Posted by: vlibrizzi | October 24, 2009

Southeast Asia Trip: Bangkok, Thailand

We had only 24 hours in Bangkok, and these two weary travelers with stomach bugs didn’t get to experience as much as we would like of our short trip to Thailand, but we were able to get to a few places we’ve been wanting to see.

DSC_1139So, first, when we arrived in Bangkok on Thursday morning, we dropped our bags off at our hotel (the nice, and affordable Legacy Suites) and headed out for some lunch at a fabulous Thai restaurant called Baan Khanitha. Although we weren’t feeling 100%, we had been waiting to eat Thai food for weeks, so we wouldn’t let a little stomach bug get in our way. We ordered a wonderful pomelo salad, some yellow chicken curry, and sweet and sour shrimp. Everything was amazing, but the best part was the dessert….slices of mango, coconut ice cream, and sticky rice….yum-o!

After lunch, we took the easy to use skyline metro to the Jim Thompson house. Unfortunately, we had to wait awhile in the metro station because it started to downpour and we were sans umbrellas. But after awhile, we gave up, dashed through the rain, got soaked, but made it to the Jim Thompson house before it closed.

DSC_1157While we dried off and waited for our tour to begin, we walked around the main floor of the house and learned a bit about Jim Thompson, an American who moved to Thailand after WWII and started exporting Thai silk. His house is built out of teakwood (with no nails), and he took six old, classic Thai houses from different parts of the country, shipped them down the river, and then reassembled them together as one house.  The place is absolutely beautiful and so peaceful…it’s easy to forget you’re in the bustling city of Bangkok as you walk through his open-air rooms and perfectly manicured gardens.

Our tour ended once the rain had stopped, and after buying some Jim Thompson silk products (for C. a tie, for me a scarf), we headed back to our hotel to freshen up a bit.

Then, we made reservations at a Thai massage spa called Let’s Relax (which was recommended to us by an INSEAD friend), and had a couples Thai massage.  We were both a bit nervous about getting our first Thai massages since we’ve heard from friends that you literally get beat up during the hour-long massage, and some places are a bit sketchy. But, as soon as we arrived we were greeted with cool green tea and ushered into our massage room where our feet were washed in a tub with warm water and rose petals. Then, the massages began. We laid on our stomachs at first while the women massaging us stood on our feet, pulled at our limbs, and stuck their elbows, fists, and knees intou our sore muscles. It hurt, for sure….but the next day we both felt amazing! And the price was pretty amazing too….$15 for an hour-long massage!

After our massages we went out for a forgettable dinner at a recommended restaurat called Lemongrass. I’m not sure if we were both feeling tired from our stomach bugs or what, but the dinner seemed rushed and the food was pretty bland…and we’re talking about Thai food which is supposed to be spicy!

So, disappointed by dinner, we headed back to our hotel for a good night’s rest.

The next morning we watched an hour of the Yankees game in our hotel (yes, it was on in the morning here…a full 12 hours from the US when it was on at night), and then took the skyline to a river boat to the Grand Palace. Although we really liked the boat ride, we were surprised that it took us over an hour to get to the other side of the city. But, we’ve heard that taxis take even longer because there is terrible traffic in Bangkok.

DSC_1175Once we arrived at the Grand Palace, we fell victim to a terrible scam. We realized as soon as we arrived that we weren’t properly dressed (you’re not allowed to wear shorts at the palace), so we were easily duped by a con-artist who told us that there were no pants available to rent until the afternoon….but, if we wanted to, we could have a tuk-tuk drive us to a different monument in the morning and then bring us back to the Grand Palace in the afternoon. We fell for it, and while the tuk-tuk did take us to see the massive Golden Buddha (photo to the left), he then took us to a warehouse where we could buy Thai merchandise. We caught on to the hoax by then, refused to go into the warehouse which was in the middle of nowhere, and caught a cab back to the Grand Palace, just in time to realize that if we had gone to a different entrance, we could have borrowed pants at any time we’d like, and enter the Grand Palace.

 

 

 

DSC_1179We were both pretty miffed at that point, and felt really taken advantage of since we only had a few hours to see the Grand Palace before our flight. So, if you’re ever in Thailand, watch out for these guys, and pay heed to the signs like one to the left, which we only saw once we got into the actual palace (poor placement, eh?). The scam artists are tricky and really good at what they do, but we were foolish in falling for their hoax. We wasted almost an hour of our half-day in Bangkok yesterday, in falling for them.

 

 

Once we actually got into the Grand Palace and  borrowed clothing (for me a red skirt, and for C. purple pants…he wasn’t to happy about that one!), we were completely mesmerized. It is the epitome of extravagance! Gold, gems, jewels abound…everywhere.

DSC_1189We went into the temple to see the Emerald Buddha (which is not, in fact, emerald, but carved out of one block of jade), but we had to purify ourselves first by dipping holy water on our heads with lotus leaves (see photo to the left). Unfortunately, we couldn’t take photos of the Emerald Buddha, but below is a photo of the building that houses the statue.

We then walked around the expansive grounds of the palace and marveled at the ornate buildings. Here are some of our photos:

 

 

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 Overall, we liked, but did not absolutely love Bangkok. It seemed a bit gritty for our taste (we were constantly coming across older men with much, much younger Thai women), and too crowded, but I’m not sure we gave the city a fair chance. We were sick and tired most of the time, and we did only have 24 hours. So, I think we’ll try to go back again sometime…on our way to see other parts of Thailand like Chiang Mai or the beautiful beaches of Phuket or the Phi Phi islands.

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Responses

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