Sunday, 18 October 2015

Thailand Sightseeing Weekend #2: Temples and Tuk Tuks

I had big plans to get up early to see Wat Arun, the "Temple of the Dawn" while the sun was rising...but when the alarm went off at 5:45am, I decided that it just wasn't going to happen today, and rolled over for another hour of rest. 
I did eventually drag myself out of bed and caught a taxi to Koa San Road while there was still no traffic. Because it was still early, the infamous street was still slumbering off the hangover from the night before, which doubtless had only come to an end around the time my alarm woke me up. Sometimes I really feel like an oddity among the usual Thailand tourist crowd!

I wanted to get in as much temple sightseeing as possible, including Wat Phrakaew & the Grand Palace, Wat Pho, Wat Arun, and a few other places further down the river if I had time and energy. 

Though the day started off looking like it might rain, it soon turned to the typical sweltering heat I am still trying to adapt to. It is difficult for this Canadian to accept that 25 degrees celcius is a cool night time temperature. 

Strolling down a main road, I stopped to read a corner street sign to figure out where I needed to make a turn, and was quickly approached by a well-dressed, friendly Thai man, whose English was much better than most. He greeted me, and asked where I was going, and did I need help? I said I was looking for the Grand Palace, and he pointed me in the right direction, and asked if I had a map so he could show me. At this point I was foolishly still thinking that he was just being helpful, and that quickly switched to a realization that he was a typical scam artist that my Lonely Planet guide book had warned me of, when he told me the temple wouldnt open until 1pm, but he could reccommend a few other places where I could spend my time until then! This is a trick where they whisk you away to various overpriced places where they pressure you to buy a lot of things and basically hold you hostage for a couple hours. 

He whipped out a pen and started marking down attractions on the other side of town that were "only free today", and "just free for students," and wasn't I lucky because right now there was a once-a-year festival, "but only today"! I thanked him and said that sounded nice but it was very far away. He quickly stepped in to say that I could take a tuk tuk, one of the colorful go-cart lke mobiles that have infested the city, charging horrendous prices to ignorant tourists. The 'Nice Man' said I should only take a government taxi because it was cheaper, "only 20 Baht for 3 hours! It will take you to all these places!". I may be cheap, but even I know when something is TOO cheap. 20 B. for 3 hours is absolutely ridiculous, and I had spent enough time with this fellow so I began to extricate myself from the situation. His friendly smile soured when I deffered on the waiting tuk tuk, and said I wanted to look around first. "But why dont you want to go now? You hear about that bomb that exploded in Bangkok? Killed many tourists! There is a political demonstration today, very dangerous for walking!" (absolute rubbish). He was quite angry when I insisted on leaving...I walked to the end of the street, crossed to the other side, and then continued on my way to the Grand Palace!

I did eventually find my way there, and surprise was open! In fact, it was packed with tourists, mainly big chartered busloads of Chinese tourists, who are undoubtedly the most annoying kind I have ever encountered. I will try not to focus too much on just how much I disliked the swarms of self-stick toting, personal-space invading, culturally-insensitive, and obnoxious tourists, but suffice it to say that I spent a shorter time there than I would have otherwise, and left with a headache that was almost certainly crowd-induced. 

However, the temple was absolutely stunning, and I tried to get some photos that captured some of its magnificence. I tried to imagine how wonderful it must have been when it was a calm, peaceful place for meditation and reflection. 

After reviving myself with some coconut ice cream, I walked down the road to Wat Pho, which was a visit I preferred quite a lot more. While stll touristy, it was not super busy, so it was not difficult to wander and snap photos without waiting for someone to take yet another selfie. I spent quite a lot of time there, enjoying the peace, admiring the huge reclining Buddha, and trying to entice a small orange cat to pay attention to me (I am going through Lokers deprivation). 

After this, I walked a tourist gauntlet of small vendors, tuk tuk drivers, and beggars, to reach the canal of the river, upon which Wat Arun, my original choice of temple, is set opposite. I was dissapointed to find that the beautiful temple is currently under restoration, and almost entirely obscured by scaffolding! 

Disheartened by scams, tourist hordes, and the unrelenting heat, I tried to find a taxi that would bring me home. I was completely unsuccessful, as every single one I approached refused to use the meter, instead asking for 200-300 Baht for the trip, that was probably worth half that. I compromised with myself by instead catching a taxi to the nearest BTS Skytrain station, and then riding that to the stop nearest the guesthouse, and walking the rest. Sometimes I wonder if I am too cheap, but then I remind myself I have more time than money, so if it comes down to one or the other, I should keep the money! 

So that was my day! I got home exhausted, took a cold shower, and had a nap! Looking through my photos, I remind myself that even though there were annoying aspects about today, everythiing was very beautiful, and I knew Bangkok/Thailand would be like this. That is why I have planned to move on after this month :)

I allowed myself one selfie.
I am excited to go to Cambodia, but my tourist time in Thailand is not done yet! Next weekend I am hoping to head out of the city with the new volunteers to explore a Unesco World Heritage Site, and visit a floating market! I'll keep you updated! 

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