Travel Destinations

Monday, May 6, 2013

A First Glimpse of Bangkok, Thailand

Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall
Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall, Dusit Palace Park
The more I travel, the more I want to experience every country and culture I possibly can.  Recently, Romeo and I decided it was time to go to Asia.  I had never been and he had only been to the Philippines as a very young child.  I have to admit I was nervous because big cities in Asian countries seem so intense, full of activity and crowds.  Since we like to experience things on our own, I was also very nervous about navigating a country where signs would be in characters rather than letters (or so I thought). But knowing that beautiful locations, vibrant architecture, delicious food, and friendly people awaited us, I tamped down these qualms and planned a trip to Thailand.  I chose Thailand as our first Asian destination together because it has a reputation of being tourist friendly and many Thai people know and are willing to converse in English.  Plus, I absolutely love and adore Thai food and wanted to experience it in its authentic form.

I learned a friend of mine was heading to Thailand, so I asked him for a full report when he returned.  I love cities, so I knew I wanted to spend some quality time in Bangkok.  When he expressed regret at not having spent more time in that city, I decided we would spend five nights in Bangkok.

Since we arrived in Bangkok around midnight after traveling for over 24 hours, our itinerary for our first day was fairly light.  We decided to travel on our first day by taxi, because we weren’t quite ready to navigate the public transit system (which turned out to be incredibly easy).  We asked one of the ladies at our hotel to write our destinations for the day in Thai so we could show them to our taxi drivers.  I learned this trick from one of our guidebooks, and it worked perfectly.

Abhisek Dusit Throne Hall
Abhisek Dusit Throne Hall, Dusit Palace Park
Our first stop for the day was Dusit Palace Park, which contains various buildings including The Royal Elephant National Museum, Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall, Abhisek Dusit Throne Hall, and Vimanmek Mansion Museum.  The Royal Elephant National Museum consists of two small buildings which were former royal elephant stables.  There are all sorts of interesting royal elephant related objects, including tusks, tassels of hair, and jars of preserved skin from white elephants.  The Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall was unfortunately closed as preparations were being made for the King’s 85th birthday.  But the outside is beautiful, we could see the balcony where the king made a rare appearance just a few days later, and we also saw what appeared to be Bangkok’s entire police force doing drills in the plaza in front.  The Abhisek Dusit Throne Hall contains a collection of Thai handicrafts.  Some of the more fascinating items in the hall were jewelry and other small items decorated with the wings of beetles.  That might sound a bit off-putting, but the shimmering metallic green and intricacy were stunning, and we did not encounter these types of objects elsewhere.  The Vimanmek Mansion Museum is the world’s largest golden teakwood mansion.  It is exquisitely furnished and also displays Thai art, including silverware, ceramics, crystal, and ivory.

Malayan Water Monitor
Malayan Water Monitor at Dusit Palace Park
The grounds of Dusit Palace Park are prettily manicured with canals, pavilions, gold bridges – and a huge Malayan Water Monitor!  We watched it walk through the grass, amble across the paved walk, and slide into the canal and swim off, without a care for the people gawking nearby.

Pad Thai
Pad Thai at Dusit Palace Park
It was time for lunch and we were yet to have our first Thai meal.  There was a cafeteria type place within Dusit Palace Park.  I was concerned a meal on museum grounds wouldn’t be the best, but we were hungry, and we weren’t ready to go out exploring for our meal.  And so, quite unexpectedly, we had our first mouth-watering meal of the trip.  The cafeteria ended up being a small enclosed room in which to eat, with three covered stands outside from which to buy food.  A woman was standing behind her large wok, with an array of ingredients displayed, and pictures of various meals for purchase.  The grounds and museum employees were ordering their lunches from her, so it seemed like a good bet.  I ordered the item I recognized immediately on the menu, and what I saw some of the others order, Pad Thai.  In less than two minutes she threw ingredients together, flicking out small portions of tofu, dried shrimp, tamarind, chili pepper, and sugar from their respective bowls with her wok chuan, no measurements needed, scrambling an egg, and tossing in noodles and bean sprouts.  Lunch was served, accompanied by a mixed fruit shake from another lady, which consisted of multiple fresh fruits blended to order with ice and simple syrup.  These fruit shakes were to become a daily staple for me for the rest of our trip.  The Pad Thai was the best I ever had.

Wat Benchamabophit
Wat Benchamabophit
After lunch we crossed the street and visited our first Thai temple, Wat Benchamabophit, constructed from white Carrara marble from Italy.

Buddhaisawan Chapel, National Museum
Buddhaisawan Chapel, National Museum
We then took a taxi to the National Museum.  Unlike most museums, this museum is comprised of multiple buildings as well as a temple, a house, and pavilions.  The museum has a fascinating collection of chariots, musical instruments, carved ivory tusks, and royal transportations.

Carved Elephant Tusks
Carved Ivory Tusks, National Museum
We ended our visit at closing time, 4:00 p.m., which also coincided with heavy traffic.  This is when we learned a lesson not covered by our guidebooks.  Our hotel was in the Sukhumvit area, only nine miles away.  Because of the traffic that would be encountered, none of the taxi drivers were willing to use their meters, and some would not even go to that area.  We eventually bargained with a taxi driver for something like 350 baht and got back to our hotel.  Here are the lessons I learned.  50 baht isn't really worth haggling over.  It’s so easy to forget what sounds like a big number is barely more than $1.50.  Also, an alternative is to take a taxi to the nearest sky train station and continue from there.  Another alternative is to take the express boat to the sky train station, as the museum is on the river.

Thus ended our first day of sightseeing in Bangkok, and this first glimpse left me excited for more.

Bangkok Traffic
Bangkok Traffic
A few additional items of note regarding Bangkok and the rest of Thailand.  As is true for many places, long pants or skirts and shirts with sleeves were required to be worn in Dusit Palace Park and Wat Benchamabophit.  A sarong can be worn over shorts if desired.  Also, shoes must be removed when entering the buildings.  When kneeling or sitting in a temple, do not allow your feet to point at the Buddha.  This is considered to be very disrespectful.

I used Lonely Planet Discover Thailand to plan our Thailand trip.


Travel the World: Some of Bangkok’s sites including Dusit Palace Park, the National Museum, and Wat Benchamabophit.  Bangkok, Thailand.

Did you enjoy this article? Want more travel stories and inspiration delivered straight to your inbox?
Get an email when we publish our next one! Just enter your email address below.

Katherine Belarmino and Romeo Belarmino are the authors of Travel the World, a travel blog for the everyday working stiff. They work full-time in non-travel related jobs, but take every opportunity they can to travel the world during their limited vacation time.

11 comments:

  1. Very interesting post...I want to visit Thailand soon! thanks for sharing this! :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You should Marco! There is such a variety of things to see and do. I'll be posting more about our adventures in Thailand that I hope you will enjoy. Thank you!

      Delete
  2. We had a wonderful independently organized family holiday in Bangkok. Sure activities are different with kid, but in general Bangkok riverside is a good option for family holiday in a city. See pics and experiences.

    http://www.kiviluoma52.me/2013/01/holiday-extra-the-bangkok-riverside-for-tourists.html

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bangkok is really a wonderful place to visit, isn't it? And I think Thailand is a great place to visit with a family, as the Thai people love children and are very accommodating of families. We decided not to stay on the river, but I can certainly see the appeal.

      Delete
  3. You've made me hungry for some Pad Thai, and more importantly, for my trip to Thailand...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes! Mission accomplished! I can't wait to share more from our trip so you'll be itching to get on a plane immediately.

      Delete
  4. Oh my! Such a wonderful place to visit and explore.=D

    ReplyDelete
  5. Obviously, the collection of a writer must be a bundle of creativity. New ideas of writing become the reason of success. It makes your work worthwhile. Everyone wants to praise your writing because they bound by creativity.
    รองเท้าเพื่อสุขภาพราคาถูก

    ReplyDelete
  6. Story of this blog is well written. The writer kept in consideration the grammar very well. Level of English also very well. Lot many new words has been used while writing content of this blog.
    สตั๊ดอาดิดาสหุ้มข้อ

    ReplyDelete
  7. I know it's a lttle bit exhausting to get a Vietnam visa, but I have been using this greenvisa.io/ visa service for a few years now and I have not had any visa difficulty with them.

    ReplyDelete