When you have been traveling for over 20 hours, the first thing you want to do is walk. Well, the first thing we wanted to do was shower and nap, but we didn’t have time for that. We only had 24 hours in Bangkok.
Adam and I stepped off the flight in Bangkok and took the fast train into the city, to the end of the line. We got in a taxi and asked the driver to take us to Wat Pho. (Our hotel was across the street, and our traveling companions recommended giving these directions. This worked wonderfully.) Within five blocks of the temple, traffic stopped dead, so we walked a few minutes to find ourselves at our small guesthouse. Shoes left by the front door, showing respect and good manners, we were fresh off the plane – well, not quite so fresh.
One block in from the river in an old district of Bangkok is Wat Pho. It’s down the street from the Grand Palace and a two-minute ferry ride away from Wat Arun. Looking at a map, it can’t be that close but it really is. We set off with our friends from Philadelphia, Julie and Dyfrig.
We paid about $2.30 per person to enter the temple, and that included a complimentary bottle of water. The four of us wandered the complex, sussing out every corner of the maze of buildings, pathways, and temples. Intricate porcelain details covered the dozens of chedis, or spires, dotting the complex. Many are burial monuments to members of the royal family.
Shoulders and knees must be covered while entering temples, so we were drenched in 90-degree heat and what had to be 100% humidity.
The main temple is the home to a 40 m Buddha, joyfully lounging and smiling at the endless line of people coming to see him. Tiny clinks reverberated around the temple. Like the echoes of a waterfall, we wondered where this strange music came from.
The noise came from pennies dropped inside a line of brass bowls. Visitors drop a coin in each of 108 bowls, symbolizing good fortune.
Poking around the other temples in the complex, we came across areas where Thai people come to pray. Inside the ubosot, monks paused to capture photos of themselves seated in front of the Buddha. So we captured them, swathed mango and tamarind and clean-shaven. Thousands of monks had traveled to the capital to pay respect to the late King, their presence a soothing balm in a mourning country.
I honestly didn’t know what to expect. I was a bad tourist and didn’t do a whole lot of research prior to arriving in Bangkok. The whole complex glittered and buzzed. And in a flash we were back in the streets, weaving through the neighborhood in search of fresh-squeeze pomegranate juice and ice creams.