Our day with Tong was so amazing yesterday, we decided to sign up with one of her other tour guides to show us around Bangkok the next day. There were several reasons for this. First, we had limited time in Bangkok and wanted to make sure we were able to see everything we wanted to see. Secondly, we wanted some background information on the places we were going to. Thirdly, we have heard stories about the tuk-tuk drivers in Bangkok and have learned you either pay way too much for them, or you end up spending half your day in jewelry and tailor shops that offer the drivers petrol coupons. So, we figured this we way net out money-wise, but make out on every other front.
Our day started with a delicious breakfast of course. Dave had his usual, pancakes and I had eggs and toast. Only thing is, after being in SE Asia, I don't think I can eat eggs anymore, so I mostly had toast.
We were met in the lobby by our guide, Net. It was a perfect day. The sun wasn't out, the sky was gray, but it was also nice and cool and not stifling like we've heard it can get. We got into a tuk-tuk that of course first tried to charge us 200 baht, but she immediately got it down to 60 (savings 140 righ there!). Our first stop was the Grand Palace and the Temple with the Emerald Buddha. When we arrived, we made it in time to see the changing of the guards. It wasn't nearly as impressive as the changing of the guards in London, but still fun. We immediately set off to see the Wat, as 3 Chinese tour buses had just arrived and we wanted to get their before the crowd. The temple was really amazing (being that it was in the Grand Palace and purely for the purposes of the King). The architechture was beautiful and everything was decorated using mosaic mirrored tiles. Net gave us a lot of background on the Wat which was really helpful while walking around. We got some great pictures and then made our way inside to see the Emerald Buddha. The statue was found somewhat recently. It had been moved between Thailand and Laos and during one of the recent moves, it was dropped and the cement that covered it fell off. Of course it is not Emerald, but Jade. Apparently emerald sounds much more regal, but I personally think Jade doesn't sound too bad.
Next up was the Grand Palace. This is no longer used by the King and Queen, except for ceremonies (and the King stays there 1 night right before the coronation). There are several rooms you are allowed to go through which we did. The place is really nice, but Dave is definitely towards the end of his touring days, so we moved pretty quickly.
We walked to the pier and headed over via a 3 baht ($0.09) ferry to Wat Arun. This area used to be the capital of Thailand for 16 years, so you can imagine there wasn't enough time to build up the area. But there is a beautiful, intricately decorated Wat which we had the chance to walk around and admire. Best thing is there are cardboard cut-outs of traditional Thai dress, enticing visitors to come take a picture. No one is around, but when you go to take the pic, someone magically appears asking for 40 baht. Luckily we didn't get caught in the trap (but you know I wanted that picture!).
Next stop, the large Reclining Buddha. Now, large is an understatement here. This thing is HUGE! The entire Wat is filled with this Buddha statue which has been covered in gold paint. When you first walk in the door, all you can see is the Buddha's eye. As you walk a little more, you can see how far back it really goes. It is really unbelievable and even more surprisingly, it is only the 3rd largest in Thailand (more great information provided by Net).
Our next stop is a restaurant suggested by Tong (our tour guide from yesterday since she knew how much we liked food). We had the option of having Tong order for us via cell phone, or we could do the ordering ourselves. Since she had fed us so well the day before, we decided to go with option number 1. This was definitely the right choice. We had so much food ordered for us!
We had so much food, and of course it was all eaten. We had fried chicken wings, fried spring rolls, fresh spring rolls, Tom Yum soup with prawns (spicy), some other shrimp dish and lemongrass juice. It was so delicious, a little spicy (I started feeling midly dizzy at one point) but so good. We were expecting it to cost around 2000 baht, but was shocked when our check for 400 baht (less than $15) was put in front of us. Although we were full from the meal, it wasn't complete without our coffee in a bag. We have figured out what was so good about it. They use condensed milk in the coffee and it is good!
We hopped into a cab and headed over to the Golden Mount. This is exactly what it sounds like. It is a Wat on the top of a small mountain. The temple was nice, but the view from the top is amazing. You can see all of Bangkok. On our way up, we all rang one of the many bells lining the path three times for good luck. So we're keeping our fingers crossed. We took some really nice pics, and then headed back to the hotel.
Our last stop was the Teak House. This was a house that served as the kings palace for 5 or so years. It was entirely made of Teak, with no nails (just teak pegs). Pretty impressive- but no pics allowed, so you will just have to go! We had a short time in the afternoon before our next adventure.
When we got to the hotel, we said goodbye to Net and thanked her for a great day. We really learned so much from her and were so thankful to have her help us around town.
So, as you can all imagine (and have seen by the pics), 5 weeks is alot of time. During our night adventures around our hotel, Dave and I found a hair stylist that does hair for 100 baht (less than $5). We were both looking a little ragged and decided (of course after much persuasion from Dave) to get our hair cut. Dave asked for a trim and got a bit of a buzz cut (looks great though) and I paid an extra 50 baht for a shampoo which included a long scalp massage. Heaven! The hair cut was fine and neither of us had any complaints.
We returned to the room and packed up to leave Bangkok and headed to the hotel restaurant so that we could watch our bags. Big surprise what we ate... Pad Thai and Pad See Ew. When we finished, we grabbed our bags, headed to the travel agent and I went on a search for coconut pancakes. No luck, but I did find an old woman with awful teeth selling mango and sticky rice. By the time I realized that I didn't want to eat there, I had already made eye contact with the lady and got her to stand up. Therefore, I paid the 20 baht, got my mango and sticky rice and headed back to Dave. Luckily it was delish. I topped this off with watermelon from the fruit stand (after I almost bought Dave more mangoes- he wanted mangosteens, which he claims is the greatest fruit in the whole world).
Then, the adventure began. At this point, we had already waited a half hour and finally a man came to collect us for our night train and ferry to Koh Tao. We had to walk, with all of our luggage, to the main street. This would not have been a problem except that we had waited for so long and could have hired a taxi for $1. We got to the main location for the tour group and waited in another line for our ticket and received a number. When we got to our bus, we realized how lucky our wait actually was. We ended up on the top floor in the exit row, so we had the banister in front of us for our feet. Not bad when you're about to embark on a 8 hour bus ride. We watched Batman, but with no sound and we couldn't read becuase the light wouldn't work, so once the movie was asleep, we went to bed. A quick bus stop was made along the way around 1 am and we witnessed buffet-style food covered with flies, and then finished the next 2 hours.
We ended in Southern Thailand at the pier at 5, waited 2 hours for the ferry and then headed over to Koh Tao. We were so excited! Not only was this the beginning of our relaxing part of our vacation, this is also where we were finally going to become PADI Certified Open Water Divers!