Which could be the best city in Southeast Asia for a party other than Bangkok ??
It was my 27th Birthday !!
When I started hunting for some exotic destination for my birthday, it occurred to me that, why don’t I explore Thailand, which has gleaming temples, awesome nightlife, beautiful white sand beaches, and towering limestone cliffs.
I used to plan my birthday trip a couple of months in advance. This time, I wanted to choose a country which offers great value for money. Thailand was fitting in all of the criteria so I started to prepare an itinerary right away. Then I booked my flights as per the plan. Even though Thailand allows Visa on Arrival, I opted for the visa through Musafir to save some time at the Airport.
Shopping was one of the most exciting parts of any trip. It takes a good amount of time when it comes to buying myself some clothes. I gathered all the required things and packed them in a single rucksack. Recently, I bought a Canon EOS 200D DSLR camera. Hence, definitely, I was excited to take some good shots on this trip.
As per my research, exchanging Indian Rupees into Thai Baht could have been an expensive decision. So I converted my Indian currency into US Dollars which can be easily exchanged anywhere in Thailand with a very good exchange rate.
29 August 2017
Before leaving for any journey, I usually feel nervous. Exactly the same feeling I used to have before final exams in school days. Even though I do a lot of preparation, still I have this sense of uncertainty under my skin. But once I start, I embrace it as a best friend.
There was a heavy rain with thunderstorms in Mumbai. I was waiting for a car with my backpack on the shoulders. Thank god, I got an Ola cab in the midnight for the Mumbai Airport.
After baggage checked in, security check, and immigration formalities I headed for the Clipper Lounge to have a breakfast. Later when I arrived at the boarding gate 85C in the ground floor of Terminal 2, I heard my name on the announcement. Mistakenly I had kept my power bank in check-in baggage. So, I had to remove it and keep it in handbag before boarding the flight.
Jet Airways bus took us to the aircraft. I made myself comfortable in the last window seat. Soon the flight took off piercing through the dark clouds to attain 37000 feet cruising altitude. I saw the financial capital of India faded away through the oval-shaped windows. During this 4 hours long journey, I watched a Hindi film – Ok Jaanu – they played on a popped out screens & enjoyed a nonveg food with a hot cup of tea.
In all this comfort, I was unaware of the fact that all flights to and from Mumbai got canceled due to windy thunderstorms. Incessant rain had stopped the heartbeat of Mumbai but I was fortunate to escape the city at the right time.
Uncertainty is one of the most important factor of any solo journey into the unknown.
The Golden Land
The aircraft touched down at Suvarnabhumi Airport right on time. I adjusted my wristwatch to one and a half hour later. Immigration was hassle free. I got my luggage, exchanged few dollars for Thai Bahts and got a new SIM card for the internet connectivity.
Skytrain on city line under the Airport was the cheapest option to get into the heart of the city. I got down at the Phaya Thai station, last on the airport link. From there I had to find out a bus to the Khao San Road. To catch a bus from the nearest bus stop, I walked a little to the Victory Monument – a tall obelisk with a military statue to memorialize Thailand’s victory in the Franco-Thai War.
One of the local told me that, there is a free bus service running for Grand Palace, and I can get into one of those to reach Khao San street. I did just as she said and got down at the junction from where Khao San road was at a walkable distance. The sun was about to set on the horizon when I checked in into the Mad Monkey Hostel.
There I met a Dutch girl – Sunny, who was traveling solo across the Asian countries. I forgot the tiredness of the day-long journey & indulged in a very interesting conversation. Later in the evening, we went out to explore the Night Life of Khao San road.
Bangkok is also known as Krung Thep, which means ‘the City of Angels’ in Thai.
Khao San Road
Perfectly described as the center of backpacking universe, there are so many hostels around the Khao San Road. We were sauntering around the famous street packed with an amazing crowd enjoying loud music, street food, and Swanky bars.
It was fun walking around & grabbing a cup of lemon tea with a friend I just met in a hostel. We sat for a while in peace on Soi Rambuttri. Just a few steps away from the Khao San Road, Rambuttri street is a completely different world. The hustle and bustle of Khao San were replaced by the calmness and mild music. We were strolling around this entire horseshoe-shaped road, occasionally stopping for street food.
The part of Soi Rambuttri run parallel to the Khao San where you can find a good street food & open bars. Soi in Thai means the side-street branching off the main street.
One of the best things about Khao San Road is its street food. Unlike restaurants, the street food vendors dish out some of the tastiest and cheapest food. Also, there were fried scorpions, cockroaches, and some weird food options too. But I preferred to eat some seafood items, pork, chicken rolls along with the Coke.
Khao San Road, where the music is loud, the lights are bright and the energy is infectious, is the perfect destination to explore the nightlife in Bangkok.
I was staying in Mad Monkey hostel along the Phra Sumen road in Bangkok. Just round the corner, there lies blindingly white Phra Sumen Fort, which was built in 1783 to defend the city against a river invasion. Named after the mythical Phra Sumen, which is known as Mount Meru in Hinduism, this octagonal brick and stucco bunker was one of 14 city watchtowers.
Chao Phraya River, also known as the river of the Kings, flows through the heart of Bangkok, is a lifeblood of the city. Away from the chaos of Khao San road, I went onto the Phra Pinklao Bridge. I had a very peaceful view of the river, on which 50000 people ferry every day. The Bangkok city was established on the banks of this mighty river by early settlers because of its fertility and abundant fish.
It was a calm moment over the Phra Pinklao bridge at night. There was no traffic at all and the river water was glittering in the city lights. The hectic day which began with thunderstorms in Mumbai was going to end on the banks of Chao Phraya in Bangkok.
Phra Pin-klao Bridge near Grand Palace connects Rattanakosin island with Thonburi.
The Temple of Dawn
30th August 2017
Early in the morning, I walked to the nearest boat station – Phra Arthit. Waterways are one of the most efficient and cheaper modes of transport in Bangkok. It took only 15 TBH to reach Wat Arun temple on the other side of the river.
Situated on the west bank of Chao Phraya river, Wat Arun is one of the most stunning temples in Bangkok. Partly made up of colorfully decorated spires, it stands a perfect example of fine craftsmanship. It has an imposing spire over 70 meters high, decorated with tiny pieces of colored glass and Chinese porcelain is placed delicately into the intricate patterns.
There was a 50 TBH ticket I bought at the entrance. Very few tourists were there at that time of the day. That helped me to get distraction-free pictures of this intricately designed spire and surroundings. But I missed a view from the top, as the stairs of central prang were closed for unknown reasons.
Wat Arun derives its name from Hindu god Aruna, often personified as the radiations of the rising sun.
Guarded by the two demons, the guardian figures, the entrance of the ordination hall has a roof with a central spire. The beautiful gateway is decorated in colored ceramics having amazing stucco work. These murals were created during the reign of King Rama V.
The garden and the unique trees around the complex were enriching the beauty of the temple. Inside there were many golden Buddha statues along the Verandah. The chantings by the monks inside the ordination hall enlightened the spiritual mood.
Although Buddhism originated in India in 6th Century BC, Thailand has 95% Buddhist population. Buddhism arrived in Thailand during the reign of Indian Emperor Ashoka in 250 BC. Since then it has played a significant role in Thai history and culture. The Buddha statues can be seen everywhere along with temples with tall golden stupas.
Without having food, I was exploring this amazing temple complex. So, I gulped down a Mango juice from the local shop before crossing the river again in just 4 Thai Bahts.
Buddha is not only for decoration but its a guiding force which can bring the peace and prosperity in this chaotic world.
The Grand Palace
Undoubtedly, this spectacular palace is the most famous landmark in Bangkok. Built in 1782, this masterpiece of Thai craftsmanship was a home of Thai kings for 150 years. Today, this complex remained as a spiritual heart of the Thai Kingdom. This is most sacred site & hence a strict dress code applies for tourists.
There was a huge crowd of people dressed in black, taking pictures with the King’s photo. I got a 500 Thai Baht entry ticket to explore the Grand Palace. Within the palace complex, there are several impressive structures, gleaming in the bright sunshine. I started exploring and capturing them one by one.
First I visited a huge golden Phra Sri Rattana Chedi, a 19th-century stupa built in Sri Lankan style enshrining ashes of Buddha. Then there was a Phra Mondop, a library built by King Rama I in the middle of Wat Phra Kaew. There are stone Buddhas carved on each corner in the ninth-century Javanese style. Sixteen twelve-cornered columns support the intricate multi-tier roof. But this beautiful building was never opened for the public ever.
The Grand Palace was built not only as Royal Residence but also to serve as an administrative offices.
Temple of Emerald Buddha
Wat Phra Kaew, located inside the Grand Palace, is one of the most important Buddhist temples in Thailand. The construction of the temple started when King Rama I moved the capital from Thonburi to Bangkok in 1785. It has a beautiful roof, installed around the 18th century, embellished with polished orange and blue tiles. The pillars are inlaid in mosaic and the pediments are made of rich marble. The architectural style is called as Rattanakosin style (old Bangkok style). The photography was not allowed inside the temple.
Among other buildings in the temple complex, the Prasat Phra Thep Bidon is the largest building on the upper platform. In 1855, it was built by Rama IV as the original home of the emerald buddha. But he died before the completion & Rama V thought it was not big enough for Royal Congregation. Currently, there are statues of every Rama of the Chakri Dynasty inside the Royal Pantheon. This building is closed to the public except for April 6th, which is Chakri Day.
Near the library, I saw an exact miniature replica of Angkor Wat, the largest Hindu temple and religious monument in the world, situated in Cambodia. The temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu was built by the Khmer king Suryavarman in the 12th century. This massive temple is still lying in my bucket list and yet to be explored.
The scorching sun was producing unbearable heat, which made it difficult to stay longer at this beautiful yet overcrowded palace. I came out of the grand palace after two long hours and headed straight towards the nearest pier.
Wat Phra Kaew enshrine Phra Kaew Morakot (Emerald Buddha), meticulously carved from a single block of jade.
Don Mueang International Airport
Wat Pho was also on my list but unfortunately, I had to skip it due to timing constraints. So I went back to the Mad Monkey hostel and rushed to the shower to cool myself down. Then I packed my backpack quickly. Before 12 pm, I checked out of the hostel and headed to the street adjacent to the Khao San Raod along with my Dutch friend.
Unlike last night, the street was very normal and calm in the afternoon. People were having food and conversations, so as we. Sunny ordered some Thai Food for both of us. Later she was going to meet her Thai friend and I had to catch my flight to Krabi. On her suggestion, I booked a motorcycle on the Grab app. We said goodbye to each other when my rider arrived.
Motorcycle ride proved the best choice as it was the best way to explore any city without getting stuck in the traffic jams. That rider has given me a helmet before starting the thrilling ride. He was riding fast, making our way through the traffic. I got down at the Don Mueang Airport before the expected time of arrival.
The boarding procedure here was a bit different. Soon I got my boarding pass and cleared through the security check. Then followed a long two-hour wait at Gate No. 45 watching multiple flights landing and taking off over the same runway.
Don Mueang Airport is one of the World’s Oldest International Airports and Asia’s oldest operating airport.