Jun 20, 2013

Downgraded Bangkok Trip part 1

I usually pay my tuition after Chinese New Year, allowing me ample time to ask my parents for money during the festivities and paying up after the vacations. However, this year the school requires us to pay up before the Chinese New Year. I scrambled and saved just enough and paid away before flying home.
"Oh, you paid your fees already?"  Mum asked.
"In that case I'll take the money to invest in stocks,"
A graduation trip didn't pop up my mind back then, so I didn't protest. After we're back from vacation my classmates started planning graduation trips. I always wanted to go to Istanbul, being the convergence of Asia and Europe as well as Islamism and Christianity. Coincidentally a group of classmates are going as well.
"Can't you go somewhere more budget?" Mum haggled "There are plenty of places nearer you haven't visit."
She has a point. I've been to Europe and US twice but hardly anywhere in South East Asia.
Coming from Penang (with our filthy beaches), I figured a beach destination is just another waste of money and time. Culture - h'm - Bali or Bangkok - Mum and Dad had been to Bali before, so I'd best avoid an old couple's destination. And a web check of tickets to Bangkok costs merely RM 500 return with excellent timing on Malaysia Airlines. So my vacation plans was essentially downgraded from Istanbul to Bangkok. Nevertheless, it was a blessing in retrospect as not long after my graduation several demonstrations erupted in Istanbul.
After several weeks of hotel bookings and trip planning, my classmates (who were going with a tour) decided to extend their stay to accompany me for 2 days. How sweet of them.
Having settled my air tickets and Holiday Inns, I was reluctant to plan my itinerary until the day before departure. Thanks to Lonely Planet and Wikitravel I drew up a rough plan for my 3.5 days in Bangkok and 1 day in the ancient Siam capital, Ayutthaya.
Part 1 will cover the first 2.5 days in Bangkok.

Holiday Inn Express Bangkok Siam, with a room at a perpetual 12^C. But its central location, free WiFi, great breakfast, and affordable price made up for the arctic climate.

Located right behind the hotel is Jim Thompson's House, an American businessman's collection of mansions in the Thai capital.

Went to the Grand Palace the following morning. The palace is so full of Chinese and Korean tourists it's easy to confuse where you are. The heat and humidity aren't much help either. Within 30 minutes my jeans and shirt are all soaked through. It would be much nicer to go in shorts and sandals but Thai customs forbid it.

A short ferry hop across the Chao Phraya brings us to Wat Arun, less touristy, more rustic, and much more monastic.

Spices and dried seafood on sale.

Afternoon tea at Erawan Tea Room by Hyatt Bangkok

The offerings are quite ample given the price at this five-star establishment. They did, however, missed a scone and a dish entirely which they replaced instantly on notification with lots of apologies.

After tea, we went for some shopping until leaving Siam Paragon at 7 pm for our 8 pm show at Siam Niramit. Unbeknownst to us this is still rush hour in Bangkok. We were overcharged by almost 60 baht by a taxi driver and almost missed our show. Still, like dubbed by its commercial, Siam Niramit is a must see whenever you're in Bangkok.

On my second day I went to...what's the name again...Wat Ratchandatdaram Worawihan. Never mind the name, it's an awesome temple with lots of meditation spaces and a great roof built in the Rattanakosin style.

Democracy monument

 And finally, my travel partners.