Thailand 2014 – Day 9 – Grand Palace and Khao San road

Today we hit two of Bangkok’s major attractions, the Grand Palace and Khao San Road, but first I suppose I should tell you how we got there.
As to be expected by now, the day starts with breakfast, walking down to Terminal 21 again, i’d have a breakfast of noodles with pork and basil leaves followed by some Mango sticky rice (Have I talked about this before? salty sticky rice mixed with sweet chunks of mango? bizarre but delicious combination).

From the mall it’s a fairly lengthy journey to the Grand Palace, first a train on the skyrail, then through a dock area and onto a boat for a lengthy trip down the Chao Phraya river, a fairly wide and long river with tons of docks running down it – the boats which travel up and down essentially function as any other public transport system in the country, they stop at all the major docks, at which point you jump onboard and pay for a ticket, the main difference of course is it’s a rickety old boat, open air, with water spray coming at you, and a woman shouting loudly in thai at everyone.

The boat trip was longer than expected, and took it’s toll on my brother who doesn’t handle them well. Departing from the boat we would land upon a thick market trying to capitalize on the business the dock brings, multiple alleyways of food and drink – but sadly all of questionable hygiene, with raw chicken being left out for both the flies and the sun to attack for hours on end. Through the thicket of market stands lay the Grand Palace ahead of us, a loudspeaker and signs tell tourists to trust no strangers – and as if by coincidence we would get stopped by a man outside one of the gates, he told us my dad wouldn’t be able to get in because of his shorts, why not go and have lunch first at X restaraunt and then come back after when the guards are more relaxed? a fairly sneaky scam. Entering the main compound of the Palace, a sign and security guard parts the crowd, “no tank tops, no vests, no shorts, no 3/4 lengths, no see through tops…” the list probably goes on. Offenders are shuffled into a room on the side and given rental clothes or shoals for the duration of their visit.

The Grand Palace itself was an impressive piece of work, clearly the result of a horrific amount of Thai labour. Extravagant temple like structures and statues fill the compound, all crafted with impressive detail and repeating patterns both inside and out. The weather would accentuate the gold decals around the palace at the expense of our lifespan – with temperatures likely in the mid-high 30’s and majority of the breeze strategically repelled by the palace walls, we were soon lurching around like the undead and simply shuffling from shade to shade. Other than the palace buildings themselves, there was also a garden area, rooms containing weapons (both melee and firearms) and a ton of monks.

After eventually walking through the entire palace grounds (it was gigantic) it was back onto the boat to head for Khao San road – famous amongst backpackers, and also featured on the Thailand episode of Running Man. Despite it’s fame however, the road itself wasn’t easy to find, and is actually fairly far away from the dock it is closest to, we would walk down side roads filled with market stalls for maybe 15 minutes before even arriving on Khao San Road itself.

Heat was proving to be a real issue, so after maybe 20 minutes of walking around we decided it might be a good time to go for a massage at one of the (possibly thousands of) massage parlours dotted around. At 250 Baht (£4.50) for an hour of foot massage, one can almost see how there are so many of them still in business, as for western tourists that is hilariously cheap for what it is. The massage place we picked had air-conditioning and large reclining chairs, it seemed fairly busy already, with multiple young pretty girls working other customers, that would all rapidly change after we sat down. Our host made a telephone call as my family sat down and got comfortable, then after 5 minutes or so, a group of 4 strong looking thai women enter the parlour. One of the previous day’s we had a discussion about the girls doing massages, my dad claims he would prefer an experienced one who has some ‘kung fu’ rather than a small pretty girl who is there for looks rather than work. As fate would have it, I would be assigned a kung fu master, a woman whose kung fu might be more comparable to Muay Thai (Thai boxing), the hour of ‘massage’ was almost comically painful, digging knuckles into my feet, activating pressure points that only Kenshiro (fist of the north star) should know about, and doing an impressive imitation of E.Honda’s 100 hand slap from Street Fighter. After thoroughly brutalizing my feet, she would finish off with a short neck, back and shoulder massage – which unbeknownst to me, would equate to 2 arm locks, and a double arm lock into knee in my spine. I’d like to point out also, that i’m the only one in my family to receive extra special treatment, the other girls were working normally but mine was really giving it 110%. Apologies for bad picture, didn’t want to be ‘that guy’ but I wanted something at least.

massage

Anywho, we would eventually make it to Khao San road, which would actually turn out to be a long strip of market stalls in front of bars. There was a wide variety of interesting things on sale, some of the more unique ones being scorpion on a stick, and a taser disguised as a flashlight. Part way through walking however, a storm would start to kick up, the market stalls started scrambling to get their tarps up, and light rain would soon make an appearance – a welcome change from the heat.

A lengthy walk back to the docks, followed by a long boat ride back in the rain, and then that followed by a train ride. By the time we get to our next destination, Siam, I feel like shit – a fantastic mix of headache, stomachache and wanting to throw up – likely brought about by dehydration, fatigue and travelling on an empty stomach (in that order). We’d head into Siam Paragon for dinner, one of the larger malls in the world (as a sidenote, yesterday’s ‘Central World’ is apparently the 7th biggest mall in the world, Siam Paragon is at 28th), the bottom floor as usual filled with masses of restaurants and a food court, but we were hungry and feeling borderline ill so we picked the first place that looked nice. Dinner was thus at ‘Billion Beef’, which specializes in thai food and import premium beef, we’d have a pretty modest meal, the spicy sirloin salad was amazing but mind blowingly spicy, same could be said for the Som Tam (Spicy Papaya salad)

We only had a small look around afterwards before heading back to the hotel, I am told we are going to have another day of shopping in the future, but tomorrow we need to wake up at 7am so it was back off to the hotel to write and rest. Tomorrow we are going to visit Thailand’s famed floating market, and maybe we’ll have a run in with a special guest…