Family, Photography, Travel Journal

Travel Journal: Wat Pho, Wat Arun and the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand

So once upon a time (February) I went on this grand adventure to Thailand for vacation with my family after spending time in Thailand and Philippines for my job. Then I came home with my blog posts all planned out to share… and THEN I got REALLY sick (more on that eventually), and that plan went down the drain.

Match that with my natural inclination for procrastinating, and that brings us to today and my NEW plan for blogging about this great vacation over the next two weeks. I decided that I am going to do blog posts grouped by sites and experiences, versus grouping them by days. For some of the things we saw there were just too many pictures and things to share that deserve their own post.

Curious about what the heck I’m talking about?

See my first post “Travel Journal: USW South Asia Board Team to Thailand and the Philippines,” to learn about the origin of why I traveled to South Asia for work and the experience I had.

When I learned that I would be going on this trip last year, I knew I had to take advantage of the circumstances and tack on a vacation after my work responsibilities were done. My Grammy and Grampy are big travelers and were eager to tag along, and eventually convinced my Great Aunt Diane to come too.

When I mentioned to people about who I was going to be traveling with I did get a few raised eyebrows. So for those of you who don’t know my family, you need to know that my grandparents and aunt are (1) super cool and very close to me and (2) typically have more energy than I have on most days. Getting to take this trip with them was experience that I certainly with cherish for rest of my life.

So after wrapping up with work in the Philippines, I flew back to Bangkok to meet up with my family who had already been there for a day. We took the remainder of that day pretty easy and treating ourselves to massages, and though we weren’t able to get traditional Thai massages, they were still pretty great!

Wat Pho Temple

On our first full day we visited the Wat Pho and Wat Arun temples. I actually visited these twice because the team I was with for my work portion of the trip had one day for sightseeing in Thailand and visited these two temples as well. Having experienced navigating this part of Bangkok before was actually really helpful the second time around.

Wat Pho is the Temple of the Reclining Buddha and is one of the largest temple complexes in Bangkok. It cost us 100 baht each to get in. I really enjoyed seeing this first because there was a large variety of things to see and material to read so it gave us a good introduction into Thailand and Buddhism.

When I was planning out our list of things to do I remember reading about the Reclining Buddha, but was completely shocked when I first saw it. I had no idea it was that huge! Even seeing it twice I still couldn’t get over it.  It measures 46 meters (151 feet or about a half of a football field) and is covered in gold leaf. It is definitely a MUST-SEE in Bangkok.

The vacation crew.

The complex had many of these small statues of dozens of different characters and objects. I eventually read that they were all originally ballasts on the front of ships.

A few of the insides of the temples had this artwork on the walls from the floor to the ceiling. It was ALL hand painted directly onto the stone!

This is currently the backdrop on my phone.

You will notice in this post that I took quite a few pictures of various statues doing squats. I realize that obviously that’s a cultural representation of some kind, but I just found it very amusing.

There were dozens of these pyramid structures around the complex.

Obviously I was in love with all of the bright colors. Particularly this combo.

This was taken with my phone looking straight up from where I was standing. Because of the pillars in the building and some construction/up keep that was being done down toward the statue’s feet, it was really hard to get a picture of the full length. But trust me, photos do not do it justice.

Chao Phraya River

After the Wat Pho temple, the best way to get to Wat Arun is to cross river via ferry at the Sapphan Taksin boat pier (which is about a block away from Wat Pho) for a simple 3 baht (I think?) per person. Plus ferries themselves are all a part of the experience.

Wat Arun Temple

Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn) is directly across from Wat Pho on the west bank of the river. According to what I read and then what I saw in person the design of this temple was a bit different than most of the others around Bangkok. To get into the complex here was free, but to go inside the actual temple was 100 baht, which we skipped this time around. This complex was also a bit different in that there was more landscaping and a small market.

My Grampy and Grammy

My family REALLY found this (the water bottle) amusing.

So this is the base of the spire you see in the above pictures. I was trying to show just how VERY steep these steps were to go up and down but I don’t think the picture caught that. Going down was a lot harder, so I sort of scooched along my bottom and grabbed onto to the sides of the structure because there was nothing else to hold on to. But the view was worth it!

The Grand Palace

Unlike the other two temples, I only went to the Grand Palace once. Prior to the trip, everyone said that this was one of the main sites we needed to see, and while I am glad we went, I would probably recommend the first two over this one mostly because it was much more crowded. We also went here on a different day and didn’t try to fit it into the same day as the other two temples which I think was a smart choice. I am not quite sure what the regular base cost was. When we first got in we were told that the line for general admission would take over an hour, but if we chose to go through it with a tour guide (which was a couple hundred baht more) we could get in right away. At the beginning I was a little skeptical of this setup but by the end of it I would definitely recommend going with the tour guide. He moved through things a little slow, but he got us bottled water when we all had hit a cranky point where we really needed to hydrate and had a lot of interesting things to share. Anyway the Grand Palace was originally built in 1782 and was the home of the Thai King and the Royal court for 150 years. It is also home to the Emerald Buddha.

This is the Ministry of Defense building which is inside the complex, but outside the walls of the Grand Palace.

The Thai King passed away last October so the country is observing a year of mourning. Everywhere you look all over Bangkok there are shrines and billboards with his picture, along with black and white garnishing. This picture above is actually the crown prince who will become the new king when the period of mourning is over.

We were not allowed to take pictures inside the actual temple where the Emerald Buddha sits but I used my long lens to take a picture through the opening. The above picture depicts how the Buddha is dressed based on the season. If I remember correctly the tour guide said that the Buddha was something like 4 or 5 feet tall which I thought was a bit much based from the distance I was seeing it. But everything I am finding online says it is only 26 inches tall, which is just over 2 feet and that seems much more realistic.

The Chakri Maha Prasat group of buildings where the main throne hall is. Tourist are not allowed in there.

The Phra Maha Prasat group of buildings. This is where their king that passed away in October 2015 lied in state. We were also not allowed in there.

My sweet Aunt Diane.

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Travel Tips

So I thought on a few of these posts where it is applicable I would share a few travel tips or any other stories/notes that did not fit into the pictures above.

  1. Shoes – You will have to take your shoes off when you go into each of the temples (not the complex.) I would suggest wearing shoes that are easy to take on and off. My grandparents wore sandals the entire trip so they were set to go. Unfortunately with that much walking I had to wear tennis shoes with my orthopedics, so while I was at the temples I just tied my shoes a lot looser.
  1. Long clothing – Generally the instructions online all say the main rules for going into the temples are to wear long pants, cover your shoulders and remove your hats. My Grampy wore normal length men’s shorts and I wore cropped sports leggings, and while we were fine at the Wat Pho and Wat Arun temples, at the Grand Palace we were given loose pants and a sarong (for free.) It was interesting at the Grand Palace because there were plenty of people showing more of their leg than I was and not to mention my t-shirt had a big cutout in the back that showed my tattoo and they were fine with that. Overall to be respectful I would suggest wearing light clothing (because it is really hot there!) that covers everything or bringing sarongs/light cardigans just in case.
  1. ID – We didn’t need to show ID for the two temples, but we did for the Grand Palace. All of us women had photo copies or pictures on our phone of our passports which sufficed, and they surprisingly accepted my Grampy’s U.S. driver’s license. But I wouldn’t bet on that every time.
  2. Swindling – TWICE we were almost swindled by the same ruse. As we were walking to the Wat Pho temple and again on our way to the Grand Palace, a local who spoke English well approached us in the direction we were walking and started out making small talk before asking where we were going. After each response, they tried to tell us that both places were closed for a certain amount of time that day for local to attend ceremonies for the king that had passed. (Which seemed like something that could very likely happen.) Both eventually suggested that we go with them on their Tuk Tuk’s (an open air three-wheeled taxi) to other tourist locations. The first time I thought this was pretty suspicious since I had spent a good amount of time planning out our day with the help of the very knowledgeable concierge so we declined and sure enough both places were open to the public.

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Stay tuned for more posts covering this trip soon!

Cheers!

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