Palaces and Back Alleys in Bangkok

This was the last official day of our G-Adventures tour so we met with Bun in the lobby of the hotel after breakfast and said our goodbyes. He was an exceptional CEO and we let him know how much he was appreciated. Hopefully he will be chosen to come to Canada for the G-Adventures conference in Toronto. That way maybe we will get the opportunity to give back and guide him round some of the sights of southern Ontario.

Now on our own we were able to navigate our way to the Chao Phraya River that winds its way through the heart of Bangkok. Like the Bolivian Sky Train in La Paz, there are a number of coloured ferry lines that take people up and down the river. We figured how to get to the Grand Palace stop and off we went.

The Grand Palace is on a large man-made island surrounded on the one side by the river and on the other sides by a system of canals. It was built in 1782 when King Rama I moved the capital from upcountry to Bangkok. It is one of the most elaborate set of buildings I have ever seen. There is so much 24 carat gold leaf that the place simply sparkles. It is made up of the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, and three layers of courts – Outer, Middle and Inner. The walls are covered in murals depicting historical and legendary tales. Statues and paintings of fantastical beasts – half man and half bird, half woman and half lion, warrior monkeys – abound. There was just so many opportunities for pictures that I overdid it and finally had to quit and just absorb what I was seeing. We hired a wonderfully energetic woman to guide us around. She knew her palace and gave us an excellent tour – constantly lining us up for pictures – but filling the tour with the history of the kings. The last king died three years ago and his son’s coronation is coming up so there was a lot of prep activity and yellow bunting everywhere. The king no longer lives in the Grand Palace but a number of royal ceremonies are held there.

There were a lot of people and the heat was intense so we chose to follow our guide’s advice and take a boat cruise. What we didn’t realize was that the cruise would take us along a number of the canals on the west side of the city. It was like travelling down back alleys but it was waterways. We passed all kinds of houses from small stilted shacks all the way to fancy mansions. We passed a number of egrets and even caught a crocodile swimming rapidly away from our boat.

For lunch we sought out an air-conditioned restaurant in Chinatown where I had dim sum and spring rolls along with a lovely cold glass of beer.

Now back at the hotel where I have cooled down in my air-conditioned room. I’ll meet the others for Happy Hour and supper and we’ll plan tomorrow.

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