Thailand : Bangkok - Spirituality Backdrops Modernity
We took off from Phuket right on time for Bangkok, on Thai Airways flight. The flight was another example of hospitable Thai courtesy which offered us refreshments on board a one hour flight. The attendants approached us if we needed second servings of the sandwich as they had some extra Asian Vegetarian ones which we had ordered as part of a special meal. They took two rounds of serving drinks, all in the short span of time that they had to offer meals and performing other safety procedures. We landed on time at about 2:00 PM on the domestic terminal of the Suvarnabhumi Airport of Bangkok. After collecting our luggage we moved towards the exit to meet the MakeMyTrip representative. The meeting point is located at the international terminal of the airport.
While we met the representative, we got a chance to experience a traditional Thai dance performance at the arrival area of the airport. There was a troupe consisting of 5 performers and supporting crew of drummers who had assembled there to welcome some dignitary. We were unconcerned about who was coming in but focused our attention on the performance. The half an hour presentation showcased the subtle artwork of hand and feet movement no the local rhymes which kept us engaged throughout. Once the performance ended, we moved to our car and began our journey towards the hotel. In about an hour, we were entering the fourth-floor reception of The Golden Tulip – Madison Suites.
|Sky Train Coming Out of Concrete Jungle|
After freshening up and slipping into our party dress, we left the hotel at about 5 PM and took the cab to River City Mall located by the Chao Phraya River. After checking into the cruise and blocking our seats, we spent time exploring the shopping mall. It was pretty big set up but still under renovation. There were quite a few Thai specialty outlets, including those of clothes, food, and souvenirs. Nyara, one outlet of souvenirs, was particularly interesting for the handicraft wallets – both for ladies and men. After spending time there we reached the boarding pier right on time to see herds of people waiting to get on the boat. The boat – Chao Phraya Princess IV - docked at about 8 PM and we took our seats on the upper deck. The set up mimicked any upmarket buffet restaurant over two stories. The upper deck was an open air facility while lower deck had air conditioned buffet on offer. Both the setups had live DJ music playing popular numbers on the PA system. As people settled in the seats, we were served welcome drinks which were a pungent fruit mix which we took a pass on. As the boat sailed past the pier and began the journey the dinner service started. The food was good and had plenty of options on the menu to meet everyone’s taste. As the vessel crisscrossed the city on the waterway, the trip took us through all the iconic monuments of the city – Grand Palace, Wat Arun, Wat Pho, other temples, State Tower and malls. We could see multiple small piers in front of many buildings on the river front which were stoppages for regular water taxis that plied on the river. After a couple of hours on the boat, we finally anchored back on the pier and disembarked. We took the cab back to the hotel and called it a day.
|Views Across River Chao Phraya|
|The Floating Market - Shops on Boats|
Later in the evening, we proceeded to experience the city on our own. Guided by Google Maps, we strolled to the Benjakitti Park. It was great evening place where locals and tourist enjoyed the lake equally. There are separate walking and cycling tracks for those venturing to this park for their evening exercise. We sat across for about half an hour and absorbed the evening charm of the city and its people. The freshness of the surrounding and views was simply great. We had an awesome view of the Bangkok Skyline across the lake and enjoyed every bit of it. From there, we took a walk up to the famed shopping mall of the area – Terminal 21. This mall has an interesting theme running through it – each of the 9 floors is designed based on one of the famous cities from across the world. You travel from San Francisco to Paris to Rome to the Caribbean just by riding an escalator. The mall boasts of almost all international and national brands along with plentiful of eating and entertainment options. We spent time until late at night and then took the ride on famous tuk-tuk back to the hotel.
Next was the last day of our Thailand trip, and the usual melancholy of ending a great trip gradually set in. We packed our bags and had a heavy breakfast to take us through the day. We checked out of the hotel and went ahead with our plans to explore the city – our own style. We took a cab for the Grand Palace, the symbolic center of royal power in Thailand. Built in 1782 - and for 150 years the home of the Thai King, the Royal court and the administrative seat of government - the Grand Palace of Bangkok is a grand old dame indeed, that continues to have visitors in awe with its beautiful architecture and intricate detail, all of which is a proud salute to the creativity and craftsmanship of Thai people. Within its walls were also the Thai war ministry, state departments, and even the mint. Today, the complex remains the spiritual heart of the Thai Kingdom. One needs to be conscious of the fact that visiting monasteries, temples, and palaces in Thailand come with certain restrictions. You are not allowed to wear revealing clothes and cannot put on certain colors – yellow, brown etc. which are considered to be colors reserved for monks. Monks and priests have a special place in Thai society and there are special provisions for them at every public place – reserved seating in public transport, special lounges and security pass through at airports, respect among locals, and other privileges. From the palace, we walked to Wat Pho, an artfully decorated Buddha temple. The solace is to be found only in the atrium of such temples and the place is ideal for moments of peace, away from worldly worries, in the lap of spirituality. It's one of the largest temple complexes in the city and famed for its giant reclining Buddha that measures 46 meters long and is covered in gold leaf. The temple compound is also the national headquarters for the teaching and preservation of traditional Thai medicine, including Thai massage, a mandate legislated by Rama III when the tradition was in danger of extinction.
|Army Procession out of the Grand Palace|
|Grand Palace - An Insider View|