Friday, 31 December 2010

Grand Palace … again

Friday 31st December 2010

MP3 track of the day: Ms Jackson - outcase

Weather: Sunny with a little cloud … quite hot.

As I had gone to sleep a reasonable time I got up at 8:00am, wide awake. Not wanting to wake any of the other Danish people sleeping within my dorm (this place is owned by a Danish company and so it's full of Dains … a bit like Khoa Lak with the Germans, only this is on much more of a local scale) I got ready quietly and headed out for the day.

The day started much like yesterday; I first visited the local 'seven-eleven' for a banana cake, bottle of water and a packet of crisps. I then ate these at the ferry terminal and awaited the ferry that would take me to the palace. Instead of me asking a French couple the ropes, I had a Swedish couple ask me when do they pay for their ferry tickets? Where do they leave the ferry? Etc etc. I was happy to help and in the end they followed me to the gates of the palace where they went to get suitably covered (they had to borrow a sarong each) where as I, with long trousers on, could just walk to the ticket office and hand over 350 baht … ouch!

Being a Thai public holiday the place was packed; there where two queues to enter the palace, one for foreigners and one for Thai people. It turns out that if you are Thai you don't have to pay to enter the complex, and damn right too (which should a local people have to pay to see their countries palace). I slowly went through an arch to see three magnificent buildings to the left of me, these where the 'Phra Siratana Chedi', the 'Phra Mondop' and the 'Prasat Phra Dhepbidorn'. The first building mentioned was a solid circular golden structure -with a huge spike on top -, the second building was again a rounded structure however this was made up of pillars topped with a roof using every colour under the sun. The final building was an 'x' kind of shape, again made of pillars with a colourful roof, however some work was happening to this building and scaffolding was erected on it's north and south faces. None of the buildings could be entered.

Most people headed to these buildings straight away, however I turned to look back at the gate I had just entered through to find two giant monsters guarding it; I took a quick photo before moving on to the three buildings as mentioned above. Up the stairs I moved around to the southern side of the buildings to get out of the sun; once there I found a model of Angkor Wat before descending down into another courtyard which was less busy. Once in this courtyard I had a look at the buildings found there, none of them as impressive as the first three. I did however see some beautiful Buddhist art running along the walls of the perimeter of this part of the palace; the artwork seemed to be telling a story and so I headed back to the entrance I had come through and started to walk in the direction that I thought the story followed.

Well if it did tell a story then it beats me what the story was, all I know was that the art work was stunningly beautiful and lots of maintenance occurs to keep the paint work (especially the gold) in striking condition. It took me a while to make my way around the whole mural, photographing as I went. Once I had done the large circle I was back at the entrance and so I headed back into the courtyard to see 'the main attraction'.

The 'Temple of the Emerald Buddha' holds Thailand's most sacred artifact … funnily enough it's an emerald Buddha. I had to take my shoes off , put my camera away and join a lengthy queue to see said artifact which was okay, however I was more impressed with the surrounding the emerald Buddha found himself in … and the reclining Buddha from yesterday. I thought that I wasn't allowed to take photos of the Buddha because it was too holy, however some guy, outside the temple, was selling posters for twenty baht each … I didn't buy one.

I put my shoes back on and found the Swedish couple from the boat; they had only just arrived and so I told them what I had been doing and then we parted. I headed out of this area and through another archway to the more modern part of the palace grounds. On my map I had done numbers one – twelve and the map went up to thirty-four; I had already been here an hour or so and therefore I thought that if I didn't hurry up the Palace would take all day.

In actual fact most of the modern part of the palace were out of bounds with no entry signs plastered everywhere and guards with rifles positioned all over (they weren't as professional as our British guards; their eyes wandered around … second rate if you ask me). I looked, and photographed, the outside of the modern buildings which looked very 18th Century European with there tall windows and rectangular doors. Numbers thirteen to twenty-nine passed in a flash.

Number thirty was through another archway into another small religious area with a huge temple and three or four Thai style buildings. Yet again you couldn't go into any of the buildings and so I just photographed the outside of them and headed to my final number, thirty-four, which happened to be a museum.

The museum was okay, there wasn't a lot to see and, with no English translation, I breezed through both floors without really taking anything in. Outside where lines of 16th Century cannons which most where made in England … which made me very proud. I left the palace around midday; had it been worth 350 baht? Yes I think it had (it has been my favorite attraction in Bangkok), however only the first section was worth looking at ... especially the art work. I started to head to Vimanmek Palace, at the extreme north end of the city center. On the way I decided to visit Khao San Road.

Khao San Road, probably the most famous backpacker road in Bangkok (If not the world), with people selling every piece of tat under the sun. The road is lined with backpacker hostels, however you can't tell due to all the stalls outside selling everything from Manchester United clocks to waving cats. This is where Mike was staying and, luckily for me, I bumped into him … he was looking at a few new cheap t-shirts. He's in Bangkok awaiting his flight to India on the 5th Jan and so, with little else to do, he decided to come with me to the Vimanmek Palace. The palace was quite a long way north and so we chatted a lot, mainly about missed opportunities with women we had met whilst traveling. He has told me that he was planning on meeting two Finish girls later on and that I should join him … yep!

We made it to the palace only to find that it was closed. I wasn't really that heart-broken; I had a free ticket, and the palace would be back open on the 3rd January, so maybe I'll try again then. We walked back to Khao San Road following a rather a bizarre route taking in even more Bangkok which included another palace, the royal road and a beautiful temple. Once at the temple Mike had a text from the two Finish girls, they where in McDonald's enjoying a Big Mac (girls after my own heart). We checked the map to find that the McDonald's that they were in was only five minutes up the road; we cut our temple viewing short and headed out to meet them.

Mike wasn't wrong, these two blond Finish girls where pretty stunning and so we joined them and had a chat. After a while we left McDonald's and went for a drink near Khao San Road, sadly I had to head off soon after as my last ferry – which I still hadn't had a clear answer on – was either at 6pm or 7pm. I decided to play it safe and get to the ferry port at 5pm.

I got the 5:15pm ferry and made it back to my stop around 5:30pm. In reverse of this morning I got off the ferry, left the dock and headed to the 'seven-eleven' to purchase breakfast for tomorrow (as I'm leaving at 6:30am tomorrow tomorrow I doubt I'll have time to purchase breakfast from anywhere else). I arrived back at my guesthouse, at 6pm, to find that food wasn't being served here tonight due to a huge viking invasion. Even though I've only eaten 1x banana cake, 1x packet of crisps, 6x spring rolls, 3x ice creams and drank liters of liquid I don't feel that hungry. I might head to a restaurant I know, I might just go for a snack, all I know is that I need an early night tonight (some new year party hey!) as I'm off to the 'Bridge over the river Kwai' tomorrow at 6:30am … hopefully!

Toodle Pip!

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