Bangkok: Sightseeing, Wat Pho, Thai Police, and More!

Today is finally the day for sightseeing in Bangkok. It didn’t disappoint.

Day 6. Diary date: October 7th, 2019.

Waking up, leaving Chinatown

I wake up with a clear head, and check out of ‘Our Secret Base’. We wave goodbye to our hosts, particularly the cat Master Yoda!

In retrospect, we might’ve been better off just staying in one hostel, and using that one place as a base to explore Bangkok. But early on, we were excitable—wet behind the ears—and enjoyed the constant trekking around backpack-laden through crowded streets.

Also, finding new places to stay is fun! You can periodically book nicer places with AC, and maybe a pool if you’re lucky; you can read through (often funny) reviews; you can search for places with character. We found some gems, and some very strange places, too. Tonight’s hostel was no exception. Later, I’ll create a map of Bangkok which plots the route we took from area to area, and add it to the last Bangkok entry.

After booking somewhere called AMA Hostel, we march on through Chinatown, all the way to its outskirts near Sam Yot. A picturesque entrance greets us:

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AMA Hostel, Bangkok

We immediately get talking to a slightly younger English guy who must’ve clocked onto our accents. He regales us with the story of how he’s ended up here, alone in Bangkok: he came with a friend, who on his first night got involved with a prostitute and then refused to pay. Predictably, the woman didn’t take kindly to this. His friend ended up scared enough that he immediately booked and boarded the first plane home to England — leaving his unfortunate companion alone. So, I guess we’re faring better than these travellers, at least.

We take a taxi to the Phra Nakhon area for sightseeing, where you’ll find heavy-hitters such as the Grand Palace and Wat Pho. But on the way…

An incident with the police

The police pull our taxi over! The nervousness of the driver is palpable. A stern-faced Thai policeman stares at us intently and speaks to the driver. He hands over his license, smiling — but his outstretched hand is shaking.

The officer doesn’t look satisfied — growing sterner, as if disappointed — and stares at us again. Eventually, he leaves. I guess he couldn’t charge the driver with anything. To this day, I’m not sure what the stop was about. Perhaps he was just checking the taxi was licensed; Grab is still technically yet confusingly illegal in Thailand.

Our driver mumbles something afterwards about there being extra security due to the king arriving in Bangkok, but I searched Google and found nothing. Overall the situation felt very sinister. The conversation was in Thai, but it amazed me how much I could read through the tone and body language. There was no pretence of friendliness from the officer. This wasn’t to be our last encounter with Thailand’s infamously authoritarian police.

Arriving at Wat Pho

Once out of the taxi, it wasn’t long before someone started talking to us…

A local shouted, ‘Grand Palace closed today!’

…and I believed him, until he offered us a cheaper and lesser-known tuk-tuk tour instead. I noped out of there immediately. The man was surprisingly convincing—you know when someone is so convincing and assured that it sets off alarm bells? I looked it up afterwards, and sure enough, it was a scam. The palace was open as usual. Don’t fall for that one.

We pay our 200 Baht (~£4.95) and go into the Wat Pho complex. It’s beautiful. The pictures below are worth enlarging:

Wat Pho is also home to the longest reclining Buddha statue in Thailand, Wat Phra Chetuphon. It was constructed in 1832, spans 46 metres long, and is cased in gold. It’s mesmerising to see:

After Wat Pho, it’s nice wandering down to look at Wat Arun from across the river and then through the Pak Khlong Talat flower market.

Wat Arun, seen across the Chao Phraya River as the sun sets
Wat Arun, seen across the Chao Phraya River as the sun sets

Enough sightseeing—time for food!

We spend all day exploring and don’t eat until 6 pm. We’re already averaging 14,000 steps a day with much lower calorie intake than usual. I’ll be lucky to come back half my original weight! With food on our minds and our stomachs loudly complaining, we arrange to meet J at ‘The Family’ restaurant. We call a grab moped each and zoom over.

This was our first time on mopeds. I didn’t expect it to be one of the more exhilarating experiences so far.

Thai drivers don’t fuck around! Hurtling along without being strapped into anything feels sketchy, for sure. Mortality feels that much closer — but you also feel much more intertwined with the choreography of traffic, flowing between cars (and sometimes on the pavement).

The noise is overwhelming — horns, engines, voices — and the sights flying past you seem so much more imposing, vivid. You glimpse so many lives in miniature flashing by… people cooking on sidewalks, laughing, shouting, everything. This memory sticks out to me distinctly, as those experiences touched by a sense of new-found prickling excitement always do.

I’m the first one to arrive and the wait for S is agonizing — knowing his luck, he’d arrive with some scrapes or injuries. But then I spot the bike, and he swans over to me, alive and well, as I breathe a sigh of relief. But not before he comically struggles to get his helmet off for a solid minute. Hah.

If only I knew then how tame that journey was compared to what we’d see later, as drivers rather than passengers — particularly along the Hai Giang loop in Vietnam!

I order Penang curry with spring rolls and a passion fruit mojito, all for like £5 or something. It’s the best meal so far — I can’t recommend it enough.

Oh, and here’s a bonus cat video:

We call a grab, and a modified Honda plastered in ‘Bangkok racing club’ stickers pulls up. The driver opens the door, and the sound of Dre’s The Chronic pours out while he beams at us; I love the constant idiosyncrasies of this city!

Back at the hostel, we drink a bottle of locally-brewed Sangsom rum while chilling in this weird 6-inch pool upstairs:

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I did say that it’s fun finding unconventional hostels…

I facetime K, watch some youtube videos and fall asleep at a slightly more normal time. Tomorrow, we’re moving on to check out a completely different section of Bangkok, more to the east. I’m thankful that editing these allows me to relive it all! I’m already looking forward to the next entry, day 7. A week already? Time flies, flies away.

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