Being a tourist again at last

Finally, some touristing. My eyes were a fair bit better though nagged slightly and I had to use a lot of artificial tears over the course of the day. No painkillers, though.

So today we decided to cover some places I’d not been before and do a little wandering. We picked a few random temples shown on one of the maps we had, caught a BTS to National Stadium and started walking. Bangkok has a lot more temples than just the major touristy ones and it’s retty much fine to walk into the grounds of any of them. Many are locked when not in use, but you can see the outsides.

One thing we noticed is how many are right next to primary schools. I doubt this is coincidence as the whole Buddhist way of life is pretty ingrained in the Thai population. The schools are usually decorated with really nice bright paintings. None of the security gates we’re seeing far too much of back home. Really, are they to keep the kids in or Gary Glitter out? Paranoia either way, frankly.

We also saw some pretty poor areas. At first glance we thought one area was purely filled with stray dogs until we realised that there was a small shanty “village” underneath one of the highway bridges. Essentially dogs, people and huge mounds of garbage. Not what you see walking along Silom or Sukhumvit.

After passing through a bustling outdoor market, we flagged down a tuk-tuk to take us to the Golden Mount. This is apparently one of the most major Buddhist monuments in Bangkok and took an incredible amount of time to build. There’s no charge to enter, though a donation box is at the entrance once you climb the stairs to the top. It’s a lovely view over that part of the city, and worth the visit if you’re after seeing all the tourist areas.

Back at ground level, we walked past the Democracy Monument (kind of plain, to be honest) and down to the Giant Swing – a huge wooden “pi” outside of another temple. We looked around this temple, too, and it really was lovely. I can’t recall the name of it, but as I said it’s right by the swing so very easy to find. A small charge is levied for foreigners, but for the token fee it’s worth the visit.

Another tuk-tuk zipped us to the riverside opposite the Wat Arun where we had dinner in a small restaurant at the pier. Food was good and service… interesting. The woman who served us was somewhat manic and great fun, bouncing around, shoving customers from seat to seat to ensure each group got the best view and enthusiastically teaching people some basic Thai (mainly “delicious” when they finished their meal).

As the sun set, we hopped on a ferry over the river but the Wat Arun was closed. Still, the views from just outside the gates were worth the quite paddle and we played with a couple of cats before getting the last ferry back to the east bank. We’d also missed the last boat downstream (they only run till around 6pm), so it was a tuk-tuk again to get us to Hua Lamphong. This is the main train station at this end of town and also a stop on the MRT (underground) line. Now, I’d never actually used the MRT before having been able to get everywhere I needed to by BTS, but definitely don’t forget it’s existence if you’re in Bangkok.

The journey prices are comparable to the BST and the ticket machines accept notes, though change is always in small coins. The trains are frequent, the stations enormous and the ride smooth and comfortable. A great way to travel. We hopped above ground at Silom (which connects to the Sala Daeng BTS station) and changed onto the BTS for Siam.

Film time again and this time we enjoyed the rather silly but quite graphically impressive Hellboy II. Normal tickets this time, so somewhat cheaper than our last visit. Beers once again were necessary so we stopped off at Pat Pong and went to a really cheap bar – only 69 Baht for a Tiger. So I had a jug.

The street entertainment tonight was more exciting with a couple of dozen lady-boys walking around, doing some dances and basically making a lot of people laugh while they enjoyed their drinks. After glugging away through my litre of beer, we walked to O’Reilley’s Irish bar on the corner. One overpriced (dinky) bottle of Brown Ale and two vodka and Coke’s later, we strolled back to the hostel.

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