Last time we were in Bangkok, we caught a glimpse of the stunning Temple of Dawn lit up at night on our way down the river. Catching up on unfinished business, we thought we ought to give this much acclaimed landmark a visit.
We highly recommend utilizing Bangkok’s Chao Phraya river ferry boat system as much as possible. It’s a fun, cheap and easy way to see many of Bangkok’s historical sights and get to various parts of the city. It also lends a very different perspective of Bangkok than riding in a cab or tuk-tuk (or even walking, for that matter). You get a much better sense of the Bangkok before modernity grabbed hold and whisked the city into the 21st century. Still, it’s hard to believe not too long ago (certainly in my lifetime) this constituted the center of this historical city. A few decades on, that center seems to have moved east, and in a big way.
The Chao Phraya seems to have an unparalleled diversity of watercraft, and for locals, this historic waterway still acts as a vital artery of the Bangkok local economy.
Conveniently, the Temple of Dawn (Wat Arun), lies almost directly across the river from Wat Pho (and the reclining buddha), making for an easy two-for-one visit. And thankfully, Wat Arun is very different from Wat Pho, and immensely intriguing by itself.
They were doing some major work on the main stupa during our visit, which meant that some parts of the stupa were closed. Yet, I was still surprised how far you actually could climb up the historic landmark.
In addition to its sheer beauty, Wat Arun is significant for its important location. It was here in Thonburi that the King of Siam held court following the fall of Ayutthaya in 1768, but before moving the capital across the river to its current location on Rattanakosin Island in 1782. The temple structures date to at least the mid-17th century, and has been restored at various points in the intervening years.
After having toured a number of Thai temples, Lori and I began to think that the roof motif bore a striking resemblance to something that we couldn’t quite put our finger on…until we came across the next 7-Eleven. Mere coincidence?
Fun Fact: Did you know that there are more 7-Eleven stores in Thailand than there are in the entire U.S., a country 20 times larger and with five times the population? As of 2017, there are 9,400 7-Eleven stores in Thailand (compared to 8,200 in the U.S.), and half of those are in Bangkok!!!
Getting Baht at the Wat.
Crossing back over the Chao Phraya to Rattanakosin Island, with the Silom financial quarter viewable in the distance.
Exploring the dozen or so piers of Rattanakosin Island is also a fun venture in itself, as Bangkok is one of the few river cities I’ve visited that has yet to install a concrete river wall through the length of the city. Even Vientiane has succumbed to this eventuality of the modern age in recent years.
Cold Brew in Bangkok. Need I say more? I suggest looking up Elefin if you love coffee and happen to be in the area. They’ve got an interesting business model and unique menu offerings.
It also proved a great place to duck into minutes before an impending downpour that lasted the better part of 40 minutes.
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So, what do you do with a baby-toddler during a 40-minute coffee shop rain delay?
Pretty much anything that’ll keep him occupied. Napkins and straws can be a parent’s best friend in these trying times, that is if you don’t have a plastic clamshell container on hand for him to lick, incessantly. Yum.
Back at the hotel, we take a short break to cool down and clean up before heading out for a night on the town — which could end up being an hour on the town, or a couple, if we’re lucky. We’ll see!
Madame Musur was just around the corner and highly recommended, so we thought we’d check it out. The food was great, but keeping Noe in check was a bit challenging. On the surface, restaurants with comfy areas seem like they’d be the perfect thing for a one-year-old — and they are…if you’re not intent on finishing a full meal. With all the cushiness surrounding us, all the guy wanted to do was roll around, crawl around, peak over the edge of the platform, wipe his food on things he shouldn’t — nowhere near as relaxing as we had hoped. In the end, Noe ended up in his pack chair, just like he has at far less “comfy” establishments, and was relatively content with that…for about five minutes…until he started to get sleepy. Oh well.
Determined to still have a night out on Khaosan Road, we headed back to the hotel to drop a few things off and try and put Noe down on mommy. When that didn’t work, we roamed the back streets of the neighborhood for about 30 minutes with no luck.
Finally, Lori decided she had had enough of wearing a crying, sweaty baby on her and so we switched. Within minutes he was out.
And when I say “out,” I mean like a log. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. We headed back to Khaosan Road where bar after bar was blaring deafening music down the length of the street — so loud, in fact, that even shouting at each other, Lori and I couldn’t hear what the other was saying. And Noe? Not even a twitch. Party on!
Be that as it may, we didn’t want to push our luck. We ducked into one of the “quieter” alleyways and found a relaxed spot at Buddy Beer to enjoy a couple of draughts.
Next, it was on to Rambuttri Alley (where we inadvertently ordered four large beers for ourselves five years prior on my birthday). Lori mentioned that at some point she wanted to get one of those custom bracelets for Noe that some of the street vendors were selling — and sure enough, not 60 seconds after she said that, one of the vendors appeared and we were on our way to getting a Noe bracelet!
It’s actually really amazing how quick and skilled this lady was. She made Noe’s custom bracelet in about ten minutes from scratch, right before our very eyes, with a quality that meets or exceeds anything you’d find in a store.
Oops! Out of beer. Time for another?
Nah…time for sleep! It’s been a long day.
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