Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Bangkok's Soi Cowboy, Erawan, and Grand Palace

We had some rain over the weekend and decided to spend most of Saturday idling in our air-conditioned hostel room. In the evening, however, we went to Soi Cowboy, one of Bangkok's red light districts, and over the following two days we caught up on some more sightseeing before leaving for Chiang Mai.

Soy Cowboy is a relatively short street, but it has over 40 bars (ranging from go-go bars to strip clubs to ladyboy bars) and becomes very busy during the later hours of the evening. We thought Khao San Road was a fun place to people-watch, but this was a real eyeful: scantily-clad women wandered around in high heels; old European men sat and fondled their prostitutes (some had several women on or by their laps); and ladyboys giggled and beckoned people into their bars. After dinner we went to a go-go bar for a while, then checked out a ladyboy bar. Needless to say, we only stayed in the latter for about ten minutes, since the ladyboys were particularly feisty and good at milking money out of us.

On Sunday we decided to check out a place called Erawan Museum. On the way we stopped off at Siam, the closest thing to a downtown financial centre that Bangkok has, with much bigger and fancier streets than our area near Khao San Road.

Erawan Museum is a little tricky to get to (we had to take a taxi from Bearing Station on the sky-train line), but boy was it worth the journey. Though it calls itself a museum - and it does indeed have some exhibits of old artefacts on display - it's really more of an artistic Hindu-Buddhist refuge, dominated by this giant statue of a three-headed elephant.

Circling the elephant statue are some beautiful gardens populated by spiritual creatures and deities.

At the viewing platform, getting our pictures taken with the elephant statue.

Placing lotus flowers on the moat for good luck.
Inside the elephant are intricate interiors of flowing, marble staircases and stained glass windows.

Taking the stairs to the very top of the elephant, one finds a beautiful Buddhist shrine where people pray. This incredible place only confirmed to us that this was our favourite discovery in Bangkok so far.

In the evening, we ate some delicious Thai curries. I'm continually impressed by the high quality of the food here.
On Monday we encountered more elephant statues on the way to the Grand Palace.
The Grand Palace has been the official residence of Kings of Siam (and later Thailand) since 1782.
It was a bit of a pain getting inside, as we had to find appropriate clothing that covered our bodies, making an already swelteringly humid day almost unbearable, especially when having to deal with countless other tourists pushing around everywhere. Fortunately, the beautiful buildings inside just about made it worth it. It felt like we were walking around a luxurious, ancient city from a fantasy tale.

Outside Chakri Maha Prasat, my shirt drenched in sweat (and it was barely noon!).
Poor Angela had to cover up with a cardigan in sauna-like temperatures.

We also went to nearby Wat Pho to get the obligatory photos of the reclining Buddha.

Finally, we went to the Chao Phraya river to get a quick view of Wat Arun, before deciding the heat was too much and retiring to our hostel.

That's it for Bangkok. We enjoyed our time in this crazy city, with its beautiful temples and golden Buddhas by day, and its bars and debauchery by night. It's been a lot of fun.
Today, after a twelve-hour train ride, we finally made it to Chiang Mai, the capital of northern Thailand. We'll miss Bangkok, but we are definitely looking forward to exploring a much smaller city.

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