Tag Archives: buddha

Bangkok, Thailand – Impressions

Bangkok is known in Thai as Krung Thep Mahanakhon, which means “City of the Deity”.


After my brother headed home I travelled to Bangkok to continue my adventures. But never alone long, I met a British girl at the hostel and we spent 3 days exploring the city.

Day 1 – Getting Around In Bangkok

Cruising Chao Phraya River
The rapid growth of the city has caused major troubles with traffic congestion and pollution. While four metro train lines have been built to combat this, they do little to cover the city. Only one train stop goes near the Chao Phraya River, where commuters can transfer to express boats to move along its length. As these boats are the easiest ways to see the city, we booked tickets and headed out to see what Bangkok had to offer.


Wat Pho – Temple of the Reclining Buddha
Named after a temple in India where the Buddha was believed to have lived, Wat Pho is a massive complex with many traditional Thai designed temples and buildings. It is also known as the home of traditional Thai Massage.


A major building in the complex contains a massive golden buddha in a reclining position. It’s the most popular building on the site where tourists filter in one side, around the feet and out past the back of the head.


Khao San Road
Originally a rice market, the road is now considered a backpacker ghetto and party zone. As I prefer quieter hostels, I didn’t to stay in the area. During the day there are plentiful backpackers, markets and food stalls. In the evenings, bars appear and backpackers party away the night.


Democracy Monument
At the end of Khao San Road is the grand monument commemorating the Siamese Revolution of 1932 which led to the establishment of a constitutional monarchy. Unfortunately, the widening of the road to accommodate the monument and ceremonial boulevard meant mass evictions of local residents and the cutting down of hundreds of shade trees.


Wat Saket
Known as the Golden Mountain, this Buddhist temple sits atop an artificial mountain. The temple has a rounded golden feature atop it giving it the sense of being a mountain. The roof of the temple allows great views across Bangkok.


Wat Suthat
One of the ten first-grade temples in Bangkok. King Rama I began the construction himself in 1807. King Rama II helped to carve the doors during his reign and the temple was finally completed by King Rama III in 1847. There are 28 Chinese pagodas at the base of the temple to commemorate the 28 buddhas born on this earth.


Day 2 – Wat? More Temples?
Bangkok is the city of temples and while we’d visited several on day one there were a couple more we wanted to see.

The Victory Monument
Our hostel was right near the monument commemorating the 59 Thais killed during the 2 month Franco-Thai war in 1941. The outcome of the war was decided by the Japanese, who didn’t want a prolonged war between two of its allies just prior to its own war of conquest in SE Asia.


Jim Thompson House
One of the most popular tourist locations in Thailand, the house was created by a US soldier during the 1950’s and 60’s. He put together 6 Thai houses made from Teak and brought from all over Thailand. After Jim went missing in Malaysia, his nephew created the Jim Thompson Foundation and turned the site into a museum.


The Grand Palace and The Emerald Buddha Temple
Another of the most popular tourist attractions in Thailand, the Grand Palace was the home to the Kings of Siam between 1782 and 1925. The Palace compound is huge with many Temples, Halls and of course, the Palace.


The compound is also the site of the Emerald Buddha Temple, home of a famous buddha statue. Labelled ‘emerald’ because of its green colour, it’s actually carved from Jasper. The statue has a long history, being carved in India, taken to Sri Lanka, lost on its way to Burma and ending up in Angkor Wat in Cambodia before the Siamese invaded and claimed it. Unfortunately, photos aren’t permitted within the temple.


What Arun – Temple of Dawn
Once home to Emerald Buddha and named after a Hindu God, the Temple of Dawn is said to catch the first rays of the sun each morning, glowing with pearly iridescence.


The main temple has very steep stairs that climb two tiers and give great views of the city.


Day 3 – Market Day

All templed out by day 3, my British companion and I decided to explore a couple of weekend markets around the city.

Khlong Lat Mayom Floating Market
Bangkok has several floating markets, although the largest and most popular take over 90 minutes outside the city. We aimed for a smaller, less touristy floating market closer to central Bangkok. A floating market is a river market navigable by boat, with other boats and vendors along the sides of the river selling goods. Khlong Lat Mayom only has a small floating aspect…


The market is mainly a food market which stretches across the river but with only the occasional boat floating by. As it was raining we were happy not to be on the water. Instead we enjoyed the local food, a spicy chicken side and some fried squid eggs in a batter. Interesting.


Chatuchak Weekend Markets
Known as Jatujak in the Thai language, the markets are not only the largest markets in the city, but the largest markets I’ve ever been to. As the name suggests, it’s only open on the weekends, and is vastly busy during this time.


The markets have 27 sections and 8000 stalls! Beyond seeing the markets, my major reason for going was to find and consume a fried scorpion on a stick. Unfortunately, after spending hours searching, I wasn’t able to find one so settled for a frozen banana dipped in chocolate and chopped almonds instead. While not entirely the dish I was looking for, it would have to do but my search will continue.


Overall, Bangkok is a busy capital city with plenty to do assuming you aren’t already over temples.

Next, I catch my first sleeper train to Vientiane, capital of Laos.

The Lone Trail Wanderer

Koh Samui, Thailand – Impressions

Koh Samui is the largest of the three popular tourist islands off the east coast of Thailand, the other two being Koh Phangan and Koh Tao. These three islands plus Koh Phi Phi off the west coast make up Thailand’s main party zone.


While tourism is the primary funding source for the islands, the region’s party reputation seems to attract mainly early twenty somethings, who drink copious amounts of alcohol and do stupid things. This party reputation stems from the monthly Full Moon parties at Haad Rin, a beach at the southern tip of Koh Phangan. 40,000 youngsters invade the beach each month to indulge in a drug and alcohol fuelled party on the beach.


Our choice to stay at Koh Samui was because it has a somewhat better reputation and a slightly older tourist base. Unfortunately it still serves as a party zone during the week leading up to the Phangan Full Moon parties.

Sickness Strikes Again!
We booked three nights on Koh Samui over christmas as it’s near impossible to get bookings over New Years. After 8 hours of buses, ferries and local transport, we arrived at the hostel on the evening of Christmas Eve. We ate at a fairly popular local restaurant, but what seemed like a fairly standard pork schnitzel would see me throwing up for the better part of the night and on throughout Christmas Day.

It would seem that of the times I’ve been ill on this journey it’s been because of pork. While bacon seems fine, for the rest of the trip I’l be avoiding pork.

Scooters, of course.
With one of our two full days on the island spent in bed, I didn’t have much time to explore. To make the most of our time I hired a scooter and rode up the east coast to see what I could find. The bad weather that had plagued our Thailand visit continued, but thankfully I had a waterproof poncho, so I remained mostly dry.


At the northern end of the island, I found a pair of temples dedicated to buddha with associated giant statues.


While the Big Buddha statues were impressive, so were the temples themselves.


Near these two temples I found an artist’s store where he builds life-sized metal statues of science fictional creatures.


As the weather began to clear up, I rode south again to find some of the other hidden gems of the island. I stopped at Lamai beach, where the sea comes right up to the front of the resorts.


I climbed to a lookout over Lamai Beach for a different perspective…


And then rode to the southern-most tip of the island where I found the Laem So Pagoda.


Cleaning Station
Throughout Thailand, I’ve seen ‘cleaning stations’ on the street at the front of massage places. These cleaning stations are large fish tanks containing many small fish which suck on your feet, cleaning off dead skin and drawing out toxins. I’ve been intrigued by this and have wanted to give them a try. On my day’s journey, I located a place with a full cleaning pool…


Normally the fish are fairly small, perhaps 2 centimetres long and very thin. The fish in the pool were larger, perhaps 6-8 centimetres and the sucking sensation takes some getting used to. When a dozen of them suck on one heel it’s a strange feeling. When a hundred suck on each foot at the same time, it takes an effort just to keep your feet in the water. It has to be the weirdest sensation I’ve ever felt.


Next we head back to Krabi Ao Nang, a more family friendly beach area, for New Years.

The Trail Wanderers