WAT PHO, BANGKOK NATIONAL MUSEUM, WAT ARUN: BANGKOK, THAILAND (DAY 2)
This is day 2 of 20 days in Southeast Asia. Zach and I explore the historical city center of Bangkok to see the giant Reclining Buddha in person, encounter the public visitation to the royal urn honoring King Bhumibol Adulyadej, climb up Wat Arun, experience two very different museums (one with dead bodies, the other with Thai artifacts) and eat a very delicious fried noodle dish.
The rest of the trip:
Start here if you haven’t read Day 1: Golden Buddha, Yaowarat, Banglamphu
Hello! This is October 4th, Wednesday. We decided to wake up a bit early despite the jet lag so we could get to the historical center of Bangkok, an artificial island called Ko Ratanakosin.
I read in my pocket guide book that this area will get insanely busy as most tourists to the city will at one point visit Wat Phra Kaew, the Grand Palace, Wat Pho, and Wat Arun.
Good morning from the “Red Room” of the Loy La Long Hotel on the riverfront in Chinatown, Bangkok.
Sights on our short walk along Song Wat Road to the pier. I dropped a pin on the map to be sure of the name of the street, and found the Peiing Public School (the red gate) funnily enough.
Arrived near the Royal Palace. My pocket guidebook recommended an early start to head to Wat Phra Kaew to see the Emerald Buddha but I made a little mistake as we headed to Wat Pho first. This would end up being a happy mistake, but just know that Wat Phra Kaew is on the grounds that also contain the former residence of the Thai monarch. The entrance to the complex is on Th Na Phra Lan. If you get off the ferry at Tha Chang, you should be able to walk straight down this road and to the entrance. This is *not* what we did, but reflecting back…it is how to get there efficiently.
We ended up walking down Th Maha Rat, accidentally taking a right from Tha Chang and walking past the palace grounds (the white wall in the background). We did enjoy all the trees being held up by these metal sculptures.
As we walked, in my head I switched Wat Phra Kaew for Wat Pho and seeing signs for Wat Pho got me pumped that we were heading the right way. It’s not a bad mistake, as Wat Pho is another important place to visit, home to the Reclining Buddha sculpture. Let’s go in!
For tourists, Wat Pho is famous for being the home to the huuuuuuge Reclining Buddha, but Wat Pho is also the site of Thailand’s first public education institution. Now it also houses a school that teaches traditional Thai medicine, which includes Thai massage.
Once you pay entrance fee (approximately 200 baht), the Buddha’s sanctuary is one of the first buildings you encounter. We took off our shoes and walked in as we saw a huge face peering down at us through the decorated columns.
As you wander down the enclosure, more and more of the figure is revealed. This figure is not made of solid gold like the Buddha we saw yesterday, but it is just magnificent in scale and has such a presence.
When we first walked in it was around 8:30 AM, when they opened, so only a few other tourists were there. But the longer we stayed in there to look at the Buddha and the many wall paintings the more crowded it became.
The Wat Pho historical section of the website describes the murals you can see in this Reclining Buddha space. I loved these elepehants happily assisting in battle.
The feet are really special. Mother-of-peral inlay decorate 108 lakshana, the auspicious characteristics of the Buddha. 108 is in important number in both Hindu and Buddhist traditions.
Throughout our time in the hall with the Reclining Buddha, a plink plink plink punctuated the experience. It is the steady sound of coins dropped in 108 metal bowls, and for 20 baht you can buy 108 coins and drop one in each bowl for good luck.
I took a photo of my book to get a little map in here.
I’ve been seeing these stickers around that warn people not to squat on sitting toilets, not only because it is unsanitary for the next user but also because it can break toilets. During a quick bathroom break I saw this horrifying illustration. The blood….the cut…the dead rhino (is it a rhino?)…
The detail on the Royal Chedis is so beatuiful. There are four Royal chedis commemorating the first four Chakri kings. The Chakri dynasty has ruled Thailand since the founding of the Rattanakosin Era and the city of Bangkok in 1782 following the end of King Taksin of Thonburi’s reign, when the capital of Siam shifted to Bangkok. The current royal family is of this house.
We waited in line to remove our shoes and enter Phra Ubosot. This was built during the reign of Rama I (1782 to 1809). This is the most sacred building in the complex as it is used for Buddhist ritual. It also has some of King Rama I’s ashes in the pedestal of the Buddha image.
As we were exiting we noticed the line to enter the Grand Palace. King Bhuminbol Adulyadej passed away on October 13, 2016 and the time that we were there the city was preparing for his official funeral to be held on October 26, 2017. This day is October 3, and I looked it up later and October 5th was the final day for visitation to the Royal Urn and coffin. So folks were lining up to pay their respects and visit the urn before the official funeral procession.
It was surreal to see so many in black, but I know that the Thai king was beloved. Many were carrying money with his face on it, taking photos outside the Grand Palace walls, and also had commemorative photos of him as well.
Needless to say, the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew were closed to tourists. We accidentally did the right thing to go to Wat Pho first, and though I was sad to miss exploring the Grand Palace grounds, I totally understood that mourning and paying respects to the King took precedent.
We continued walking towards the Bangkok National Museum.
Before we entered we were warned that many of the exhibits were closed for renovations, but we still wanted to peek around. It was 200 baht. This is the largest museum in Southeast Asia. The buildings were originally constructed in 1782 as the palace of Rama I’s viceroy, Prince Wang Na. It was turned into a museum in 1884.
According to my guide, “The Bhuddhaisawan (Phutthaisawan) Chapel includes some well-preserved murals and one of the country’s most revered Buddha images, Phra Phuttha Sihing. Legend claims the image came from Sri Lanka, but art historians attribute it to the 13th-century Sukhothai period.”
The Red House is a traditional teak house, originally built for King Rama I’s sister 200 years ago. Inside are furnishing (and a really small pair of slippers) that date to the early 18th to mid-19th centuries, many originally belonging to the royal family.
Pro tip: I watched a video by MissMinaOh and she gave the tip to carry a metal spoon with you because you’ll want to eat the meat in the coconut. And that’s what I did! I bought a spoon and brought it with me in my day bag and we enjoyed scraping the inside of a fresh coconut a few times.
So! At this point in the day, we read in the guidebook about a strange combo of museums at a hospital called the “Songkran Niyomsane Forensic Medicine Museum and Parasite Museum.” The mysterious description in my book said, “Not for the faint of heart, pickled body parts, ingenious murder weapons and other bits of crime-scene evidence form the attractions at this macabre medical museum.” Which…sounded…a little fun, a little interesting.
Whoops. Turned around here. Went back towards the ferry terminal and found the correct entrance. We passed through a few waiting rooms, past hospital patients in wheelchairs, and finally located the museum building.
So…wouldn’t advise going here ahah unless you are a criminal law or criminal psychology student OR medical student. I think the guidebook downplayed just how gruesome it was. So many up close photos of crime scenes, literal bodies of serial killers, bodies of babies with different medical conditions, body parts that had been stabbed, shot, etc. for study, graphic photos of the effects of parasites on the body, etc. It was intense!!! I guess totally my bad, not sure what I expected ha, but yeah…it’s in a hospital and it doesn’t hold back.
This area was much quieter, more residential feeling. We didn’t see any tourists until we approached Wat Arun. It was a really nice walk, plus we saw dogs, cats, and passed some delicious smelling food.
Approaching Wat Arun from Th Arun Amarin, the street side of the temple.
Here’s the walking loop we did starting at Wat Pho and ending at Wat Arun.
When we got there they weren’t quite set up yet. I saw some bags of flat rice noodles sitting around, so we asked if they were Nay Hong. They said yes and pointed to wait, so we waited and watched as the alley transformed into a restaurant.
We got back to the hotel and the area we had breakfast yesterday morning was flooded with water from the river. The area where our shoes were was also flooded, but nobody was worried. The houses on the river are meant to flood in certain areas when it rains.
We waited at Loy La Long, had some tea, and Zach visited a tailor nearby to be fitted for some dress shirts and a new suit. I don’t have any photos of that, apologies. The tailor shop offered to drop our bag off at our hotel that we’d be staying at when we returned to Bangkok in a few weeks, and then dropped us off at Chao Hostel. Chao Hostel is in the Siam Square area, right near Jim Thompson house and super close to the BTS.
We wanted to be in a slightly different neighborhood for our last day in Bangkok, and this place was cheaper than Loy La Long hotel. We settled in for the evening after a looooong day of lots of walking and so many beautiful sights.
I hope you enjoyed experiencing Bangkok with me. Next post? Bangkok day three, a visit to the Jim Thompson house, the snake farm, and hopping on an overnight train to Northern Thailand.
Check out all my “Waldo in Southeast Asia” travel posts including a packing list and planning here.
Much love friends.