Turn Down for Wat

No trip to Bangkok is complete without a trip up the Chao Phraya River to the beautiful wats dotting the skyline.

One beautiful Sunday morning, I commandeered our hotel’s tuk-tuk to the BTS station and took it out to the far stop on the river. From there, I found the easiest way to see all the major wats in Bangkok – river taxi!

For 150 baht for the day, you can get off and on the river taxi as much as you like. I decided on visiting the furthest wat first, which happened to be Wat Phra Kaew, near the Royal Palace. It was expensive to go in, so I wandered around outside, snapping pictures here and there as I could with the large amount of tourists also roaming about. I loved the lush green lawn that led down from the wat itself, contrasting sharply with the absurdly hot and cloudless blue sky and the golden roof of the temple. Inside was the Emerald Buddha, but I skipped on that to save my energy for the two other major wats I planned to visit. Even with drinking loads of water, it’s easy to become tired and worn down by the oppressive tropical heat in the middle of July.

My second stop on the water taxi was the magnificent Wat Pho. The giant complex is something out of an indie foreign film – all beautiful tropic colors and soaring temple roofs (chedis). At Wat Pho, they were good to give us a small bottle of water as we walked around, this time to see the absolutely enormous reclining gold Buddha. Along the wall were small buckets -108 in total – where one dropped in a single coin to all the buckets. One woman told me it represented good luck to the person who did the task, and it helped to give money to the monks who worked to keep up the wat. I remembered the challenge from Amazing Race that was very much like this – you had to get one precisely in each bucket, which is difficult considering there are so many buckets!

Mother of Pearl on his feet

The sheer size of the Buddha is intense. You can get pictures of it only in sections, and finding a good pano angle is difficult consider the columns and the people in the way. However, it’s worth the effort to find a good shot, even of the Buddha’s feet, which are elaborated decorated in small patterns of Mother of Pearl.

The spicy offender

After exploring the massive complex for quite some time, I picked up a local lunch of fried holy basil with egg and prawns, fried bananas, and mango sticky rice. I sat at one of many streetside cafes and tried not to sweat even more profusely from the “lightly spiced” – Thais often lower the spice quotient in dishes for us sorry foreign tongues which can’t handle the full heat – fried holy basil. If that was lightly spiced, then I’m Kate Middleton. Seriously. I took one bite of that with the spices and chilies, then nearly ran the guy out of Thai iced tea and Singha beer to cool my mouth. I tried to level the spice with the iced teas and the mango sticky rice, but truth be told, I was probably crying for most of the dish. Well, that and the fact he was cooking a super-spicy dish on a wok right behind me too. The fumes could bring down an elephant.

Mango sticky rice – help me!

Drops in the bucket

My final stop was at Wat Arun, the one you often see photographed in its golden glory at night. To get there, you catch a 3 baht ferry ride across the river from Wat Pho and get off at the wat’s small dock. It was hot beyond hot at this point, the sun high in the afternoon sky, and it was mercilessly. I could feel myself getting very weary and tired, a sure sign of sun stroke, so I declined the admission to climb to the middle of the wat to get a beautiful city view and to see the wat up close. At that point, I was happy enough to walk around it and see it during the day time.

Wat Arun

I hopped back on the water taxi to the BTS Skyway terminal, and I was never more grateful for the icy-cold chill of the BTS car. It felt so good on my overheated skin.

So, while a bit overheated and over-spiced, visiting the wats was a fantastic way to spend a weekend day. I rehydrated with a gallon of water on the way home, and then went out for a cold beer later on, if anything, just to relax for another strenuous week of classes ahead.

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