After a big night in Bangkok, it was hard waking up at 8am to get to the Royal Grand Palace. Fortunately, I was deeply motivated by my prepaid ticket and photo opportunity and managed to drag myself out of bed. Unfortunately, my dear significant other was very much hungover/still inebriated from the previous night’s festivities and spent the day laying in a pool of his own sweat and intermittently getting up to vomit from the comfort of the hotel’s foyer and missed the entire day.
On the walk to the palace, our guide informed us that we were witnessing the end of Thailands worst heatwave in it’s recorded history and that just four days before (April 28) the hottest day ever recorded at 44.6*C. This was a relief because it wasn’t just the tourists complaining of the heat and humidity but everyone else too and it also meant that there were copious street vendors selling ice-cold drinks and fans. For this reason, I was glad that Jono wasn’t accompanying me.
We begin the sight-seeing with Bangkok’s Grand Palace. Built in 1782 (making it 234 years old), by Rama I less commonly know by his real name; Phra Bat Somdet Phra Paramoruracha Mahachakkriborommanat Phra Phutthayotfa Chulalok. The palace is many things. Stunning. Gleaming. Multi-coloured. Crowded…. Boy is it crowded. As mentioned, it was a blazing hot day, but there was still thousands of people congregating between the spires, and gawking at the murals. It was a sea of selfie sticks, umbrellas, pushing people and body odour. For this reason, I was 2x as glad that Jono wasn’t accompanying me.
The Grand Palace is cool because it’s not just one building. It’s a whole lot of buildings, halls, gardens and temples surrounded by one wall with grass and pathways and roads within. With 200 years worth of kings, it makes sense that everyone has added their own bit for their wants and needs. Although the Grand Palace mostly open to the public to poke around, it is still a “working palace” with offices, guards, and the occasional event hosting.
The Grand Palace is also home to the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.
The Emerald Buddha is Thailand’s protective symbol, the little god figure is only about 66cm tall and sits in meditation in his own temple which you can only take photos of from the outside. He is made of Jade but emerald of colour and has three outfits for summer, winter, and wet season and only the king is allowed to change them, as he is the only one allowed to touch the Emerald Buddha
The Emerald Buddah was discovered in 1434 and the story that we were told, was that it was an accident. Lightning struck and destroyed a temple, revealing a Buddha covered with plaster hidden inside its walls. The Buddha was moved to the monks residence, who later noticed that plaster had flaked off, revealing a green nose. The monks then picked off the rest of the plaster to discover the green semi-precious stone.
The Thai Monarchy has been going since 1238 but was essentially changed to a more symbolic ruler in the 1930s after a peaceful revolution from the Thai people to move to a constitution. An interesting fact (and pretty important to know if you are travelling there) is that when the constitution was adopted it included a language-prohibiting lèse majesté. Which is the clause, “The king shall be enthroned in a position of revered worship and shall not be violated. No person shall expose the king to any sort of accusation or action.” and “Whoever defames, insults or threatens the king, queen, heir-apparent, or regent shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years.” But it doesn’t stipulate what actually constitutes as “defamation” or “insult”. Either way – don’t talk bad about the royals, king, heir and keep your jokes to yourself while out in public. For this reason, I was 3x as glad that Jono wasn’t accompanying me. Another interesting fact – the king of Thailand, Rama IX, is actually the world’s longest reigning monarch in his 70 years as King.
Next up on our to-do list was the klongs (a.k.a canals) of Bangkok. Where we would soon understand why this city is often dubbed ‘Venice of the East’. Get around like a local on a typical Thai boat – it’s perfect for taking in this sprawling metropolis from the water. We would see the landmark Dawn Temple, the Royal Barge and some of the major hotels as we cruise along Bangkok’s main artery, Chao Praya River. The maze of backwater canals will give you a good look into everyday Thai life as we cruise past a jumble of buildings and houses, and see locals going about their day… Well, we would have if I didn’t fall asleep as soon as I sat in the rocking boat.
The next major event of my day today was the fact that I managed to obliterate my beautiful Olympus Pen EPM-1. I’m not going to dwell on it but this meant that the rest of my photos will be begged, borrowed and stolen from my fellow travellers or from my iPhone.
This evening we board the overnight train to Chiang Mai. It was about $40AUD for the second class sleeper which was valuable for the 13-hour trip (which ended up being closer to 15 hours after a short delay in the middle of the night for one reason or another). No alcohol is allowed on the train so pack cards and entertainment. We were also pleased with ourselves to have packed smaller bags in comparison to our fellow travellers because we struggled to squeeze it all in under our bed. Also, make sure you pack snacks because the food served on the train was the absolute worst meal that we ate in all of SE Asia (and possibly my life).
The train was OK though. Jono (@ 193cm, 135kg) slept comfortable-ish on the bottom bunk and this big girl (@174cm and 95kg) had plenty of room. We arrived at Chaing Mai the next morning.
This blog post is a part of a series I wrote while on the Contiki Asian Adventure Tour.