are really each a temple complex on its own) – names there can be quite long!

Wat Arun, Bangkok, Thailand, temple, Asia, travel, photo, explore, Samsung Galaxy

Ferry on the Chao Phraya River

Wat Arun – Temple of the Dawn

Wat Arun dates from the 17th century but the main towers one sees are much more recent.  We started our temple visits by arriving here but crossing it quickly to get to the ferry to first visit Wat Pho on the other side of the river.  Once we finished with Wat Pho, where we spent most of our time, we crossed the river back to check out Wat Arun.

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Wat Arun temple complex

Wat Arun, Bangkok, Thailand, temple, Asia, travel, photo, explore, Samsung Galaxy

Greeted at the entrance by some warrior

Wat Arun, Bangkok, Thailand, temple, Asia, travel, photo, explore, Samsung Galaxy, Buddha

Sitting Buddhas

Wat Arun, Bangkok, Thailand, temple, Asia, travel, photo, explore, Samsung Galaxy, mosaic

Mosaic details

Wat Arun, Bangkok, Thailand, temple, Asia, travel, photo, explore, Samsung Galaxy

Around Wat Arun

Wat Arun, Bangkok, Thailand, temple, Asia, travel, photo, explore, Samsung Galaxy

Around Wat Arun

The highlight for me happened rather unexpectedly.  We walked into one of the temples.  There was a monk sitting near a box where one could drop a coin and he would pray over you.  Not certain how this all worked, I walked away to a donation box not close to him.  As I walked back to the back of the temple, the monk called me over to him and signaled for me to sit on the floor.  He proceeded to give me a blessing.  Unbeknownst to me, my friend Phil started video’ing the whole thing and I ended up with a neat ‘souvenir’ from this random event!

Wat Arun, Bangkok, Thailand, temple, Asia, travel, photo, explore, Samsung Galaxy

The main temple

Wat Arun, Bangkok, Thailand, temple, Asia, travel, photo, explore, Samsung Galaxy, blessing, Buddha,

Being blessed by a monk

Wat Pho – Where the Reclining Buddha is

The Reclining Buddha may be what makes this temple complex most famous but it is quite an impressive site.  But first, the Reclining Buddha is not just napping – he has reached the ideal state and the posture signifies that (vs. a sitting Buddha or a standing Buddha).  The Reclining Buddha is very long (46 m; 150 ft) and based on how it is housed within a building, one can’t just stand in front of it and capture it head to toes in a nice, clean photo.  Which is kind of cool, come to think of it.  This unique piece was built close to 200 years ago and it impresses.

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No easy way to photograph

Wat Pho, reclining Buddha, Bangkok, temple, Buddishm, tourism, travel, adventure, Samsung Galaxy, photo, S7, Asia

Rather large feet

Wat Pho, reclining Buddha, Bangkok, temple, Buddishm, tourism, travel, adventure, Samsung Galaxy, photo, S7, Asia

Good angle from the headrest down

But Wat Pho is much more than its famous resident statue.  Pagodas (towers) built by different kings which house their own Buddhas and other parts related to the monastic complex are worth exploring (there are well laid out signs to explain to the visitor the complex and its contents).  The ceramic tile-work on the roofs are different depending on the king or period in which the structures were built.

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What to know

  • You can go way more off-the-beaten path than what we got to see.  But these two are a must!
  • You can use ferries/boats up and down the river in Bangkok to move between the temples.  No need to just suffer city traffic.  Plus, at some point or another, you WILL need to cross the river!
  • Temples do close earlier than a tourist may expect.  Know the times or use a local guide.  We went for the latter as we didn’t have to think about anything plus he knew a few other things (like best photo spot at a given temple, etc.).
  • Temples are about someone’s faith.  They ask that you do not wear shorts or sleeveless shirts.  It was sad to see how many people showed either ignorance or disrespect.  One doesn’t have to subscribe to the beliefs of the locals, but one should respect them.  Yes, it is hot and humid.  Wear a wicking t-shirt and some hiking pants that convert to shorts and one will be alright in that weather!

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A Quick Bike Tour of the Thai Countryside

One of my friends mentioned how in her time in Bangkok, she enjoyed bike rides in the countryside.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, she also recommended visiting the unique railroad market by the Mae Klong rail station, about 1.5 hrs. outside of Bangkok.  My friend and fellow traveler Phil and I agreed that it sounded like a great idea so I contacted the individual that had taken her to both places and arranged for the bike tour as well.  We did not have a full day to spare so, unfortunately, the bike ride would only be about 2 hours.  Nevertheless, it would allow us to see something much different than the city so we felt it was still going to be worth it.

After visiting the railroad market to see the 9AM train go by (we almost missed it!), we headed towards the Amphawa Floating Market (which, unfortunately, was closed that day) to begin our bike ride.  Amphawa, floating market, Bangkok, Thailand, travel, explore, adventure, photoAmphawa, floating market, Bangkok, Thailand, travel, explore, adventure, photo

It had been a couple of years since my last bike ride (a bike tour in Buenos Aires that went flawlessly) so it took me some pedaling to re-learn balance and I had a couple of mishaps early on due to that (one of those more painful than the other…).  I found my biking groove and, combined with fairly easy terrain, went forward with the bike tour for the next 1.5 hrs or so with no further issue.

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Awaiting the river crossing with our guide (photo courtesy of fellow traveler Phil I.)

Bangkok, Thailand, river, Mae Klong, bike tour, travel, adventure

About to cross the river on this beauty

Riding by farms and plantations

Bike tour, Bangkok, Thailand, travel, explore, adventure

Our guide in the lead, followed by me (photo courtesy of Phil I.)

Bike tour, Bangkok, Thailand, travel, explore, adventure

Passing a bunch of empty coconut shells at one of the farms  (photo courtesy of Phil I.)

Bike tour, Bangkok, Thailand, travel, explore, adventure

Beautiful water (topped by some algae?) at one of the banana plantations

Bike tour, Bangkok, Thailand, travel, explore, adventure

Love the shadow of a banana plant on the surface of the water

Bang Kung Camp

We made a stop at the Bang Kung camp which is a former navy camp from wars past (with Burma, I believe) dating from the late 1700s.  The camp has statues depicting the fight training the soldiers went through.  The camp also had a temple that was overcome with vegetation as the camp was abandoned for a couple of hundred of years (but is now open for the faithful – and bike-tourists!).

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Map showing the market, the floating market and the camp

Bang Kung, camp, navy, Thailand, Bangkok, temple, Buddha, travel, explore, bike tour

Outside of the temple; and our guide Andy and I taking a break (photo courtesy of Phil I.)

Bang Kung, camp, navy, Thailand, Bangkok, temple, Buddha, travel, explore, bike tour

Bang Kung, camp, navy, Thailand, Bangkok, temple, Buddha, travel, explore, bike tour

In front of the temple

Bang Kung, camp, navy, Thailand, Bangkok, temple, Buddha, travel, explore, bike tour

In front of the temple

Bang Kung, camp, navy, Thailand, Bangkok, temple, Buddha, travel, explore, bike tour

Inside the temple

Bang Kung, camp, navy, Thailand, Bangkok, temple, Buddha, travel, explore, bike tour

Training for a fight!

Bang Kung camp, Bangkok, Thailand, bike tour

I had to blow up one of the photos because one of the fighters looked life-like…

Bang Kung, camp, navy, Thailand, Bangkok, temple, Buddha, travel, explore, bike tour

Statue honoring an important leader of the war with Burma

Along the way, a church

We pedaled mainly either on well-paved roads or minor side roads along coconut farms and banana plantations.  It was all very serene and it was a very enjoyable, pleasant bike ride.  Along the way we passed a Catholic church, not quite labeled that way, it was called Our Lady of Help Christion (sic) Church.  It looked closed so we did not go in.  I have to say it felt out of place but it was also cool to see!Our Lady Help, Mae Klong, church, Catholic ,Bangkok, Thailand

Our Lady Help, Mae Klong, church, Catholic ,Bangkok, Thailand

In front of the church with my fellow adventurer and much better cyclist

Lunch time!

The ride ended with a late lunch in a small restaurant perched on the river bank of the Mae Klong River, upstream from where we had started.  And just as we got there, it started to pour!  It was perfect timing, great food, and a cool setting to rest from the busy morning while enjoying more of the delicious Thai food (see my post on food in Bangkok!)

Mae Klong, river, Bangkok, Thailand, travel, explore, bike tour

View of the Mae Klong River from the restaurant

Mae Klong, river, Bangkok, Thailand, travel, explore, bike tour

View of the Mae Klong River from the restaurant

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Shrimp tempura and chicken curry – delicious

The bike tour was a phenomenal idea and a good change of tempo, especially as it got us out of the hustling, bustling city to see a beautiful countryside and breathe some fresh air – I need to be sure I always look for options like this in future travels!

What to Know

  • We hired Grasshopper Adventures for the bike tour (fully paid by us, no freebies given for me to mention them).
  • Wear your helmet.  You are in the developing world and, should an accident happen (like it happened to me!), it is better to be safe than sorry when you may or may not get access to the medical care you are used to.
  • While it is hot and humid, it was very pleasant while on the bike.
  • You can do a short bike ride like we did or a day-long one.

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Bangkok – A City of Amazing Food!

Thailand is well-known for its diverse cuisine and great flavors.  One does not have to have been to Thailand to know this or to experience the greatness of the cuisine.  Enjoying the food was certainly one of the things I planned to do in my short visit to Thailand a few weeks ago.  With guidance from a local we found two neat spots in Bangkok where we greatly enjoyed the food as well as just going to places where the locals also dined.

Tuk tuk fun

Of course, getting there is half the fun so we took our first tuk tuk that night.  It was a crammed space (there were three of us).  Since the driver wove in and out of traffic (fairly safely), the time to get to places was not as much as if we had taken a cab.  A tuk tuk is definitely the way to go unless a little exhaust from cars around you bother you (in which case, you need a car so you can close the windows…).

Bangkok, tuk tuk, Thailand, exploring, travel, adventure, photo

Fun and colorful rides

Bangkok, tuk tuk, Thailand, exploring, travel, adventure, photo

Of course, a selfie was required

Phenomenal seafood in Chinatown

The first spot was a seafood place in Bangkok’s Chinatown, named Lek and Rut Seafood.  We liked it so much we went back to it the next night! Bangkok, Thailand, street, food, seafood, travel, explore, photo Bangkok, Thailand, street, food, seafood, travel, explore, photo Bangkok, Thailand, street, food, seafood, travel, explore, photo

Bangkok, Thailand, street, food, seafood, travel, explore, photo

Corner in which Lek & Rut is located

The menu was quite extensive, the food was served quickly AND it was superb.  That and a big bottle of beer (or two) (or three) and we were in business.

Bangkok, Thailand, street, food, seafood, travel, explore, photo Bangkok, Thailand, street, food, seafood, travel, explore, photo Bangkok, Thailand, street, food, seafood, travel, explore, photo

Getting pad Thai’d !

Our second stop that first night was a place known for its pad Thai – Thipsamai on Maha Chai Rd..  Basically, one moves in line past the cooking station set out on the sidewalk itself until one gets to the front of the line when a table opens up.  Until 7PM, the only tables available are inside (a small space) and in front of the restaurant on the sidewalk.  We got there right before 7PM and the line was long!  I figured we’d be there forever.  All of a sudden, the line sorts of clears and we are being walked to a table!  Basically, at 7PM they can set out tables in front of neighboring storefronts, greatly expanding seating capacity.

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The extra seating area

Bangkok, Thailand, food, pad thai, travel, foodie, explore, photo

One of the food prep areas

Bangkok, Thailand, food, pad thai, travel, foodie, explore, photo

Waiting for the pad Thai (thanks, Phil I. for the photo!)

It is fascinating to watch the guys cook the pad Thai right there.  They are masters!  (Check out the video to see them in motion.)

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An army of cooks!

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Video courtesy of my fellow traveler Phil I. who wanted credit 🙂  Gracias!

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Pad Thai – the final product!

What to Know

  • Street food is said to be very safe in Bangkok.  We did not hold back and we were OK.  Not promising you will have the same outcome but I felt comfortable.
  • Chinatown is worth exploring and sitting down somewhere.  But there are likely many places in town to explore.  We barely scratched the surface as our stay was too short.
  • Tuk tuks are a cheap and probably faster way to move around town.  As long as you are OK with some exhaust around you (it wasn’t horrible but it may make a difference).  I found the tuk tuk more fun than a regular taxi (though taxis with A/C are not a bad thing!).
  • Thai food goes very well with a nice cold beer!

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A Unique Railroad Market in Thailand

As I was researching all that there was to do in Bangkok so I could narrow down the options to fit our time there, a friend who had spent a few weeks in Bangkok recently gave me an excellent pair of recommendations on what to do off-the-beaten path.  Liz, my friend, suggested that she put me in touch with a local guide that had taken her outside of Bangkok for a day trip exploring the countryside and a peculiar market.  We did not have a whole day to spare so I asked the local guide, Al, if it were possible to shrink the trip to half a day.  Thankfully, it was doable despite the 1.5 hr ride each from and to the city.  My fellow traveler, Phil, also thought it would be cool to get out of the city so I confirmed with Al that it was a go.

Both of Liz’ recommendations would take us to the Samut Songkhram province, just about southwest of Bangkok towards the sea.  And the first of the two items on the agenda was to see the unique railroad market there by the Maeklong train station.  We had to be there by a certain time to catch the train passing through the market but it looked like we were going to miss it by like 5-10 minutes; I was bummed but was accepting that it was just going to have to be this way.  But, we got lucky!  The train actually passed through like 5-10 minutes AFTER we arrived at the market.

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The Maeklong train station at the end of the market

Maeklong, railroad, train, market, Thailand, Bangkok, photo, travel, explore, Samsung Galaxy S7, vegetables

The railroad tracks

Space is at a premium in this market and, as you can see in the pictures, the goods spill over just about to the railroad tracks.  Shoppers -and tourists- walk within the railroad tracks to cross the market.  The market in this part is a food market:  vegetables, fruit, chicken, fish, crabs, etc. abound – and all look pretty darn fresh.

Maeklong, railroad, train, market, Thailand, Bangkok, photo, travel, explore, Samsung Galaxy S7, vegetables

Keep at eye out on the baskets on the right when you watch the video below

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Lots of chicken

Maeklong, railroad, train, market, Thailand, Bangkok, photo, travel, explore, Samsung Galaxy S7, crab, seafood

Fresh crab

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Fresh squid

Announcements are made over loudspeakers (in Thai) to warn folks ahead of time that the train is approaching.  I was wondering how these folks would clear out quickly; they barely seemed to be moving or noticing that the train was coming except for the folks closing the canopies that provide shade to the market.  A couple of items on the ground were moved but most stayed put.  I was unclear how well the train would clear the goods, especially the two baskets left between the tracks (you can see what happened in the video clip).

Maeklong, railroad, train, market, Thailand, Bangkok, photo, travel, explore, Samsung Galaxy S7,

Clearing the way for the train!

Then the train came.  It was crawling as it crossed the market which made sense given the tight quarters around it (also, unbeknownst to me, the train station was at the far end of the market).

Maeklong, railroad, train, market, Thailand, Bangkok, photo, travel, explore, Samsung Galaxy S7,

The train goes through the market

The slow speed allowed us to enjoy the moment.  As soon as the train passed, canopies were opened again and things returned to normal!   It was fascinating to see this place – here is a very amateur video showing the scene:

Bangkok, railroad market, Thailand, Mae Klong, travel, photo, train, market

Yep, it came that close! (Photo courtesy of my fellow traveler Phil I. – I crouched low taking video, he stayed standing for photos!)

What to Know

  • The train does not come through all the time.  We aimed for the 9AM passing of the train; the next train that day was to be sometime around 11AM.  I did not have to look up the timetable as we were being taken to see it but be sure you know that day when it will come through.
  • I would have, with more time, walked around more outside of the part of the market on the tracks.  The area looked interesting.
  • If you plan well, combine doing the railroad market with visiting the Amphawa floating market which only opens certain days of the week.  It is one of the more famous floating markets near Bangkok and, from everything I heard, well worth the visit.  Unfortunately, we only had a full day to go see the railroad market and it happened to be on a day when the floating market was closed.

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