Contiki Big Indochina Adventure – Day 3: Bangkok, Thailand & Overnight Train to Chiang Mai
Today was my second and final day in Bangkok, but I’ve already decided that I will be back. I have never been to a city so diverse and unique in my life.
We left our hotel at 8:30 AM after meeting our local guide, Nutty. We walked from our hotel for about 7 blocks to the ferry terminal where we boarded a small ferry for the Grand Palace. The ferry itself was something like I’ve never experienced – it was the quickest dock, load and leave than I’ve ever had. Some people literally had to step over a foot of open water to get onto the boat!
Once we arrived at the Grand Palace, we immediately passed a long line of people. Thankfully, they were not waiting for the same thing we needed – the beloved King of Thailand passed away in October of 2016 and his body is still in viewing for the public. Thai people dress in all black and wait for up to 6 hours to pay their respects!
We went through various security gates before we finally entered the formal grounds of the Grand Palace. The Grand Palace is the home of the King of Thailand as well as other religious monuments. I can honestly say that I’ve never seen so much gold in my life!
Unfortunately, it was so crowded that it was hard to hear our tour guide speak, so I wasn’t able to fully grasp the history behind the buildings – the sheer beauty was impressive enough! We even had the opportunity to add a gold leaf to a Buddha as a way to pay our respects.
The tour ended with us visiting the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. The Emerald Buddha is situated atop what can only be described as a mini-pyramid surrounded by various treasures and artifacts. Depending on the lunar calendar, he either is donned with a summer outfit, a winter outfit or a rainy outfit. We saw him in the rainy outfit – essentially a gold plated blanket. As it was a religious site, many Thai people were praying to the Buddha on their knees and we could not take pictures.
We then left the Royal Palace and boarded a private boat for a quick ride around the canals. We saw how some people live adjacent to the canals and just why Bangkok is often considered the Venice of the East. We even got to feed some giant catfish with bread that our tour guide gave us!
After our boat tour, we headed back to the hotel for a few minutes before departing for a free afternoon in Bangkok. I grabbed a bite to eat at a restaurant called Jade near our hotel. Instead of getting an entrée, I decided to try a few appetizers – spring rolls, golden pockets and chicken satay. They hit the spot, especially when I washed them down with a mango smoothie!
Then, a few of us headed down to Khao San Road to see it in the daytime and buy some proper traveling clothes. It was much more subdued in the daytime, but was still very active. I bought very lightweight pants with elephant prints on them as well as two sleeveless shirts and three t-shirts. Of course, bartering is the name of the game here, so I will be an expert before I leave Southeast Asia! Some of the girls also decided to get a fish massage where you put your feet in water and hundreds of tiny fish eat the dead skin off your feet!
We also had the chance to see the the ready to eat scorpions in the daylight!
We then headed back to our hotel to grab our bags and head to the train station for our overnight train to Chiang Mai. We boarded our train at around 5:30 PM and it departed around 6:10 PM. The train was a new train, so it was very modern. There were no doors on each of the cabins, instead they just put curtains up when it was time to sleep. The only bizarre thing were that they came and made our beds at around 8:00 PM which worked for me because I was exhausted. We all went to bed at around 9:00 PM and were rocked to sleep by the movement of the train as if we were on a boat. The lights in the train were on fully all night long, so it was hard for some people to fall asleep. I cocooned myself in my blanket and covered my face with it. At around 6:00 AM, they came through and woke us all up to unmake our beds and convert the train back into a seated car.
At about 7:00 AM, we arrived in Chiang Mai ready to spend the day with elephants!