Day 5 – Thailand : Chiang Mai – Spa Time!

Touching down in Chiang Mai from Bangkok, it was already evening time.

At the airport, there is no other transportation except taxis and everyone has to buy a ticket and wait for the taxis to come – they will never not have enough business.

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I stayed in my own room in Chiang Mai called P21.  I had my bed and Miga had her own bed.  It was $66 a night (I stayed for 4 nights) and it didn’t include breakfast.

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My first meal in Chiang Mai was mango rice!!! There was a cute girl selling mango rice outside my friend’s hotel – Nap in Chiangmai.

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For our first night, my friend booked a Thai Massage for all of us!  It was $20 and included a shuttle from the hotel.

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Before we begin, we were given tea ~ img_20161112_195427310

… then we got to change into massage attire.

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Since there were 6 of us, two of us were in the smaller room, and 4 were in the larger room.  We were given a foot bath beforehand and we were off to the rooms.  It was so relaxing I fell asleep 😦

Afterwards, we were given snacks and tea!

Back at the hotel, we went to find food at the night bazaars.  We settled on noodles 😛

 

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Ayame still had her eyes then …

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… then we walked around a small indoors night market and visited a Starbucks to check out their awesome cups!

End of the first day in Chiang Mai 🙂

Bangkok : Thailand – Day 5 – Chatuchak Market

Oops, having gone on hiatus for so long, I am going back to recap on the previous trip some… many months ago.

 

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Pratum Market

 

This day was the end of our Bangkok trip and we were on our way to Chiang Mai!  My friend bought an air ticket that was later in the day so we had time to have breakfast and go to the Weekend Market – otherwise known as the Chatuchak Market 🙂

We went back to the closer Pratum Market for breakfast but we went the wrong way and completely got lost.  In the end, my friend Dave and I settled for breakfast at McDonalds while my other friend ‘H’, had to make a run back to the hotel to get on his flight to Chiang Mai.

We walked around the mall where our hotel was located as well.  It was eerily empty of shops save for the last floor.

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Finally, we called a taxi to go to the smaller Don Mueng airport for our flight to Chiang Mai.  We dragged our luggage a few blocks because taxi drivers always costs more at the hotel.  We thought we got ourselves a deal since we were able to negotiate a lower cost than our budget with the taxi driver. However, it turns out that our most unseasoned travel friend H, got an even better deal!

In any case, we were still a bit early when we arrived at the airport, so having stored our luggage at the airport, we went back out again to check out the nearby weekend market!

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There was a direct bus from the airport visa bus 59.  Once you get on the bus, someone will come by selling tickets to you.  I am amazed by their memory of who just recently got on … There is also a metro system that takes you here from town but metro doesn’t reach this airport 😦

 

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outdoor area of the market

 

The Chatuchak Market is one of the must-sees in Bangkok … it consists of about 15,000 stores and 27 sections!  The sections are based on a commonality like plants, potteries, clothes etc … It probably takes two days to go through the whole market.

Before arriving at the market, there is also a nice park just right outside for families to chill and have fun.

We didn’t have much time, so we made a run to the foodie area and that was it … and we only had coconut ice cream 😦

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Back to the airport we go 😦

Actually, at the airport, inside of using money, we have to buy a card and with this card, we can use it to buy food.  Anything you have over, you can return it for money.  I don’t know why they use it, it seems redundant to keep an extra person there … maybe for employment? keep track of money? no idea.

We ae flying air asia … not my fav but it is the cheapest 😦

 

 

Bangkok : Thailand – Day 4 – Bangkok’s Chinatown

We all decided to go to Chinatown for our last full day in Bangkok because we wanted to find some good food.

First off, we went to nearby Pratum Market to grab breakfast.  Two guys went the day before and they said it was a sketchy place selling some sketchy things but they might have gone to the wrong place (i.e. they went inside) because outside was a vibrant place, where stalls after stalls sold clothes and various items.  We had to battle with other people, motor cars, and workers transporting clothes to the respecting stalls in their trolleys.

 

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entrance to Pratum Market 

 

Due to the amount of people there, it was really hard to shop, so we continued walking until we reached the back of the market where there were many outdoor food stalls.

 

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food stall.

We were able to find food just minutes walk from our hotel!

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We had one plate of noodle and one plate of rice from different stalls and also bought congee to go for our friend, who isn’t feeling well.

 

When we did head out, we went to PANTIP Pratum.  This place sells electronics from the first floor to the 4th floor.  Interestingly, there are stalls so you can bargain with the owner for a lower price.  I simply when downstairs to McDonalds and had a sundae 🙂

img_20161111_111055464Afterwards, we were finally heading towards Chinatown.  We took the same way I took to Hua Lamphong Station yesterday but this time through Chithom Station to Sala Deang and then switch over to the blue line to Hua Lamphong.

It was still a bit of walk before we get to Chinatown but we were there at last! Chinatown is a 1 km strip (with side alleys as well) that is located mainly on Yeowarat Road (耀華力路)). Most of the Chinese came to Thailand to help build the Grand Palace and many of them stayed.

More photos from Chinatown! We came here to find cheap eats and was surprised to learn that the storefronts in Chinatown have one of the highest rent in Bangkok.

We came here to find cheap eats and was surprised to learn that the storefronts in Chinatown have one of the highest rent in Bangkok.  Food priced however were still quite decent.

Since none of us as WiFi, we all got together at Starbucks in search of some good place to eat.  In the meantime, we meet up with another member of our group who flew in from England.

We were trying to find this really nice and delicious Chinese restaurant that my friend went to before but all he had was a photo and so we used the photo to asked around.  Most of the people living there speak a dialect of Chinese that I couldn’t quite understand and after a long roundabout, we just went to any random restaurant.  I thought it was just as good 🙂

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Close to Chinatown is also a flower market known as Pak Klong Talad, which I read to be very busy during midnight.  However, with a little time to spare, we decided to go there during the evening.  Using a downloaded google map, we were on our way 🙂

We walked along the road and walked into a residential area, which is very much different from all the high rises in central Bangkok.

We also got to walk around a small canal …  it wasn’t as close as we thought as it is already sunset…

In hindsight, it wasn’t as close as we thought and it was almost close to sunset…

Still walking …

Finally, we made it to the Bangkok Flower market!  The flower market is one of the largest in the city, selling different types of flowers as well as fruits and vegetables.

This used to be a floating market when Thonburi was still an island but it now takes a position close to the waters, where it is easy to import and export flowers from different areas of Thailand.

At one time, the market was also converted to a fish market!

… and that takes us to the long walk back to Chinatown for a somewhat late dinner.

We were randomly walking on the street when we decided to settle for a restaurant on the street.  Usually, we don’t like going to places with a lot of tourists but we were all hungry.  The restaurant was basically a one man show and he cooks out in the open with three woks in front of him.  My friends all thought it was a very good cooking show, as he even let off a few cooking flames.  We had squid, fish, and something else … ? ?

I think for about 4 plates of food, we only paid 6 dollars each.

At night, Chinatown is just as vibrant.

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After dinner, my friend really wanted to get a foot massage and he found a really nice place some 20 minutes walk from Chinatown.  So we were on our feet again walking.

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Since it was our last night in Bangkok, we decided to go to a rooftop bar.  We were arguing over which one to go to all during dinner since there is actually a lot of rooftop bars in Bangkok (basically any nice hotel that’s tall enough can be a rooftop bar).

We eventually went to the one at Banyan Tree Bangkok, which many said was one of the top rooftop bars.  The view was nice but the service wasn’t very good.  Two of my friends’ orders were forgotten and the server’s attitude wasn’t that good either.  I ordered the cheapest drink on the menu (which did come) and the last time I checked my visa, it came to $26 Canadian!!!!

.. and that was day 4!

Bangkok : Thailand – Day 3 – Ayutthaya

Ayutthaya is a city an hour north of Bangkok and was the former capital of Siam.  It is one of several day trips that visitors can take from Bangkok.

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I wanted to visit the city via train and then renting a bike but it takes 2 transfers by metro to the train station.  Being lazy, I just joined a tour and requested that they pick me up from the hotel.  Unfortunately, that was going to cost me an arm and a leg, so I had to go to their office in Ayutthaya regardless.

 

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taking metro

 

I was staying some 10 minutes walk from Chitlom station, which made sense for me to walk there but I mistakenly thought Siam was the better station so I walked 30 minutes from my hotel to Siam, stopping for a 19 Baht Thai Ice Tea on the way.

My train was at 8:20 AM so I gave myself an hour to get to Hualamphong Train Station.  I got to Siam Station then transferred at Sala Deang Station to the blue line.  The distance from the BTS to MRT was a long one.  Interestingly, it seems that at 8 AM, all the citizens stops what they are doing and stand to listen to the national anthem.

 

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third class train ticket

 

Finally, I got to Hualamphong with only 10 minutes to spare, I went to the counter to buy a ticket and the guy at the counter sold me a seatless third class ticket for 20 baht!!! That was less than the amount I paid to go from Siam to Sala Deang Station…

I think there is a carriage I have to be on but I didn’t know, so I just sat anywhere that was available … the one I sat at might have been second class .. keke.  I heard the locals can get on for free but I am not sure.

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my little window to see the outside

 

The speed of the train was really slow as it passed through greater Bangkok.  It literally cuts through people’s backyards and you see local people living really simple housing along the way.

As it leaves Bangkok (some one hour later), the train speed picks up and the scenery goes from urban to rural space.  The train also passes through the Don Muang Airport, and judging by how slow it goes, I would not recommend taking the train to the airport.

In any case, I finally arrived at the train station.  I walked to the office, which can be recognized by the photo of the office building they sent me, as there was no proper name on it yet.

My tour guide met me at the front of the office and told me I was a VIP today, only me on the tour!

After getting the bike and the gears all set, we were on our way.  The first stop was a local elementary school, where all the local school children attended.  Along the way is a nicely paved road surrounded by rural setting.  We have yet to cross the river to old UNESCO Ayutthaya, so we were still in suburban Ayutthaya, basically where most people live.

The school is near a temple (as it usually is apparently) and I think she said there were just 4 teachers and each class is of mixed-aged group.  Being an only child, I am not very good at handling kids but they seem to really like my tour guide, who comes by almost every day.

Later, we made our way to an English class and I got to have a small conversation with each of the students.  I was caught my surprise, so the teacher gave me a conversation sheet to help get things started, which kind of went ok (but judging by videos from the previous visitors on the company’s website, I didn’t do so good).

Actually, I had my concerns when my guide said we were visiting a school because I visited one in Siem Reap in Cambodia.  The Cambodian school had visitors coming to the school almost every 30 minutes and tourists were asked to buy candies from the administrator to give to the students.  At the end, the tour guide also kindly suggested we donate money to feed them …  However, it didn’t happen here so I was being a worry wart for nothing.

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A short ride over is a temple …

From there, we took a ferry to cross over to the other side of the river to old Ayutthaya.

As we waited there, I asked if people around here fish because there are a lot of fish in the waters but the guide said that it is illegal to fish around temple premises.  She also said the people around the river are decently well off and does not need to fish for food, as suggested by the type of houses they have.

Our ride finally came and crossing the river took less than 2 minutes.  We rode through the rural area again and this time towards an elephant camp.  Before that, we stopped by a convenience store along to way to get some refreshers.

Along the way were rice paddies and even a large yellow lizard crossing the road.  From time to time we passed by houses where dogs and roosters roam.  Cock fighting is still prominent in Thailand and that is what they are raised for.

Finally, we arrived at the elephant camp called Phaniat Royal Elephant Kraal.  The place dates back to the 16th century where they trained elephants for warfare.

The white elephants are considered the highest and are used as royal elephants.  Furthermore, the elephants here never retire.

A lot of the elephants were missing on the day I visited because they were still away for ceremonies for the King’s passing.  Those that were here, gets to chill out, eat leaves, and get bathed by tourists and volunteers.  It costs about 150 baht per camera to take photos
(I think).

Leaving the elephants behind, we rode to another temple called Wat Na Phramane. The site is important because in 1563, a war broke out for essentially 2 white elephants between Burma and Siam and this was where they settled for the peace treaty.

It was the only temple that the Burmese did not destroy because they had used it as a military base.  It was also said that the Burmese King fatally injured himself when he released a canon from the temple towards the Grand Palace in Ayutthaya.  King Tama III later had restored by King Rama III but this would be the most intact old temple I would see all day.

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The right side of the temple is also the vihara where a buddha sat.  The sitting position of the Buddha is unique so some say that this Buddha may have been brought here from elsewhere else or created from a different period.  The walls also have paintings from the time of King Rama III but much of it is faded now.  Nevertheless, one can still see bits of images from people of that time.  Interestingly, there is also a monk sitting in a corner and after he and my tour guide exchanged a few greetings, I was asked to sit in front of him where he proceeded to spray holy water on me and then smack me on the head with another item just as holy.

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With that as a blessing, we made it to the ordination hall where a golden-crowned buddha sat.  There was a poster of the past kings of Thailand and my guide kindly pointed me to the more important kings following the fall of Ayutthaya.

As a precursor to what is to come, we passed by a very minor site.

The next stop was lunch, where we went to a restaurant by the Chao Praya River.  The river is quite long and it flows straight into Bangkok.  For lunch, we had curry and just discussed topics at random.

After lunch, we entered the UNESCO site of Ayutthaya, the old ruins of the capital city that most people come to see.  The old city was founded in 1350 and in its hay day, around 1700, one study estimated that it was the most populated city in the world, with an inhabitant of 1 million people.  All of it came to an end in 1767 when the Burmese invaded the city, leaving it for ruins.

The first site we visited was Wat Wara Pho.  It is a minor site with various brick foundations surrounding a Buddha.  All of the Buddha are a replica of the original, as the original was most likely destroyed.

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My guide went into a little bit of detail about how almost every male in Thailand served at least once as a monk in their lifetime.  That is done so that the family can get good luck.

We got back on our bikes and headed towards Wat Lokkayasutharam, where there is a large reclining buddha in the front and possible another temple behind it.  This too is a replica of the origin.

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Grabbing our bikes again, this time, we went pass a local market towards one of the bigger sites in Ayutthaya, Wat Phra Si Sanphet or the temple of the holy.

 

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local market

 

Originally, this site was built as a royal palace by King Ramathibodi I, the first to name Ayutthaya the capital.  His successors continued to expand on the site until King Borommatrailokanat built a new site north of here and this was converted into a holy site.  The royal chapel along with a 16-meter gold plated buddha was also built here.  However, in 1767, the Burmese destroyed many of the temples in the area and only the three main chedis remained.

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We got back on the bike once more and traveled through a gorgeous garden between the sites.

Our final stop was the famous Wat Mahathat, where it is famous for the head growing in the roots a tree.  It is almost located at the center of Ayutthaya and is where the leader of the Thai Buddhist monk resided.  There are also said to have some buddha relics in the temple.

The story goes that someone tried to steal the Buddha’s head but the nose had fallen off and therefore was abandoned on the floor because it was worth-less

The temple here would have more destroyed Buddhas, with its head removed.

A walk around the old ruins and we were back on our bikes and heading towards the office. We took a ferry across the river again and then rode back.  The lady here collects the money.  The boat transfer is just across from the train station entrance.

On the train, I was able to take the same third class train with no assigned seats.  The wait was a bit long on the train tracks but alas the train came.  Similar to coming in, the train moved really fast as it left Ayutthaya but slowed down when it reached Bangkok.

At night, many people were home already so we can actually see through the windows and into their backyards.  It was quite an interesting scene, though I did feel like I was invading their space.

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Finally, I grabbed dinner and met up with my friend who just got in from Australia!

Bangkok : Thailand – Day 2 – Wat Pho

Wat Pho is a first class royal temple that is some 15 minutes walking distance away from the Grand Palace.

I wasn’t sure if it still opened because of the recent passing of the Thai King but sure enough, a small gate with two people were selling tickets for 100 baht.  My friend didn’t go in this time, and seeing how the Grand Palace was a tad disappointing (with the Emerald Buddha only seen from afar), it made sense.

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It turns out Wat Pho was much more interesting than the Grand Palace.  Upon entering are already a lot of mini chedi (some 71 of them).  Inside are actually ashes of royal family while the bigger ones housed Buddha relics.

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They also had a very nice garden that’s also very photo worthy.

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At the back of the premise is where the reclining buddha resided.  There is a long one-way hallway where visitors try to find the best position to take a photo with this special statute.

I though the first space nearest to the entrance gave the best view of the face.  For the body, it might be better to take it through the middle or at the end … or even through the cracks of the window outside of the building.  At the end, you can also see the intricate carvings on the back of the foot.  There are 108 panels with different symbols.

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back of the buddha

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attempt at full body view

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Buddha in his entering nirvana pose

 

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Under renovation 😦

There are also 108 bronze bowls representing the auspicious characters of Buddha.  People can drop coins on all of them.

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Bowls

Wat Pho is also considered the first University in Thailand, concentrating their studies on religion, science, and literature.  The origins of the Thai massage is said to have originated here as well.  The school still exists and visitors can have a massage in the premise.

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The area is quite big and seriously cannot be covered in 15 minutes …

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Phra Mondop

 

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western figure?

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The temple took me a total of 30 minutes to walk around (in a hurry), although my friend who was waiting outside wasn’t too happy about it.  Unfortunately, the rain came pouring down afterward and in addition to being lost, we were hiding under two giant leaves under a tree like Totoro.

Some time had passed before the rain slowed down.  We decided to head east towards the Khlong Saen Saep Express Boatwhich I took on the first day,since I think it is the fastest way (although I am sure taxi or bus is faster if we dared or knew the way).  We walked for almost 30 minutes … it was even tiring for me.  I was so happy to make it to the boat station and after taking it to Pratunam station, we had dinner right at the restaurant next to it.

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Tong Yum Gong Seafood 

 

Compliation of tickets for the day:

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Nov 8 2016

 

Bangkok : Thailand – Day 2 – Grand Palace and Temple of the Emerald Buddha

Continuing from my previous post … we took the Chao Phraya Boat from Wat Arun to the other side where the Grand Palace was located.

Do: read up on the information about the Grand Palace before entering.  It is 500 baht (although it includes tickets to the museum next door)  and you wouldn’t want to waste the money by wandering aimlessly (i.e. me).

The grand palace composes of many buildings and is composed of the outer, central, and inner courts as well as the Emerld Buddha.  The first thing one would see upon entering is the Phimanchaisri Gate.

 

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Phimanchaisri Gate

 

The taxi driver who drove us to the south side of town was correct in saying that no cars came into the area of Thonburi.  The reason was because the Thai king had recently passed away and he is rested at the Grand Palace so mourners can pay their final respect to him.  It was an odd site, as it was fairly quiet and many people wore dark shaded colored clothings, including visitors.

We checked the news people and they said the Grand Palace had been closed indefinately. However, the ticket booth was opened and since it is a must-go, I decided to go in, even though security was tight and certain parts were closed to visitors.

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The Grand Palace was home to the King from 1782 to 1925 and is where many important government function occured. It had moved here to Thonburi (then an island) from Ayutthaya after the Burmanese had sacked the capital.

 

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from the outside

 

The grand palace has many buildings because each successive kings had contributed to the Grand Palace.

Interestingly, the land was taken from King Taksin of Thonburi and King Rama II had relocated the Chinese, whom had first settled here to neighboring Yaowaret (which is now an attraction in itself).

 

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mini Angkor Wat

 

The king had also ordered the dismantlement of walls and forts of the old city of Ayutthaya to create the new palace.  This also explains the empty ruins with few foundational structures at Ayutthaya.  Currently, there are some 35 structures in the Grand Palace.

The formations of the building are based on the Royal Palace in Ayutthaya.  It has the outer court where administrations by court officials are performed, the central court where the King resided and the inner court where the King’s consorts and children lived.

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Demonic Guard

Inside the Grand Palace is the famous Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew).  The Emerald Buddha is said to be dated around 15th century and was originally housed in Lampang and then to Chiang Mai, Vientiane, and finally to Bangkok in 1784.

The emerald buddha is possibly made with jade and covered in gold.  The buddha also has three sets of clothing from summer, rainy, and winter season and it must be changed by the King himself.

Photos are prohibited inside but you can take it from the outside if you have an excellent zoom fuction in your camera (which I do not).

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The temple complex:

.. and the rest of the photos from the outer courts.

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On our way out, there was a huge bloackage.  We weren’t told why we were not able to exit but it is possibly due to the staff allowing mourners into the building.  We also got to see the changing of the guards, although it may be slightly unofficial since they weren’t marching together.

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Leaving the Grand Palace, I still wanted to go to nearby Wat Phro, which houses the large reclining buddha.  It was some 15 minutes walk away but it started to get rather humid …. Along the way are also empty roads with no cars and long line ups of mourners waiting for their turn to get into the Grand Palace.  Organizations were also giving away water and food for the mourners.

Along the way, we passed by some interesting landmarks…

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… to be continued.

Nov 2016.

Bangkok : Thailand – Day 2 – Food Center & Wat Arun

Day 2 in Bangkok was going to be intense because I was planning to visit all the main temples.  My friend who came on the late plane last night joined me today and together we were heading to Bangkok’s cultural center!

Before that, however, we went to find breakfast.  At 9 AM, a day market  had already set up outside our hotel

At 9 AM, a day market had already set up outside our hotel

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We walked some 30 minutes to Siam Station when we finally found Food Plus.  The first stall sold books, which was very deceiving. I think it is targeted at locals because I found very few stores with English.

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I ended up eating congee and then grabing a coffee at the next booth.  It was 50 Baht for the soup and 25 baht for tThaihai ice tea.  The Thai ice tea will be the first of many, many ice teas to come.

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We actually walked all the way back to take a cab before going into the cultural district of Bangkok.  We grabbed a taxi from the hotel and the taxi driver said he can drive us there but later retracked and said he can only drive to one of the Chaoya Express Boat pier because the cultural area is closed to traffic due to the recent death of the Thai King…

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We went south of the temples and got to a pier.  When we got there, a person outside was selling tickets for 1000+ baht!  We didn’t know at the time but there are different boat princings.  The expensive one is for VIP tour up the Chaoyo Phraya River.

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However, thinking we got tricked, we just walked away, resulting us being lost in an unknown area and raining.  We walked for a bit before reaching to the next pier on the Chaoya Express. We decided to try again and see if it really does costs that much.  It turns out that if you walk past the “tourist ticket” booth, there is another table that sells boat tickets…  For us to get to Wat Arun, it was just 14 baht …

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Boat ride

The boat ride was quite nice and we were across the river to Wat Arun in no time.

Wat Arun is just outside the pier stop.  The ticket booth is right in front and costs 50 baht.  There is a strict dress code, so no tank tops, and anything above the needs.  Coverups can be rented at the entrance or purchased at the many souvenir shops around.

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Wat Arun is known as the Temple of the Dawn and it is named after the Hindu God, Aruna.  It  was built during the Attyutha period and gained prominence after the capital was moved to Thon Buri, now part of Bangkok.  King Rama II had the temple redecorated and King Rama IV built the main pagoda of the temple.

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The pagoda is influenced by the Khmer style of architecture and was reconstructed by King Rama II.  His ashes were also moved under the Buddha during the reign of King Rama IV.

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According to this website, they say worshipping the prang gives you eternal happiness.  The way to do so is to get three joss and a pair of candles and walk around the prang three times.

Unfortunately, when we were at the temple, they were doing some major renovations and therefore the main structure was completely closed off.  People were applying cement and reapplying the colourful ceramics on the walls.

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The designs on the temple are quite interesting.  I think they have bricks underneath as  foundation and then covered it up with cement and decorated with ceramics.

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Outside Wat Arun to the side is also another building.  It isn’t part of the temple because it is outside of the entrance and behind a garden.  I can’t seem to find the name of it but it is a pretty nice place with much fewer people.

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It was great that we ended up here because it started to rain hard.  November is part of the rainy season for Bangkok, but we were lucky that it only rained for one day… Unfortunately, it was pretty wet…

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When the rain finally did stop, we walked out and tried to find a road out. I thought about taking the boat to the other side but I also wanted to save money.  On the map, there was a bridge and it didn’t seem that far so I convinced my friend to walk over the bridge …

We first pass through the souvenir area, which wasn’t too bad.

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However, we started going into other people’s backyards and alleys then I asked a cleaning lady where the bridge was and she said something in Thai … That was when my friend had enough and we turned back to take the boat.

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It turns out, the lady at the boat didn’t even charge us any money.  It was most likely because there were too many passengers and she couldn’t keep count on who got on and who didn’t.  Nevertheless, we were on the other side at the Grand Palace!

November 2016