Location: Bangkok, Thailand
Today I sorted out laundry and went shopping around the super-cheap Khao San road stalls, haggling hard to get some summer clothes, guide books and a hat. I was planning to head to Burma (Myanmar) next and started to research it. I discovered I’d need to go to their visa office in Bangkok in advance. That evening I got a fish foot massage, if you’ve not seen them, it’s a tank of little fish that you put your feet in and they eat your dead skin. I have very ticklish feet and right from the start it was almost unbearable! I sat there laughing my head off as everyone passing by laughed at me! I did endure the full 20 minutes, I’d been told it gets less tickly but it never happened! Never again! I followed up with an oil massage which was very relaxing. I stayed up really late drinking and walking around Khao San road (which is one big party at night). I passed a McDonalds and got the craving, I hadn’t had junk food for ages. One dirty Big Mac later and I was stuffed but happy!
The following day I moved to a better hotel and after some internet went exploring in the afternoon. I walked twenty minutes to the east to check out some temples I’d read about. The first, the mouthful of Wat Ratchanaddaram is built in an impressive tiered style like a castle, painted white with brown spires, each level getting smaller like a pyramid. Inside it was subdivided into a grid of corridors, the distance between each crossroads matching the number of steps it should take to meditatively walk. The interior was filled with information about Buddism. From the top level the views were nice over the area and I spotted the Golden Mount, a golden spire on a hill to the east.
I continued past the old city wall by some old colonial buildings to reach the Golden Mount (Wat Saket). The small hill was encircled by a wall and the road inside that was lined with small temple buildings. There were a lot of tourists and Thais here. The hill was covered in trees, and a flight of steps curved upwards passing through them. Statues were placed amongst the landscaped undergrowth. Half way up was a row of big bells which people rang as they passed, and a big gong, which made the air alive with sound. A monk’s incantations were piped through speakers all the way up the steps. At the hilltop the trees cleared to show a good view over the city, especially towards the commercial district with all its skyscrapers.
A temple building was at the summit, full of small buddah statues and people milling around. Monks sat giving readings, and vendors sold various materials for offerings. In the centre of the building narrow passages led to a golden statue which many worshippers were putting gold leaf on.
Back at the bottom of the Mount, I walked through the old streets to find a road where they make traditional monk bowls, called Baan Bat. Unfortunately when I arrived the buildings were shuttered up. I walked back towards the city centre, crossing a canal and reaching a park where locals were relaxing, doing fitness and yoga (there was even an outdoor gym). After the park I happened upon a big impressive temple, Wat Suthat. Inside the main temple was a really big golden Buddah statue, with Thais sitting and praying to it. The walls were covered in ornate paintings.
Outside the temple was a giant gate-like sculpture called The Swing. Across the road from this was a big square with a huge picture of the King of Thailand. In front of it a load of police were doing drills, some in full riot gear.
I walked back to Khao San road and that evening went to meet a Dutch guy I’d met that morning who had invited me to join his friends that evening. Annoyingly he never showed, so I just chilled out there on Rambuttri Soi for a while. It’s a great place to soak up the atmosphere and people watch, all the restuarants have tables at the street side and are peppered with coloured lights. As I was getting ready to leave a woman came to my table and asked if I wanted to join them. They’d seen me alone all evening and thought I might want some company. Very nice of them! I joined them; an English lady and her boyfriend, and two girls from New Zealand. I spent the evening hanging out with them, they were a good laugh, and we ended up drinking cheap cocktails in the street bars with plastic chairs and getting quite drunk. Classic Bangkok evening!