Day 1: Delhi – Bangkok (August 16-18, 2015)
August 16, 2015. Time to say goodbye to Mr. Singh, my driver and travel buddy for my 4D/3N Golden Triangle tour. Though he did not speak English as much as he would like to but I guessed he tried his best to initiate conversation in few keywords on places we passed on our very long 706 kms. road trip. We left Red Fox Hotel around 5:00 AM for IGI airport in Delhi for my onward trip bound for Bangkok. Last day in the capital and it was still raining. It should be noted that August is under monsoon season in the northern parts of India so you expect moderate to heavy rains on these days of the month. Boarded JetAirways at 8:00 AM in Delhi and arrived 1:30 PM in Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok. The airport was swarmed with tourists, mostly Korean and Chinese, it took me over an hour to finally pass through the immigration. I used the money changing service inside the airport to change currency to Baht. It was more convenient and safe to use the money changer service inside the airport.
We have a pre-booked hotel done at booking.com — the Kaloang Home near the Chao Phraya river in Bangkok. Anyway, Bangkok was the first stop to a two-leg tour toward the Angkor temples in Siem Reap, Cambodia. I was met by a friend in Bangkok and we were to cross border from Bangkok to Siem Reap by train.
I followed other arriving passengers outside the airport to the taxi alley, took queue number for the taxi, waited for a couple of minutes for the car to arrive. Bangkok has the same queue system as the banks for their airport taxis – orderly, efficient and fast. Going on your own from the airport to Kaloang Homestay would be a little challenge since most of these drivers do not speak English. The hotel is not around touristy areas where common landmarks are easily found. I had some hard time explaining and showing to him the printed map which I prepared beforehand (the map was in English) along with other city maps I took from the airport. Good thing was that I saved all my booking confirmation on my phone so I showed to him the contact number of the hotel. He called it and then we left. I was charged THB400 plus I paid another 75 for the toll fee en route to Kaloang. Drivers in Bangkok mostly were keen to help you get to your destination – with few nods and hand gestures with your explanation of your destination and you are good to go. Just keep all contact numbers of your hotels in handy. Getting lost sometimes makes some good stories to write about anyway.
Checked-in at the hotel around 3PM. Kaloang Home does not accept credit card payments, though you can have a guaranteed reservation online by the use of credit card. After a quick shower, I went directly to the adjacent restaurant which was by the Chao Phraya river itself. Bottled beer was at THB80 and seafood tom yum was around THB200.
DAY 2: Temples tour in Bangkok
August 17, 2015. There was no complimentary breakfast in the homestay, however; their restaurant offered a variety of local Thai menu for breakfast that starts at 60 baht. It was cool taking down your food by the river with the view of passing boat taxis. The place was a perfect find if you want to stay away from the touristy areas like Khao San or Pratunam. It was affordable (at THB1760/US$50 for two nights), comfortably silent and just perfectly beautiful.
Another upside of the homestay was that it was very near to a boat taxi station that plies along Chao Phraya river – one of the cheapest modes of transport around the city. This time I traveled with a friend for the temples tour.
8:00 AM. We were on our way out. Thewes Pier Station N15 of the Chao Phraya river route is just 10 minutes walk from Kaloang. At the station, there is a board map of the different stations. You can always ask to any student in the station for your desired stop. Students usually speak English, that is why. For us, we stopped at Tha Chang Station N9 – where the Grand Palace and Wat Pho are just a short walk away. For THB150, you can have whole day pass for this express boat service along Chao Phraya.
10:00 AM – The Grand Palace and River Canal Tour
This is one of the busiest tourist spots in Bangkok and entrance to the palace is incredibly strict. The ladies should cover legs and shoulders and no tank tops and shorts for the gentlemen. We decided against going inside the palace as there were thousand of tourists who stood in line to the ticket booths we decided to pass up the chance. We stayed for 30 minutes, took some photos and proceeded to the Wat Pho temple.
Maps to these places proved to be incredibly handy, you can pick some at the nearby stalls for free. Thailand is a tropical country so be prepared for a hot and humid day on your day tour. Just keep yourself hydrated all the time.
On our way to Wat Pho, a local elderly man approached us and handed us the city map and asked where were we heading. He suggested some shorter routes to get us to the temples. It was past 11:00 AM and he said Wat Pho is closed at 12:00 NN we better had to take the canal tour for THB2000 – a 1 hour exclusive boat tour of the river canals in Bangkok. Well, it was pricey but we took it and agreed to cut down the price to THB1600. You would be carried on a decorated boat with a driver to the river canals around the city where you would get to see the riverside houses. You would also get to see large water lizards on the smaller temples jutting out of the river.
After the river canal tour, we were dropped by in the same station Tha Chang Station N9; took our lunch in one of the many food stalls just a short walk from the Wat Pho temple. You can order fried noodles and other express Thai food selections which are reasonably priced and delicious from these busy food huts teeming with tourists. We tried seafood stir fry with rice cooked in a large Thai wok and young coconut delight topped with ice cream. Delicious and cheap.
2:00 PM – Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha)
After lunch, we proceeded to Wat Pho. Entrance is THB100. As with other temples, you need to observe the dress code otherwise, you will be denied entry to this magnificent and huge sleeping Buddha statue. Your gate pass would include a small cold bottled water and a cloth bag for your shoes/sandals (you will be asked to remove your footwear at the entrance) which you will return on your way out at the other side of the temple. Wat Pho houses one of the most beautiful statues of Buddha and my most favorite temple I have ever been so far. The huge reclining statue of the Buddha is a rare sight to behold. I was glad I have my ultra wide angle lens otherwise I would not be able to take a photo in its entirety from the allowed spot for tourists. On the high walls are ancient paintings of Thai ways of life.
4:00 PM – Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn)
To get to Wat Arun from Wat Pho, you just go to the same boat station N9 you take off from. From there, you have to take another ferry just across the river to take you directly to Wat Arun. Unluckily, the temple was under renovation during our visit. Anyways, there was nothing much to see inside the temple. though this might rather be a spectacular sight at sunset or during the night when the temple is lit up.
August 18, 2015 – Wat Traimit (The Golden Buddha)
It was our 3rd day in Bangkok. The night before was the unfortunate bombing of the Erawan Shrine and the homestay owner strongly warned us against going outside so we decided to cancel our night market itinerary. We checked-out at around 11:00 AM and we then proceeded to another hotel – Krungkasem Srikrung Hotel near the Hualamphong Railway Station for our onward trip to Siem Reap by train. The owner of Kaloang home was very nice, she was the only one who can fluently speak in English; though the waitstaff of the restaurant were very eager to take down your orders by showing to you the menu and you just have to point the pictures of your choices.
12:00 NN. We checked-in at the Krungkasem Srikrung hotel. It was indeed very near to the Hualamphong Railway station – just across the small creek. From the room, you can even see the large terminal. The hotel has an indoor restaurant but food choices are limited. The standard twin room was okay with two beds, flat TV, free coffee and tea sachets, free bottled water inside a rather empty fridge. Though the room is okay but the complimentary free wifi was not working during our stay.
2:00 PM. After a short rest, we proceeded to our last temple – the Wat Traimit. The hotel is just a short walking distance to the temple. We took our lunch in one of the food stalls en route to the temple with street fried rice noodles and fresh young coco fruit with ice cream. Entrance to the temple is 100 baht, rather not strict considering it houses the 5.5 kg solid gold Buddha statue. The temple is intricately covered with gold designs from wall to the ceilings with the Golden Statue in the center. We bought some elephant paintings and other items for souvenir on our way out of the temple.
Summary of Expenses: