Grand Palace and Wat Pho Temples

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Friday, July 20, 2012

Though today is/was a travel day to get to Chiang Mai, we took the opportunity to take a morning stroll through the Grand Palace, Wat Pho, and the street vendors.

Not really sure how to explain the Grand Palace and Wat Pho beyond the fact that they are both majestic with numerous temples with each of their confines.  View the slideshow below for pictorials of each. 

With the Grand Palace, there is one simple rule, you must respect the grounds, and that means that you must wear pants or long skirt/dress and no tank-tops. Pants and skirts are available for rental.  Shoes must come off before entering any temple, and the feet cannot face the Buddha.  As you approach the perimeter of the Grand Palace, you will find many individuals offering to assist you by either telling you "oh, today is (pick a day) and only Thai people can go inside...but I can show you the Grand Buddha", or you'll hear "Oh, it's already closed and you cannot go in now....but you can still go to the Grand Buddha", or you will get the one we were greeted with "Oh, no you cannot go in this door, this is exit only", but having been here before, I knew better; I admit that I fell for it then given the gentlemen's shirt read "Tourism Police" and he was conducting his shenanigans in front of palace armed guard...didn't last long before I caught on.

Entry is only 400 Baht (~ $12).  The place is very crowded, but since it is very vast and open, it is not difficult to get access to any section within.  The Jade Buddha is interesting as it is carved from a single piece of Jade and its clothing is changed during the course of the year.

We then made our way to Wat Pho (Wat meaning 'temple').  The walk there took us through the street vendors lining the Grand Palace, as well as the 'street food' vendors.  Wat Pho houses the giant Reclining Buddha. .  Giant is the only way to explain it (read the link).  On the backside of Wat Pho is where one will find the Massage School.  I had the opportunity to experience this last year, and it was just as Michele described her experience a few days ago, all for a mere $21 (1/2 hour foot massage, 1 hr Thai massage and Thai herbal massage (by the way, avoid this if sunburned, from let's say some time in the sun...I'm just sayin' ).

Michele and I met up with a monk and we reached out to ask him a few questions about some of the fundamentals of Buddhisms, as well as the role of being a monk; all young men, starting at early as seven, are expected to live the life of a monk, even if just for a week long.  In addition, there are two types of monks, those that life in the forest and, well, dare I say it....those that don't.  Each must know the theories of both, but are limited to practice their respective teachings.  His name is Nompalat (spelling?), but as is the case with ALL Thai people, he has a nickname....Lake (spelling?).

Following this semi rush through the temples we made our way back to our hotel and headed to the airport.  Lesson learned....don't try to negotiate a few dollars with a cab driver and think that you won when he accepts your offer....he will only take you through the side roads so as to avoid the two toll booths that amount to just about $2.25.  Though we left our hotel in plenty of time to have at least an hour to ourselves before our boarding time, turned into an experience like any either one of us experienced.  Red lights on a 5 lanes thoroughfare that literally lasted 6-7 minutes; appeared that the crossing streets garnered much more respect from the traffic signals.

Our flight to Chian Mai was relatively quick....less than an hour, and it included a hot meal.

At the airport, we headed to the taxi stand and were told to see a particular cab driver (the next guy in line)....the only guy it seemed who wasn't familiar with our hotel.....as he called out to the other drivers, they all shouted what seemed to be directions...not exactly a feel good moment, when you just want to get to the hotel and take a shower.  As it turned out, the next 15 minutes with him were so great that we hired him as our personal chauffer for the next day.

Our hotel, The Castle, is a nice property overhaul, but like many of the 3 star accommodations, is located down a back street...but again, the Thai smile and hospitality of the staff over accommodates for the location; nothing a $2 Tuk Tuk ride can't solve.

We quickly settled and asked the front desk for guidance on a restaurant.  We took their recommendation and it was wonderful.  For those of you who remember The Cav in Providence back in the day, with all its adornment of artifacts, this was the Thai version....Huen Phen.  We ordered the menu-recommended sampler meal for two....it rocked; see the slideshow for description of what it included.

Our night ended with a few exotic cocktails and shooting some pool at some local bar; Michele has finally picked up the concept of shooting a stick....I feel such a sense of accomplishment.

The next three days in Chiang Mai will have our schedule booked solid, to include the following:

Elephant ride
Karen Long Neck Hill tribe
Tiger Kingdom
Zip lining through the rainforest of northern Thailand
Visiting the major ancient temple in the area
Cooking class for the two of us
Shopping at the Sunday market

Should be exciting times indeed.  Enjoy the pics.

Speaking of Angkor Wat....Tushar et al, here are pcs of my trip to Angkor Wat (Siem Reap, Cambodia) last year.

Jean-Pierre/Michele
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