Bangkok: Buddhas, Views and Canoes! Part 1

by Friday, May 5, 2017

B4753DEAA128-1Thailand was amazing. I literally could end this post just with that broad exclamation but that would do my experience a vast injustice.  One day I woke up and simply said to myself “I want to go to Thailand” that’s all it took to get this aspiration going. I mentioned the idea to one of my besties, then it was set in stone. Meticulously planned over two months, this blog post is a dedication to the first week of the Asian travel experience that became Tabb in Thailand.

I traveled over Easter vacation and once the dates were picked we learned that the vacation would take place during Songkran – the Thai New year or 3 day water festival. This was exciting but I had no idea just what that entailed. First i’ll explain what Songkran actually is.

Songkran or Thai New Year meaning literally “astrological passage”, transformation or change. It is iconic to visit temples to pour water on Buddha statues, this ritual stems from the Buddhist tradition of Song Nam Phra – “Bathing the Buddha” this represents purification and new beginnings. For 3 days, tourist and locals alike participate in large water fights in the streets as an ode to these traditions. It is believed that this will bring prosperity and good fortune in the new year.

Arriving in Bangkok around 5 pm, though tired – the night was still young. We stayed at the Royal Orchard Sheraton which accomplished an amazing view of the Chao Phraya River and sky line.  Adrenaline pumping still, we wanted a better look at Bangkok. We decided to get changed and check out the view from Lebua, one of the highest rooftop bars in the world. A 15 minute taxi ride led us to the Lebua Sky bar. I will address taxis and the many modes of transportation a little later in this piece. Sky bar was a gorgeous experience though a bit pricey the view makes up for the expense. We ordered a few specialty drinks and a amazingly fresh seafood platter. Cigars were also on the menu but we opted out for the first night. The view is 360, and glamorously breathtaking, even with people around I felt like I had stumbled into some alternate universe and had uncovered the most dazzling secret.

Wat Pho

Wat Pho was my most favorite adventure. I visited the amazing giant reclining Buddha in the temple and witnessed novice monks in lesson while peacefully wondering around the complex. There were also lots of Songkran activities outside the temple. I sprinkled scented rose water on the hands of monks and on the shoulders of many buddha shrines for humility, good lunch and prosperity.

The Second full day became one of rest, after laying poolside for virtually the entire day we sought out dinner at another luxury hotel on the Chao Phraya River. The views at Sala were amazing, the restaurant seemed fitting for any NYC luxury hotel. The food, while Thai themed wasn’t the best I tasted while visiting Bangkok, it was gorgeously plated and the service was nonintrusive.

Day three was busy. We had a tour booked at 8am so we quickly ate from the appetizingly wonderful buffet selection at our hotel and met our tour guide promptly in the lobby. I liked Chen instantly. She drove us an hour or so away from Bangkok to the Amphawa & Tha Kha Floating Markets. Taking an amazing half day tour in which our knowledgeable guide Chen, took us through multiple markets, introduced us to a wealth of Thai market food and gave us samplings of fresh fruits and vegetables, some times right off the trees and bushes. During the floating portion, we ate authentic Pad Thai in a canoe while floating through the jungle and stopped at a sugar producing coconut farm. I tasted the sap from the trees! This experience too was memorable as a MUST DO, we shopped and ate with the locals, still avoiding all the Songkran water battles in the streets. Our guide was fun and smart, the views intoxicating and foods authentic and plush. Check out Chili Paste Tours below.

http://www.foodtoursbangkok.com/our-tours/ –  Tour: Journey into old style Thailand

Easter

On Easter, we had the pleasure of dining at the Sheratons Easter Brunch. We got dressed up for a selection of fresh seafood and more authentic Thai food. As an American bonus there were easter eggs hanging from trees, a magician for the children and a big red (frightening) Easter bunny. We hit the markets after this as it was the last day in Bangkok for a while.

Chatuchak Weekend Markets were robust and filled with everything from precious gems to “dollar store” crap. I’m bad at haggling but everything was so cheap that saving a few Thai cents left me thrilled. I bought a few souvenirs as we traveled throughout the inside and outside aisles of shops. This was the one place we visited that was alive with tourists like ourselves everywhere. It made the streets seem alive. This was everything you’d imagine – a multicolored selling carnival on the the streets. After a few hours of walking and shopping in the sweltering heat we opted to head back to the hotels gorgeous pool to relax on our last night. This leads me to transportation.

 

Though PLENTY modes of transportation, believe in the Uber. The local street taxi drivers were foul, they treated everyone as dumb tourists. On several occasions we were asked if they could drive us to other locations to shop for a few minutes so that they could get a voucher from whichever store they dropped us at. For this we would receive a greater discount on our fare. Also in metered taxis, drivers would stall to run the meter up pretending they weren’t familiar with the location of our hotels. A good map app comes in handy and a few Thai words of direction easily appeased this deterrent. We only had these problems with local street taxis and never with Uber drives, as where we were going and rate was already agreed when the ride was established.

Stay tuned for Part 2: Ko Samui: Bungalows Beaches & Bourbon

 

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