Upon arriving to a new city, we like to spend some time perusing the Internet for suggestions on what to do and what not to miss. Being on the road long term makes it hard to really plan. We are lucky if we know what day we’re leaving and where we’re going – forget searching out the best tourist attractions ahead of time.
We tend to lean toward Trip Advisor because I’m a sucker for lists. This is how we ended up finding the Bangkok Snake Farm. We needed something to do and didn’t want to travel far after what ended up being an epic trip to and from Wat Pho, the first site we chose to explore in Bangkok.
With so many wats (temples) how does one begin to choose which one to visit? Well, we didn’t even know there was a temple when we found a recommendation for The Reclining Buddha. Learn something new every day, right?
According to our research, Wat Pho was only about 8 km away and we could take the bus there easily from the main road near our hotel. Google Maps told us to take one bus line, but after looking up the official Wat Pho website, we saw there were multiple buses that would get us there, giving us more options when to leave. We set off late morning after finding breakfast (often an arduous chore when we’re in a new city and uncaffeinated). We crossed the street to pick up the bus and took the first one that would get us where we needed to go.
There’s something to understand about the Bangkok mass transit. There are a few different types of buses – the more “local” buses will cost you less and often you’ll pay by the distance you’re traveling. If you end up on this type of bus, you get on, tell the fare collector how far you’re going and he or she will give you a price. In our case, we got onto this rickety old bus, told the collector where we wanted to go, she laughed at us, nudged one of the passengers nearby telling her where we wanted to go, continued to laugh at us, then asked for 13 baht (about $.40) for our ride.
An hour into our bus journey, we saw something that looked like it could be a temple. “It’s gold and big, so let’s get off” was our thinking. After pressing the red button to request a stop, the fare collector signaled to us to sit down. We weren’t there yet. Twenty minutes later, we arrived – no mistaking it. Tour buses, tuk tuks, cars, taxis all lined the streets outside this massive complex. Yep, we were there…in under 90 minutes no less!
We paid our 100 baht fare for the temple, opted to grab our free water bottle (included with our admission) for later, and headed in with the masses in the 90+ degree weather to get a glimpse of this Reclining Buddha.
The Reclining Buddha is 15 m high and 43 m long with feet that are each 3 m high and 4.5 m long, inlaid with intricate patterns of mother-of-pearl. The feet have 108 panels displaying the auspicious symbols by which Buddha can be identified – flowers, dancers, elephants, etc. (source: Wikipedia) The hallway around the Buddha itself is rather narrow, so getting clear pictures of anything is difficult unless you’re smart enough to come early.
The 108 bowls lining the walls of the hall indicate the 108 auspicious characters of Buddha. People drop money into these bowls for good fortune and to help maintain the wat.
After getting a glimpse at the Buddha, we walked out of the building completely unaware of the size of the complex we just entered.
It was a beautiful, clear day in Bangkok, so we had a perfect setting for photos. There are so many details to appreciate around Wat Pho, so it was hard not to take photos with every step. As we roamed around the various sections of the wat, we couldn’t help but marvel at the intricate work of every temple. Even the small gardens dotting the courtyards outside the temples each had a unique charm.
As I said, it was a gorgeous day, but eventually exhaustion from the trip and the sun set in and we decided to head back. We have this tendency to not take care of our needs, like eating and hydration, before setting off on more adventures, so we made sure to stop and get some food before heading back, now knowing that we had a long trip ahead.
After a couple of skewers, the coconut ice cream was a necessity
The streets around Wat Pho are not so easy to navigate. We knew where we were dropped off, but couldn’t decipher where to catch the bus back into town since it looked like the street looped around. We were also still orienting ourselves to the streets since in Thailand they drive on the left side of the road. After walking for about 25 minutes (and unsuccessfully seeking out a Bangkok city map), we saw a bus, which we remembered was listed on the Wat Pho website, heading back to the city. Or so we thought. It was heading the right direction, but were we sure that it was going to our section of the city? We had already boarded, but given how hot it was outside, it seemed like a pesky afterthought. We were going the right direction, so we sat back and enjoyed the bit of breeze provided by the fans on the ceiling as we endured the infamous Bangkok traffic.
An hour into our journey, we started feeling a little disoriented. But we had been in this situation before, in Seoul, where the bus took a different route on the way back into town – maybe this would be another bus that did a loop rather than going out and back. Maybe?
Shawn turned to me and looked worried. What were we going to do, though? We didn’t know where we were, which made it impossible to know how to get back.
Finally, the fare collector came over to us and asked where we were trying to go. We replied, “Sukhumvit,” but apparently she only really knew how to ask the question, not respond to it. We were at the end of the line. Hot, tired, and disoriented, I was starting to feel like Lisa Simpson trying to get the special museum exhibit by bus.
“I should have gotten off at Crackton”
We got off the bus, grateful that we had left when we did and there was still some daylight. We bought a SIM card at the 7-11 for our phone to see where in the world we were and I broke it when trying to dislodge it from its plastic casing. I managed to stick it back together long enough to get it jammed into the cell phone, but it was taking forever for the GPS to find our location and the phone eventually ran out of battery.
Completely lost and hopeless to find our way back, we checked our finances and found we had enough to get back to our hotel by taxi. We found a cab, negotiated a price (although I would have paid almost anything at that point), and started back into the city. I’m still not sure where we ended up. It appeared we were almost as far as the airport. How that happened, I’m not sure.
Lesson here: if you’re going to Wat Pho, save yourself 3 hours of your life and take a cab.