Thailand (Bangkok, Ayutthaya and Lopburi)
Day 7 Bangkok (28 August 2017)
We arrived in the early morning in Bangkok and moved to our hotel area, one of the more touristic and busiest streets of the city - Khao San Road or the "backpacker ghetto". We choose a cheap Hotel for our short stay and conveniently close to the main attractions. D&D Inn had as many positive points as negative. As first impression the staff was a bit rude and not super welcoming, plus our room was not the cleanest. In the hotel we met our friends Antonio and Fosca that would accompany us on the rest of the trip. Their room was facing the main street therefore, incredibly noisy at night. On a positive note we found as a major plus the rooftop area and swimming pool as well as the central location and the abundant breakfast.
We started as soon as we could our visit to the city with the Chao Phraya Express Boat from Phra Arthit to Wat Arun. Bangkok is a super chaotic city and, particularly during the peak hours, the traffic can become unbearable! For this reason we decided, when possible, to discover the city by boat. The river boats revealed to be not only fast and cheap but also unusual and exciting for us, therefore our favourite!
Wat Arun, or the Temple of Dawn, is impressive and very different from the temples we had seen so far in northern Thailand. As we went in the morning, we had a quiet and undisturbed visit with fewer tourists. The mix between the overall white look and the colourfulness of the tiles that compose the decorations of the temple, gives its unique look. Another beautiful detail of this place are the gardens that surround the area.
Taking another boat, we re-crossed the river to the colourful Pak Khlong Market (Bangkok Flower Market). Unfortunately, during our stay we had no time to organise a visit to any of the floating markets. Surely it is a good excuse to comeback!
Next on the list was the Jim Thompson House, a museum and previous house of the art collector, businessman and architect with the same name. The visit includes a very interesting guided tour on this paradise home, full of treasures and secular art from Asia and stories regarding the Thailand’s legendary silk king and former American secret service agent.
For lunch we went to explore a different scene of Bangkok; in a fancier spirit than before we moved to Sukhumvit, the longest road in Thailand. There we ate in the fashionable Supanniga Eating Room. While exploring this cosmopolitan and modern part of Bangkok, we had a break at the Un-Fashion Vintage Cafe, for some coffee and cakes. Trying to go back to Khao San Road we entered in a never ending taxi drive that remind us the biggest issue with big cities - the traffic! Tired and without any will to go back into other areas of the city, we just stayed in Khao San for drinks and dinner.
Day 8 Bangkok (29 August 2017)
Day 8 in Bangkok started with a visit to Wat Phra Kaew. On our way, we crossed into a huge procession with locals dressed in black, mourning for their King, Bhumibol Adulyadej, who had died on 13 October 2016. After his death, it was announced a year-long period of mourning. Since it was too busy we decided to have lunch in a nearby place called Thai Wang Alley. After lunch, it was time to visit the glorious Wat Pho (the Temple of the Reclining Buddha).
Busy may be the word for Bangkok and it is, beyond any doubt, even more true when talking of Bangkok’s Chinatown. The colours, smells and energy may seem overwhelming, but once again we dived in, with no map or specific direction, just full of will to experience this place. Among the packed market alleys and street food vendors, red, yellow and blue were the prevailing colours, making it look like a scenery from a movie, with a carefully picked chromatic scheme.
Founded in 1782, Bangkok's Chinatown is one of the largest Chinatowns in the world.
Probably this was one of the biggest cities I had ever been and there is nothing better than absorb such magnificence from above. Our friend Anthony found the perfect place to do so. Octave Rooftop Lounge & Bar has happy hour prices for cocktails right around the sunset time. There we could overlook the entire city in the 360º view rooftop bar with a nice drink in the hand. A must do when in Bangkok!
Later on, we went for dinner around Sukhumvit, in a cosy restaurant with Thai/European food. At the end of the night, after one last beer in Khao San, we said goodbye to our friend Anthony, who after months travelling and working in Asia was coming back to Europe. We continued our journey with Antonio and Fosca.
Day 9 Bangkok (30 August 2017)
The third day in Bangkok, was a calm day for us. We started to walk to the Wat Saket (Golden Mount), observing on our way the huge lizards swimming in the canals. In the Golden Mount we saw another perspective of Bangkok’s skyline, quite different from the modern sight of the rooftop bar, but equally stunning.
Luckily, around the same area, we found the perfect place for lunch; a cafe/restaurant called Patonggo or Pa Thong Go.
The food and desserts were delicious!
Continuing the quiet mood of this day we had dinner at Madame Musur, a very nice restaurant nearby the chaotic Khao San Road that serves northern food and has the most welcoming vibe! We missed the flavours from the North cuisine and this restaurant paid justice to it. After dinner, we went to have a massage in the next door place. “Massage in Garden” was not like the touristic and busy massages spots around Khao San Road but a quiet location inside of a small garden. Not exaggerating, it was the best massage I had in my life! After such a magical and relaxing moment we visited the nearby artisan markets while devouring sticky rice with mango.
The end of the night couldn’t be more perfect with a refreshing swim on the rooftop swimming pool of our hotel.
Day 10 Ayutthaya and Lopburi (31 August 2017)
On the last day of our Central Thailand experience, we took a morning train in direction of Ayutthaya!
Ayutthaya was founded in 1351 by King U Thong, who proclaimed it the capital of his kingdom. In 1767, the city was destroyed by the Burmese army, culminating in the fall of the kingdom. The ruins of the old city are still fairly preserved and are recognised internationally as a UNESCO World Heritage. In the Ayutthaya historical park we visited the temples: Wat Ratchaburana, Wat Maha That, Wat Phra Ram and Wat Phra Si Sanphet. The daunting scenery of the kingdom ruins was new for us and between the rocks and the green landscape, or the half destroyed statues, we could feel the magnificence of the place and imagine what could had been, both the kingdom and the city's past splendour. It was definitely a great introduction to what we would see in the next part of our journey in Cambodia. For lunch, we ate at Ayutthaya’s Market and found some handmade craft shops that were very interesting and we found some souvenirs to bring home.
Next stop was Lopburi, one of the oldest cities in the country or aka monkey land! This city feels to be completely taken over by thousands of macaques, who stroll around the city defying their human neighbours. However, it is a peaceful arrangement, specially since all the locals fed and take care of them. Not too far from the station there is the Phra Prang Sam Yod (Monkey Temple) where we found the most authentic and legit macaques settlement we’d ever seen. The temple is fairly small, what contrasts with the huge number of animal “inhabitants”. Quickly, you will be surrounded by hundreds of “well intentioned” macaques. Antonio and Fosca, immediately started mingling with all the macaques, while they took this opportunity to sneak into their bags searching for treats. As for me, I have to be honest, I was a bit scared of them! Nevertheless, I had fun watching their techniques, the awkward ways of dealing with humans, jumping, climbing and screaming, using the freedom and innocence of being monkeys.
After a long journey, we moved back to the train station where we waited for our train in a very unusual way (right in the middle of the train tracks). Soon we were heading back to Bangkok. Our night ended with dinner around Khao San Road and the preparations for our next destination: Cambodia! We had planned to start with a bus trip to Battambang followed by a boat trip through the Tonlé Sap, however, after reading multiple negative reviews regarding the bus trip, we opted for taking a plane directly to Siem Reap. I feel to point out that Battambang seems like a very pretty city and I hope to have the chance to visit it in the future. The good thing about booking hotels with free cancelation is that allows spontaneous decisions and change of plans. However, we are happy to have prepared our trip beforehand, because it allowed us to choose with no pressure and according to our needs and budget.
Cambodia, here we go!