A Day In Bangkok Along The Chao Phraya River

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Bangkok is arguably the most exotic destination of South East Asia. From its breathtaking skyscrappers to dirty slums, glittering malls to weekend markets, jam packed roads to water canals, it is dynamic, vibrant, fascinating and equally stressful.

It is one of the most cosmopolitan city in Asia and considered as a major tourist hub worldwide. Bangkok is a big attraction for people worldwide looking out for an international vacation. Millions of tourist visit this city ever year to experience its noise, traffic, pollution, water, beautiful temples, sky scrappers, glittering shopping malls and even slums. From Khao San Road Guest Houses to Paragon Cineplex, it satisfies everyone, be it a backpacker or a luxury traveller.

Modern day Bangkok was once a human settlement on the floodplain of Chao Phraya River and in the middle of the city, there were numerous water canals crisscrossing each other at different parts, symbolizing it as "Venice of The East" during much of the 19th century. As Bangkok grew with the time, these canals have been filled in and paved over to make room for roads to give to the increasing traffic. But a massive network of waterways still criss-crosses the city. Each day, thousands of commuters travel to experience the real life in Bangkok by motorized boat on the canals and on the Chao Phraya River, which runs through the centre of the city.

During my trip to Bangkok, I stayed in a guest house near Khao San Road in Bengalumpu Area. Khao San Road is considered as the backpacker's paradise due to its offering of cheap accommodation, ranging from 'mattress in a box' style hotels to reasonably priced 3-star hotels. It is located very close to The Chao Phraya River, so I decided to take a temple tour of Bangkok by using the public ferries on the river. The three major tourist attractions Wat Phra Kaew ( Inside The Grand Palace), Wat Pho and Wat Arun are located close to Khao San Road, so my target was to visit these three temple in a day including The Grand Palace.

Fort Phra Sumen: I walked from Khao San Road towards the nearest Phra Arthit Pier on the river. Near the Phra Arthit Pier, I came across an interesting fort known as Phra Sumen Fort. It is one of the only two remaining fort of old Bangkok and considered as the last citadel on the Chao Phraya. This fort was built by King Rama I in 1783 for the defense of his new capital,Bangkok. This fort looks impressive with its white painted structure with the old canon still looking from one of the peep hole.

Near the fort is a small pleasant park , known as Santichaiprakarn Park. This park is a beautiful escape from the crowded city to spend some time on the bank of the river in a peaceful manner by watching ferry movements and fish jumping.

After walking across the park, I reached to the Phra Arthit Pier of the boat service. There was a beautiful site of fishes, jumping up and down on the river bed near the pier with Rama VIII bridge in the background. It was an amazing scene.

Ticket counter is just adjacent to the pier, near the platform. From Arthit Pier, I caught a boat going to Tha Chang, nearest pier to the Grand Palace. There are various types of boats operate on the river, local as well as express. They can be identify on the basis of a colored flag on the top of every boat. So, always make sure whether your boat will stop at the right pier or not, before boarding it. Sometimes, you may have to wait upto 30 minutes to get a right boat.

Ferry ride till the Tha Chang Pier was very short, but really exciting. Moving on the Chao Phraya River in a ferry gave me a real taste of stilt houses and life along the river. After, coming outside the Tha Chang pier, I came across a local market with the numerous stalls selling from breakfasts, fruits, soft drinks, ice creams, stones, horoscopes, shoes to the fried fishes.

The Grand Palace: I walked towards the Grand Palace entrance, which is about 5 mins walking distance from the market. The entry ticket to The Grand Palace was whopping 400 Bath for foreign nationals. Note that the admission fee also includes an admission ticket to Vimanmek Mansion and several other sights around Bangkok that can be used within seven days of your Grand Palace visit. For Thai Nationals, I think, it was free. This palace was the official residence of the Kings of Siam (now, Thailand) since 1782, until they moved to the new Chitralada Palace (Dushit Palace Complex) in 1925, where they still reside.

Be aware that everyone (means everyone including females) have to cover legs to the ankles and arms to the wrists, before entering in the premises. You can hire them from the palace for 200 Baht which you would get back when you return the items, however it is not guaranteed.

The Grand Palace is open every day from 8:30 AM to 3:30 PM, unless it's being used for a state function, which is quite rare. The Royal Pantheon in Temple of the Emerald Buddha is only open one day a year, on 6 April.

This Grand Palace complex also houses The Wat Phra Kaew ( Temple of Emerald Buddha), the most sacred Buddhist Temple in Thailand. The Emerald Buddha is a Buddha image in the meditating position in the style of the Lanna school of the north, dating from the 15th century AD. This image statue is raised on a series of high platforms and except the King, no one is allowed near the statue. A seasonal cloak covers the statue and it changes three times a year to correspond to the summer, winter and rain season. The changing of the robes is performed only by the King to bring good fortune to the country and considered as a very important ritual.

Wat Pho (Entrance ticket: 100 Baht for foreign nationals): After visiting The Grand Palace, I moved to another important temple of Bangkok, Wat Pho, also known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. The image of reclining Buddha is 15 m high and 43 m long with his right arm supporting his head. The foot of Buddha is also very long and displaying the auspicious symbols like flowers, white elephants, tigers, dancers etc. Over the statue is a seven tiered umbrella representing the authority of Thailand. The whole atmosphere surrounding the Buddha statue was very divine.

Moving to the another hall, I came across a series of Buddha Statue in various galleries. Reportedly, this temple houses approx. 1000 Buddha statues. This temple is also the home to one of the earliest Thai massage schools. It still offers paid massage services to its visitor and this service is very popular in Bangkok.

Wat Arun (Entrance ticket: 50 Baht for foreign nationals): From Wat Pho, I went to Wat Arun, another important temple of Bangkok. It is also known as The Temple of Dawn, situated on the another bank of The Chao Phraya River, opposite to The Grand Palace and Wat Pho. There are various ferries operating between Tha Tien pier near Wat Pho to Wat Arun pier.

It has been the Royal Temple dedicated to the 2nd reign of Chakkri Dynasty. Built in a typical Khmer Art Style with a central prang (tower) in the middle, this temple tower symbolizes Mount Meru, the center of the world, in Indian Cosmology. The four-corner prang of Wat Arun, which house images of the guardian gods of the four directions, reinforces this mystical symbolism.

From the top of Wat Arun, I clicked of the most beautiful shots of Chao Phraya River, Grand Palace and nearby Skylines of Bangkok.

Nightlife at Khao San Road: In the night, I walked along the famous streets of Khao San Road to experience Bangkok Nightlife. Khao San Road doesn't look so alive during the day time, but in the evening, it wakes up from the dreams. Neon signs changes the surrounding in various colours, loud music starts coming out from the shops and restaurants, bear and wine price lists hang on the streets and people from all walk of the life stats pouring down at KSR, short form of Khao San Road.

And there are massage parlours, crazy vendors, street foods etc. Choices are many from insect foods to delicious fishes, soft drinks to beer bottles and cheap clothes to branded one..there's something to suit every mood, taste and budget.

After spending a day in Bangkok, I found this hectic, crazy and sinful city very adorable. Bangkok is a beautiful combination of old traditions and modern day globalisation. It can be a stressful city to start with all the noise, the traffic, the tuk-tuk drivers that tries to trick you, the scent on the streets, the hot and humid weather etc. But once you get past that you will find a city full of contrast, good food, friendly people, peaceful and colorful temples, great shopping etc.

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