We had a full night’s uninterrupted sleep not waking until 7.30 am local time which was good. The hotel breakfast had plenty to choose from and we enjoyed a relaxing start to the day sitting by the restaurant window observing Bangkok’s chaotic traffic pass along the road. Tuk-tuks, scooters, cars, vans, cyclists and old fashioned buses with passengers leaning out of windows trying to get some air – the organised travel chaos of Thailand unfolding before our eyes.
Leaving the hotel at 10.00 am and navigating using a mixture of paper maps and phone sat nav, our first stop was to Sathorn (Central Pier) from where we purchased one day passes for unlimited travel on the river boats. These cost 150 Baht each (£3) and can be used on both the tourist and local services. Tourist boats have English commentary whilst local services are more frequent so it’s useful to be able to travel on a combination of the two. The tourist boat runs every 30 minutes and was just about to depart so we jumped on board. All the seats were occupied so we decided to stand at the back which turned out to be the best plan as from there we could take photographs along the way, not so easy from inside the boat.
We left the boat at the Tha Tien pier as we wanted to visit the Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho. Tickets cost 100 Baht each including a welcoming bottle of chilled water. Do remember to have plenty of cash available as credit cards are not widely accepted. Gowns were available to borrow for visitors deemed inappropriately dressed but we were both given the all clear. (I was wearing a knee length dress with cap sleeves and my son was dressed in long shorts and a short sleeved shirt).
Instead of leaving shoes outside, visitors pick up a cloth shoe bag and carry their shoes around with them, returning the bag to a tub on leaving. I haven’t come across this system before but it was a good idea as there were no worries that your shoes might have disappeared on leaving the temple.
The Reclining Buddha is huge (46 metres) long and visitors can walk along each side of it in the gilded hall. The soles (feet) are currently being restored but we were able to see everything else. Stepping outside, the grounds are attractively laid out with flower beds and a carp fish pond.
Moving on, we strolled back to the boat pier and took the ferry across the Chao Phraya river to visit Wat Arun. This ferry isn’t included in the day ticket but costs only 3 Baht per person for the short river crossing. Sadly, the exterior of Wat Arun is currently shrouded in scaffolding so we’ll have to return sometime in the future to admire this most beautiful of temples.
It was still possible to visit, admission costing 100 Baht each. Steps up to the temple may prove troublesome for the less agile as they are extremely steep and narrow without handrails but if you can manage the climb it’s worthwhile. We admired the elaborate ceramic tiling inside the Temple of Dawn (Wat Arun) which thankfully was free from scaffolding.
Retracing our steps we returned across the river on the ferry and then walked along to the Royal Palace just as the midday sun came out. The temperature was a blistering 38 degrees Celsius but felt more like 44 in the sun and we felt ourselves wilting in the heat. After a little sit down under a shady tree we managed to continue sightseeing with the aid of sun hats and chilled water .
Strolling back to the river, we took the ferry towards the Khao San Road district and alighted at Phra Arthit Pier. We found a delightful small cafe on a surprisingly quiet tree lined street for something to eat and a rest. I ordered mango sticky rice and enjoyed every mouthful, it was absolutely delicious and I could easily become addicted! To drink, we selected the local Chang beer which arrived chilled, I don’t think I was ever more in need of a refreshing beer than this afternoon!
Feeling revitalised we set off again for a walk along the famous Khao San Road, a mecca for western backpackers arriving in Thailand. It was late afternoon and the street was still fairly quiet but comes to life in the evenings with throngs of people in the bars and cafes. It was interesting to observe life here – travel agencies on every corner advertising cheap bus transfers to other parts of the country, low price hostels, bars and countless Thai massage parlours. The aroma of Pad Thai and Satay filled the air from the plethora of street food vendors whilst tuk-tuk drivers were constantly trying to persuade us to take a ride.
Feeling tired, we headed back to Phra Arthit ferry pier and only had to wait a few minutes for a ferry back towards our hotel. We got off at Oriental, a request only stop which was a short distance from our hotel and a pleasant walk passing some colonial buildings and the Mandarin Oriental Hotel.
After a welcome rest and a refreshing cup of tea we took a look in the Fashion Designer Outlet conveniently located next door to our hotel, this was arranged on several floors and although called a ‘fashion’ outlet, it also sold household and other items. There was even a Marks & Spencer outlet tucked away in one corner, not sure I’d call M & S designer though! I was planning on buying some clothes in Hong Kong but was already tempted into buying a dress here from one of my favourite HK designer labels. Being petite, clothes shopping is a dream for me in Asia as I’m only 5ft tall which is the norm here and not the exception!
Back at the hotel we had planned to go for a swim but it was already 7.00 pm and we’d made plans for later, so we ordered a snack from room service and then had a short rest before venturing out again. The temperature had fallen and the heat seemed pleasant this evening. We walked along to Sathorn (Central Pier) taking approximately 20 minutes to the free boat shuttle service to Asiatique. On arrival at the pier we couldn’t believe how long the queue was – a mixture of tourists and locals going out on a Saturday evening, so we didn’t expect to board the first boat. When the boat docked and passengers started to board the queue moved quickly so that we were some of the final passengers allowed on board. The boat was packed tight with people standing in every available space and I doubt it would have passed UK Health and Safety regulations! We couldn’t move anywhere so stayed at the back for the 12 minute journey which fortunately meant we were one of the first to disembark.
Asiatique opened in 2012 and is a large leisure complex overlooking the Chao Prahya river, featuring shops, restaurants and bars, with a large market at the rear. It’s open daily between 7.00 pm and midnight and can be reached either by boat or car. We strolled along the promenade, debating whether to take a ride on the big wheel but decided against it as it was dark and there wasn’t so much to see. There were bars and restaurants to suit every pocket and we opted for one that was full of locals – a sure sign that it would be of a good standard.
We enjoyed our favourite – Singapore style steamed chicken, delicious! Our return boat was much quieter and we even managed to find seats. Feeling exhausted back in our hotel room we were sound asleep in seconds.