Sunday 23 February 2014
A rest from rest!.......Following my disappointment at the cancellation of the Nan Province tour last week I get one of those impromptu opportunities which are hard to turn down. A friend wishes to visit Wat Pho on the Chao Praya River. I must admit having spent a good deal of time in Bangkok in between tours I have rarely recorded on my website what is really on my doorstep. Well that’s as it seems but as I note, that doorstep may as well be 200 kilometres from my residence. The visit will be made by public transport and I just know this is going to be a long trip through the suburbs and into the Old City. So I guess this trip will be at least 5 hours. Bad guess! I suggest that if Wat Pho is the destination then a visit to the equally iconic Wat Arun, just a ferry boat ride across the Chao Phraya, should be included. The tour will be interesting, since it’s only a few days since I was discharged from hospital and I’m still under doctor’s orders to rest.
Public transport…….At 11am I make my way by motorbike taxi to the bus stop in Nawamin Road (4 kilometres). Here I pick up a city bus No 60 which will run all the way to Sanam Luang, the location of the Royal temples. The cost of this air-conditioned bus is simply ridiculous. It would buy me an iced coffee in Bangkok but if I offered this at Starbucks they would throw me out the door! After a hour the bus is hardly into the business district of Bangkok and as it passes through Prathunam markets area I note the first sign of road blocks, a reminder that Bangkok I still under siege from anti-government protesters. Although I won’t be returning this way I later read that a rocket propelled grenade has been launched into a crowd near here in late afternoon. A man in a tuk tuk is arrested but 2 people are dead, a woman and a 12-year old boy; 22 people are injured. As the bus proceeds into the Old Quarter there are diversions in place restricting access to sensitive areas. The result is traffic chaos. It’s the best part of three hours before the bus arrives at Sanam Luang. Time for lunch.
3 centre tour…….After a break it’s a short walk to the City Pillar Shrine. This important site is where the modern city was founded by King Rama I, first monarch of the Chakri Dynasty. Here also reside the Guardian Spirits of the city. Near this site construction works are underway for the MRT Blue Line (heavy rail) extension which will see this line pass under the Chao Phraya River. On the opposite side of the shrine is the Ministry of Defense Building, subject to heightened security. On the opposite side of the road is Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha). The latter is the most iconic building in Bangkok but not on my visit list for today. Instead I head for Wat Pho. This substantial complex is adjacent to Wat Phra Kaew and a vihara houses a massive reclining Buddha image. This site requires a good hour. Lying astride the Chao Phraya River Wat Pho offers easy access to a river ferry leading to Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) on the bank opposite. This landmark site is dominated by a towering chedi with a steep staircase to three levels. Level two is more than enough for me offering magnificent views across the river to the Royal temples. Time has flown by and Wat Arun is now closed (5pm).
Chao Phraya River…….I’m loath to make it back the same way I came and make a bold decision to head up river by passenger boat. I’ve done no research on this route but instinctively head for Nonthaburi Pier on the Orange Line. This costs less that even the bus but is just as slow. However there is the added bonus of a sightseeing trip as the sun begins to set and an orange fireball shimmers above the river’s west bank. I identify iconic bridges and orientation of the MRT Blue Line extension which here up river will run over-ground on a concrete rail bridge; this line is not due to open until 2017. This boat trip is a welcome bonus to a full day but from Nonthaburi Pier it will be another hour and a half, at least, before I arrive back at the residence. I pushed things to my limit today; it’s more than expected to achieve on a low budget.