Tag Archives: bangkok

Navigating Bangkok

~K~

Getting around Bangkok is not too difficult a feat to accomplish. It’s a large metropolitan area however, so you’re not going to be able to just walk around to get where you need. It’s not as easy or extensive as Seoul – though it’s less daunting; but it’s also far more convenient than Kuala Lumpur or Vietnam. There is a wide variety of ways to manage getting around.

Briana At A Temple In Bangkok

Tuk Tuk:

In this entry, I’ll also include motorbike taxis or Xe Oms. They’re easy to discover, they tend to wear orange vests that display their license (which is nice). The motorbikes are not likely able to carry multiple people or with large packs, but can be great for a short distance.

Tuk tuks are the pretty much the same as throughout the rest of Southeast Asia. They can be convenient, and if you find a reputable driver – nice. But it’s very easy to get ripped off, scammed, and just generally fed up with them. We don’t like using them, but it’s up to you if you want to use them. We wouldn’t recommend using them if you’re traveling a long distance, but for a short distance, it may be ok if you agree to a price before hopping on.

Taxis:

As with most other cities, taxis are the first and most obvious mode of transportation that you’ll take. They’ll overcharge you if you come from the airport (don’t they always?), but elsewhere, the rates are pretty reasonable. We only took a taxi a few times – but they were usually quite straightforward. Our first taxi didn’t quite seem to know where he was going, but figured it out rather quickly. Our second taxi didn’t really speak English, but I showed him the address and a map and he got us there for 100 Baht (~$2.50). Our final taxi took us to the bus stop quite easily as well for around 150 Baht.

Grabbing a taxi is very simple as well, we never bothered to call for one – we simply walked out to the street and waved one down. There always seemed to be a taxi no matter where we were. It literally took me 30 seconds to flag down a taxi each time. One thing to keep in mind, is that traffic is awful in Bangkok, so the taxi will ask you if you want to take a toll road (highway) to get where you’re going, which you’ll have to pay for. We didn’t do it the first time, and it cost us over an hour’s drive – we took it the second time, paid 70 baht, and got where we were going within 20 minutes.

Be sure to use a metered taxi though! It will be cheaper, despite what the driver may say, but generally if you say use the meter, they will do it without complaint.

Boat Taxi:

If you find yourself anywhere along the river, you can take boat taxis. In fact, if you want to get to some temples, you may need to use these (Temple of Dawn). We never did end up using them, mainly because we just didn’t have it in our itinerary, but if you do there are a few things to keep in mind.

Canal Near Station

There are three main waterways: Chao Phraya River (the main river), Klong Saen Saeb (cuts across Bangkok), and Klongs of Thonburi (networks of canals throughout the city.

There are 6 boat types: River Taxis, Long Tails (tuk tuks on water), Ferry, Canal Boats, Private Cruises, and Hotel Shuttles. These are pretty self-explanatory and unless a tour or hotel has already arranged these for you, you will only be bothering with River Taxis, Long Tails, and Ferries.

There are 5 types of River Boat, indicated by the flags, and these will be how you decide which you want to take:

No flag (local line) – Stops at every Pier

Blue flag (tourist boat) – Stops when you want. Will cost more, but may be more convenient.

Orange flag – Stops at main piers

Yellow flag – Large express boat for commuters

Green flag – Express boat for commuters

If you want to take one, it is easiest to access the Sathorn Central Pier, located in front of BTS Skytrain Station Saphan Taksin.

Canal Near Traimit Station

Buses:

City buses are a convenient way to get around as well (though we never did use them). Generally quite cheap, with fares ranging from 7 to 20 Baht. They run 24/7, so they may be your go-to if you find yourself out after the metro has shut down. There are 12 lines of service, and most will have a stop near the main hotels.

Buses with blue signs in the window will run normal routes and stop at all bus stops, while yellow sign buses use expressways and have a limited locations. You purchase your ticket on the bus itself. You may want to do a bit of research before hand though, to know which route you want to take.

You can also arrange for a bus across international borders, such as we did for entering Cambodia. You read more about that here.

Van / Minibus / Truck

You may notice as you go about Bangkok what appears to be vans or trucks, with open backs and benches along the back. These are like buses, and tend to run some of the same routes, and some of the smaller routes that normal buses won’t frequent. You can simply hop on and pay the attendant a small fee (5 – 20 baht) and simply ride until you get where you need to go. Just let the driver or attendant know when you want to get off and you can simply walk off the back.

Metro / Subway / MRT:

Our primary method of getting around Bangkok was via the Metro, Skytrain, BTS Rail. It is not a streamlined as Seoul by any means – but they aren’t too difficult to manage. There are numerous stations that you can enter. When you come into the station, you will have your bags checked for bombs/contraband, but it’s pretty simple, and nothing at all like the airport (just open your backpack and you’re good).

Subway Card

Once in, you’ll usually find a small assortment of stalls selling food or drink. There are ticket vending machines which are convenient and will run in Thai and English, simply tell the kiosk which station you want to go, then feed in the bills or coins (wonderful way to get rid of excess coins). Once purchased, you will receive either plastic coins or cards to swipe to get to the platform. If you would prefer to talk to a person, there are regular kiosk operators as well (great if you have large bills to break).

Trains tend to arrive every 10 minutes, and can be a little crowded. We didn’t make it in once and had to wait for the next train, but usually it’s not a problem.

When you arrive at the station you will either leave completely or transfer to the next station. The stations are not as seamlessly integrated as Seoul, so you may need to leave your current station and enter a new one, especially if you’re changing from Skytrain to Subway. It’s not too difficult to manage, but it can throw you for a loop the first time you encounter it. You will need to purchase a new ticket at each station though.

BTS_MRT_Chao_Phraya_Express_Khlong

If you are going to be Bangkok for a while though, you can simply purchase a longterm card which you simply recharge remotely and swipe, so you can have a more streamlined process.

Keep in mind, that there seem to be no bathrooms within the metro system – so take care of business before you travel!

Vietnamese Style Thai Temple Bangkok

Wat Pathum Bangkok Thailand

~K~

A trip to the heart of Bangkok will take you some of the highest-end malls and to some wonderful parks, and as you walk down Rama I road, you won’t be able to not notice the beautiful white walls and shining gold of Wat Pathumwanaram Ratcha Wora Vihan – or Wat Pathum for short. We stumbled across this Buddhist temple on accident while we were visiting the Siam Paragon Mall, and we saw the tell-tale roofs of a Buddhist temple.

Wat Pathum Wanaram

The temple itself is of a medium size, though it seems dwarfed by the massive malls and skyrail station beside it. The grounds of the temple stand as a quiet respite to the bustling cosmopolitan surroundings.

Wat Pathum Wanaram

The temple was founded in 1857 by King Rama IV as a place to worship near the Sa Pathum Palace. At the time, the area was only simple rice fields, but today it stands in one of the busiest parts of the city.

Wat Pathum Wanaram

The ashes of Thai Royal Family members from the line of Prince Mahidol Adulyadej are interred at the temple. The temple also served as a safe zone during the 2010 crackdown on Red Shirts anti-government protesters.

Wat Pathum Wanaram

The temple is simple, yet elegant and you can quietly slip away from the city here. If you’re passing by, it’s well worth a visit. There is no entrance fee, but of course, you are always welcome to place a donation at a til box.

Wat Pathum Wanaram

You can find it at:

969 Rama 1 Rd, Pathumwan,, Khwaeng Pathum Wan, Khet Pathum Wan, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10330, Thailand

Family Friendly part of bangkok

Lumphini Park

~B+K~

I added Lumphini Park into our itinerary for the day we visited the Snake Farm (Kyle’s choice) and Wat Hua Lumphong because it was nearby, I wanted to go to a park, and most of all: I wanted to ride the duck pedal boats in the lake! The last time I rode a pedal boat was when I was a child visiting Germany (or maybe Austria) with my family (when we lived in Italy) and it was a lot of fun! I thought this would be a neat activity for us and it would only cost just over a dollar.

Duck boat

After our long day which included the walk to the metro station, the ride there, the above activities, and various other little stops, we were pretty tired but I knew I would be upset if we didn’t go. 

Upon entering, we found that there were many people enjoying the park. Several thousand citizens were going about their days. We noticed that the park is a popular fitness place, with lots of people running around and others taking part in various group exercise/aerobics classes. There were also many families and individuals simply taking in the nature.

Runners in the park

At first we just plopped down in the grass and enjoyed the weather and people-watched for a bit.

Kyle in grass
Warm Bangkok Sun

After we had rested, we decided to go for a stroll.

Looking at lumphini lake

The wildlife was quite active, with many birds, fish, and turtles going about their business. We had read that there were monitor lizards at the park, but we weren’t sure if we’d actually be able to see them – we found a couple early on swimming the lake and it was pretty neat.

Monitor Lizard at Lumphini Park

We proceeded on a bit afterwards, and even came across a collared cat. We don’t know whose cat it was, but most likely it was just someone’s indoor/outdoor cat that found a great place for a nap. We pictured his owners going for a run and seeing him sitting there and say ‘So, this is where you go during the day, Oscar.’

Cat Nap

Finally, we located the swan-boat rental area. The cost is/was 40 baht for a half-hour ($1.13). Initially you must give 80 baht, but as long as you make it back in time, they’ll refund you 40 baht. We hopped into the boat and spent the next half hour puttering about the lake.

Park in BangkokOn Lumphini LakeKyle paddlingIn the boat

We also had a great skyline view in some areas.

Bangkok Skyline

Towards the end of our ride, we stumbled upon what is apparently the resting ground for the monitor lizards, because we found dozens of them dozing in the late afternoon shade along the bank of the lake. We noticed that they were actually pretty much everywhere, climbing onto boats, or where ever else they could find a quiet spot. We tried not to bother them, though because it’s clear they just want to be left to themselves and can become scared quite easily, despite looking like mini dinosaurs.

Monitor Lizard

The sun began to go down as we got out of the boat, so we made our way back to the entrance. Luckily, there is a metro station not far from the entrance which makes it easy to access.

Sunset Reflections

More on the park:

The park was created in the 1920s by King Rama VI. Originally meant to be an exhibition center, it was converted into the first public park in the city after World War I. It was named after the birthplace of Buddha in Nepal. Today, a statue of the king greets you at the southeast entrance to the 142 acre park. You will find more than a park, though. Lumpini park is home to a library, an apprentice school, an Elder Citizens club, and more. If you can get to the park early, you’ll find tai chi classes offered. As well, there are various playgrounds for children. Between 10 and 3 you can also cycle for exercise.

If you want to visit, you can get to it via the MRT Subway Silom or Lumphini Station and the BTS Saladaeng. The park is open from 4:30am to 9:00pm. 

All in all, it’s a great place to enjoy nature while you’re in a city of over 12 million people. 

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If you like parks, also check out these other other parks/similar within other large cities:

Parks and Gardens in San Jose

Le Van Tam Park (in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam)

Bukit Nanas Rainforest (in Kuala Lumpur)

Cat Decor in Bangkok

Caturday: Cat Cafe in Bangkok

~B~

Unlike most cities which tend to only have one, if any, cat cafes, Bangkok actually has a few cat cafes. While I was interested in several of them, Caturday is what worked out best for us due to its location. It was in walking distance from Siam Paragon and we already had other plans in that area (like developing film and the Hello Kitty House).

Caturday Cafe Sign

Boy is this a popular cat cafe! It was very crowded inside but they did not turn us away as they initially did at one of the cat cafes in Korea. The other thing I noticed immediately was the heavy theming. This place was cats, cats, cats!

Cat Decor

There were all kinds of cute cat decorations such as cat toys (not for cats- though there were those too!), paintings of cats, a big cat clock, cat merchandise, and more.

Polaroids with Cats

Obviously there were things for the cats to climb, sit on, and sleep in as well.

At the Cafe

Several cats had on cute outfits or accessories.

Cute Cat outfit
Fluffy KittyCute Kitty

We were seated at a table in the back near this cute Persian cuddled in a little kitty tent.

Me At Caturday
Cat TentFluffy White Cat

We spent a little time perusing the menu before we decided on a drink and cheese fries. I think we were both technically supposed to order drinks but it was okay since we ordered fries too (I’m not sure). We were a little more hungry than thirsty and I have a fondness for cheese fries but there were lots of other meal, snack, and dessert options.

Caturday Menu Options
Silly Caturday Menu
Tea and Cheese Fries

I no longer remember the name of the drink we shared but it was very tasty and sat on a cute Caturday coaster! The fries were also good.

Caturday Cafe SignCute Yummy Drink

For the most point we just enjoyed watching the cats and petting the occasional one that wandered our way. Kitty snack time was crazy and also fun to watch with particular kitties trying to get it all with some others being a little less sure of what to do when presented with it.

Crowded cat cafe

Overall it was a pretty nice time.

Cat Statues

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Pyeongtaek Cat Cafe

Purradise Cat Cafe

Ichi Cat Cafe

Hello Kitty House Thailand

Hello Kitty House Bangkok

~B~

While one of the top things Kyle wanted to do in Bangkok was the Snake Farm, one of the top things I wanted to do was the Hello Kitty House. I know it’s silly but I can’t help it. For my birthday this past year, I went to the Hello Kitty Cafe in Seoul. I have hello kitty shoes, socks, pajama pants and shirts, a jacket, a watch, a flask, and a laptop case among other things. In the past I’ve had Hello Kitty planners, calendars, wallets, and more. And do you know what we did after the Hello Kitty House in Bangkok? We went to Caturday, a cat cafe. I guess you can say I’m a little obsessed. (The picture below is me celebrating Hello Kitty’s 40th birthday- Nov 1, 2014).

Me Hello Kitty

Back to the Hello Kitty House. The place is just outside Siam Paragon mall, the 12th largest mall in the world. Pretty convenient.

Hello Kitty House near the mall
Hello Kitty and her husband

Outside the cafe there is a take-away counter.

Take Out Counter

The Hello Kitty House contains a cafe, spa, and gift shop but we only visited the cafe.

Me at Hello Kitty House

The first floor contains tables, a display case featuring some goods, and lots of Hello Kitty decorations. I felt like I should have worn pink. This is also where you order. There are lots of options including meal-type foods like salmon salad (obviously not for me), pumpkin soup, BLT, etc., desserts such as strawberry shortcake, coffee pudding, and rainbow crepes, and various drinks such as mocktails, smoothies, tea, and coffee.

food Display and ORdering areaHello Kitty House

We had a really tough time deciding but Kyle thought he was pretty hungry so we decided to share what I think was called the Hello Kitty Thai Golden Mango.

After we ordered they gave us a piece of paper with a map indicating where our table was located upstairs. We sat in the wrong area at first, but eventually figured it out.

Pink CouchSeat Map

We sat and enjoyed the super cutesy, super pink place for a while (maybe that was mostly me) while we waited.

Hello Kitty Stained Glass WindowPink Table
Me in HK chairLove is Sweet Hello Kitty

The dish we ordered It involved coconut (milk?), mango, ice and I’m not sure what else but it was delicious!

Me with Thai Golden MangoKyle with Thai Mango dish

Allegedly they only use premium ingredients such as chocolate from Belgium and butter from France.

There is a song that plays over and over again (something like “hello hello hello hello kitty” or whatever) that was annoying Kyle a little bit. I didn’t notice it too much and actually forgot about it but Kyle mentioned it when I told him I was writing this article. We can’t seem to find it on the internet.

Kyle looking out the window

If you are interested in the other HK activities there: The shop is supposed to be located in the basement. I didn’t figure out how to get there, though. The spa offers nail services, eyelash services, waxing, massages, and more. It would be nice if the occasional spa visit was in our budget. We can make excuses for this because not only is it food, but it’s also an experience, but the other, not so much. If it were, I would have likely gone to the Hello Kitty Spa in Dubai as well.

 

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If you enjoyed this post, check out these posts we picked for you!

Hello Kitty Cafe Seoul

Puppy Spoon

Caturday

Siam Digital Bangkok

Siam Digital Store for 35mm Film

~B~

There are a few options for developing film in Bangkok. Based off my research I was considering: Siam Digital,  A&B Digital,  Patani Studio, and Siam TLR Classic & Lomo Camera.

I messaged all 3 on Facebook with a couple questions.

  • Siam TLR quickly responded with “Sorry, no service.”
  • Patani Studio told me that it would be 150THB to develop color and black and white film and 200THB to scan Tiff files at 15MB per file. They were willing to provide free web upload up to 1GB and/or provide a CD. They also said they’d be willing to copy the photos to my drive if I provided one.
  • A&B Digital provided me with a photo of their pricing. Develop=50THB/roll. Develop and scan onto CD= 140THB/roll for 120mm and 90THB for 135mm. For Black and White: develop=90THB/roll and develop and scan onto CD= 190THB/roll for 120mm and 140THB/roll for 135mm.
  • Siam Digital responded that for 135mm, the developing process is 50THB/roll and scan is 50THB/roll. For 120mm, the developing process is 80THB/roll and scan 150THB/roll. Film is scanned onto a CD and the whole process typically takes 3-4 hours. When I told them I would prefer the film scanned onto a USB stick, they said that would be fine (but it was necessary that I provide it). In response to a followup question, they also told me that I could buy film there.

I ended up deciding to go to Siam Digital Store because it was near other activities we were interested in, was near a mall where I could pick up a USB stick and possibly eat, was accessible by rail, etc. I didn’t find the best reviews for them on FourSquare but decided to overlook them because of these other factors.

We took the metro over to Siam and began by going in the Siam Paragon Mall and picking up an 8 gig USB stick in a large department store there.

Siam Paragon Mall

Then we headed over to the Siam Digital Store. Here are some of the details which are not already found above (all of which turned out to be true):

Address: 420/8 Block No. 4 Siam Square 7, Phayathai Road, Pathumwan Bangkok (Opposite to Siam Square). It wasn’t too difficult to find. It’s in a little area among other shops/stores.
Hours: 9am-8pm
Quality: While there were some photos which turned out great, there were others which, not so much. I don’t always mind some imperfections, its part of the beauty of it sometimes, but I did feel there was some general loss in quality which was not on my own end.

Here are some of the photos:

I think this one from the rooftop of one of our Airbnbs in Saigon looks nice:

Ho Chi Minh Rooftop

I also like this one from Hanoi.

Vietnam Temple

I don’t mind, and actually rather like some of the effects which are film-y:

Red on film

I am not, however, as fond as some photos being more blurry. Can blur only be on my end? Was I simply more careless or shooting at lower shutter speeds? I don’t know. There were more blurry pictures in this batch than normal, though.

Blurry

There were also a couple like this one:

Not sure

One of the rolls also looks just a little over-exposed suggesting maybe I did not change the ISO when starting a new roll. I don’t remember this, but I also don’t know enough about scanning to know if this could be the source.

Overexposed in Vietnam

I feel like I don’t know enough to say whether any issues were because of them, or due to other issues such as the film possibly being expired/not stored well and going through airport scanners on several occasions, among other things. I had also recently been having some issues with the camera. Something went wrong with two entire rolls. I think they never took properly which seems stupid but it seemed to go fine before I closed the back and still sounded and felt like it was working but I don’t have any photos from Cat Ba or Bangkok. It is back to working just fine now, though.

After I received my stick back (which was on time), I bought a couple rolls of film. After that we checked out Caturday Cat Cafe, the Hello Kitty House, and the mall, all of which are within walking distance.

So, would I recommend them? Eh, it’s up to you. If you would like some film developed quickly that is near other things to do while it develops and is accessible via the metro and don’t have anything very important on those rolls you could give it a go. It’s certainly relatively cheap/affordable. Feel free to comment with your own experience if you do decide to try it.

Wat Traimit Quiet Temple Tour

~K~

Bangkok has a plethora of temples to explore throughout the city. Many of the temples have visitors flock to them constantly throughout the day, and the crowds begin to wear on you. Not to mention, it gets a little old paying entry to some of these places, with some charging as much as 400 Baht per person. Upon looking at our options, I realized that many of the main attractions could not be accessed via the metro system – only via taxi, tuk tuk, or water taxi. We really didn’t want to bother with this at the moment, so I set about finding us a different itinerary.

The End/Beginning

I came up with a wonderful route, easily walkable and accessible from the metro system. All I did was go on google maps and find random temples nearby. I’ll go into detail here about the temples, and the routes so that you can follow in our footsteps.

Temple_Route_Traimit

Wat Traimit

We began by exiting the metro at Hua Lamphong Station. We took a quick walk across a canal and found ourselves at the famed Wat Traimit. The Temple of the Golden Buddha. The temple was bustling with tourists when we arrived just after noon. We proceeded to get our tickets to see the temple for 40 Baht each (~$1.10), but declined to see the museum. On the second and third floor of the temple is a Buddhist museum that you can see for 100 Baht, but we were just here for the temple.

Traimit_Afar

We presented our tickets to gain admission and then made our way up the many steps to see the Golden Buddha. Once reaching the top, we took off our shoes and began to make our way to the entrance. The ground was very hot, luckily they had rubber walkways, but even then it still scorched the feet. Everyone is expected to dress modestly, so you must not have your legs or shoulders showing. Luckily, we had prepared. If you don’t, you can rent clothing for 10 Baht.

Traimit Plaque

We then proceeded up into the main temple and sat in the cool gaze of the Golden Buddha. It’s really quite astonishing how big the statue is. The origins of the statue itself are uncertain, made in the Sukhothai Dynasty style of the 13th and 14th century. It is thought that some parts of the statue were cast in India. In 1403, the statue was moved from Sukhothai to Ayutthaya, about 100 km north of present day Bangkok. In 1767, Ayutthaya was invaded by the Burmese and the statue was covered in stucco and plaster to conceal it’s identity. The invaders laid waste to the complex, but the statue remained unscathed. In 1801, King Rama I established Bangkok and ordered the Buddha along with others to the city. At this time, the Buddha was still covered in stucco and remained unknown in Wat Chotanaram. In 1935, the Wat had fallen into disrepair and the statue was then moved to Wat Traimit. In 1954, a new Viharn building was built at Wat Traimit to house the statue, and while it was being moved, workers accidentally dropped the statue and broke off the plaster. They then discovered the gold statue beneath the plaster, and after careful analysis uncovered the statue in its entirety. The statue was discovered close to the commemoration of the 25th Buddhist Era (2500 years since Buddha’s passing), and was considered miraculous by Thais. In February of 2010, a large new building was inaugerated and the Bangkok Chinatown Heritage Centre, and exhibition were opened (2nd and 3rd floor museum). At 3 meters, and 5.5 tonnes, the gold statue is valued at over 250 million dollars.

Traimit Golden Buddha
Traimit Ceiling

We sat and rested for a few minutes before finally making our way back down the steps. At the bottom we then went to a slightly smaller building that housed another large golden Buddha. We sat here for a few minutes as well, and witnessed a monk blessing a few tourists with water. We then made our way out from the crowds and the temple on to the next location.

Traimit 1
Traimit 3
Traimit 2

Wat Pathum Khongkha Ratchaworawihan

We took a walk down the street, and quickly came to a much quieter street away from the very touristy Wat Traimit. Our street took us about a kilometer down what seemed to be the street for mechanics and machine shops. A few small turns, and we found ourselves at the entrance to Wat Pathum Khongkha Ratchaworwihan alone. Entering into the temple, we found ourselves in a mostly empty complex with two large buildings within the courtyard.

Pathum Khongkha Ratchaworawihan Display

The temple was so quiet and serene. A few monks went about watering plants and cleaning the facilities, but aside from that, we had the place to ourselves. We wandered around the perimeter, which was lined with dozens of life-size, gold Buddha statues. The buildings themselves were beautifully built, each exhibiting a unique curve to it’s design, much like a boat curves up.

Pathum Khongkha Ratchaworawihan Courtyard
Pathum Khongkha Ratchaworawihan 1

We were gestured in by an old monk sitting in front of one of the buildings, so went and sat inside for a few minutes. Here, we were alone yet again in front of many golden statues. The lights were off, but we were much closer to the statues than we had been at any previous temples. We could see that these statues were very intricate as well.

Pathum Khongkha Ratchaworawihan Interior Blurry

We then proceeded on our way to the next temple on our route.

Wat Uphait Ratbamrung

We wandered down the road a bit further, yet again down streets of mechanics and metal works. We came across a few other travels who happened to be looking for an art exhibition, so after a few hundred meters we parted paths and we made our way to the Wat. The street we were coming down didn’t appear to have any entrance, but we could clearly see the temple within the walls. We walked the perimeter and eventually came to it’s entrance and proceeded inside.

Uphait Ratbamrung Front

Once again, we found ourselves completely alone in a beautiful temple. The sound of drums and chanting came from within the temple that we slowly approached. Inside we could see monks in performing their rituals, so we did not feel comfortable entering. But we could see within, and what we saw was the most magnificent Buddha yet – made of gold and studded in diamond and other precious gems. Even in the dim light, the statue glittered and sparkled. Beside it, numerous other statues resided.

Uphait Ratbamrung Dragon

Walking around, we could see that this temple was in fact a Vietnamese Buddhist temple. I could tell because having just come from Vietnam I recognized Vietnamese writing, as well as the heavy use of dragons in it’s displays. The Wat was built in 1787 by Vietnamese immigrants.

Uphait Ratbamrung Drum

After spending about 20 minutes here, we then proceeded on our way to our final destination for the day.

Wat Maha Purettharam

Proceeding further down the road and crossing a small canal, we finally came to our final temple – Wat Maha Purettharam. This temple complex was far larger than the others we’d been to. Upon entering, we were immediately greeted by the temple cats, which Briana was not able to pet much to her disappointment and a nearby monk’s amusement.

Maha Purettharam Entry
Maha Purettharam Cat

The grounds housed three large buildings – though the center building was undergoing construction. One of the buildings housed a Buddha statue much like the others. But the building on the far side housed a surprise for us. We came across a reclining Buddha (I had opted for this route, rather than go to Wat Pho, the temple of the reclining Buddha). But not large as Wat Pho, this Buddha was still quite large and very impressive. We gave a small donation of 10 Baht and then proceeded on our way, and saying hello to the numerous cats along our path. Once again, as with the other temples, we could see the monks going about their daily chores.

Maha Purettharam Courtyard
Maha Purettharam Reclining Buddha

Just before leaving the complex, there was a small building that housed the mummy of a previously residing monk. Here there were a few cats keeping the monk company. We made our way out of the temple, passing the monk’s housing along the way.

Maha Purettharam Prayer HallMaha Purettharam Mummy House

With our itinerary having been completed, we felt quite good with the day’s decision. We learned that you can get a much better tour by getting off the beaten path and just going to the quiet temples. They’re just as grand, but far quieter and private. We’d definitely recommend taking this route during your stay in Bangkok, you’ll enjoy it. You should allow yourself about 4 hours to do the whole thing at a leisurely pace.

Maha Purettharam AlleyMaha Purettharam

With the sun beginning to go down, we made our way north along the canal, back towards the Hua Lamphong station to get home. I stopped real quick though some grilled mystery meat from a street vendor. I have no idea what I ate, I think it was pork though they said chicken and tasted like neither – but it was good nonetheless.

Wat Wachiratham Sathit Worawihan

~B~

My toe was still hurting so we decided to make our first outing in Bangkok an easier one. We searched Google Maps to check out potential locations of interest near our Airbnb and found Wat Wachiratham Sathit Worawihan (quite the mouthful- give it a try!) Though on that note, the true name may be Wat Vachira Dhammasatit. I am sticking to the former, as it’s the name on Google Maps.

The temple/monastery/possibly also a hospital (at least according to a Facebook page of the latter name) was only about a quarter mile away and pretty much straight down the road.

Wat

Our expectations of Wat Wachiratham Sathit Worawihan were that it would be a small place we would look at for a few minutes before heading to the mall and hopefully catching a movie. What we found far exceeded these expectations.

More of it
a beautiful flower

Not unlike our experience with the Thai temple, Wat Chetawan in Kuala Lumpur, we were immediately blown away by the colors (gold!) and details of the buildings and structures. We weren’t yet used to this ornate style.

Intricate and ornateA doorLittle mirrors

The grounds were also far larger than we anticipated. I could not definitively give the purpose of each building there, but some of the typical buildings and structures found at Buddhist wat include: a temple (chedi, typically has a bell-shape), drum and bell towers, a study hall, a library, a holy prayer room (bot, usually found with 8 cornerstones), a relaxation area (sala), a vihear (meeting/prayer room), and a mondop (a place to worship).

DragonBells
more of the complex
Perhaps an area to worshipSo gold

Here is the only text we found about the wat, which Kyle discovered on a plaque on our second visit. I have copied it for you as it will be easier to read this way (rather than my photo of the sign):
“ Wat Vachira Dhammasatit used to be called “Wat Tung Satit.” The temple is the center for the people who live in the Pra Kanong area for a long time. It was told that a Laotian Baron; Wandi who moved from Vientiane, built the temple on September 9, 1965. King Bhumibol Adulyadej was kind to let Prince Vajiralongkorn accept the temple under patronage. The temple level was raised to be a royal temple and named “Wat Vachira Dhammasatit.” This temple has a beautiful Ubosot (main chapel) and Chulamansrilanna Stupa, a duplicate of the Hariphunchaistupa in Lamphun Province. In the Stupa there are 25 units of Lord Buddha relics 289 units of Buddhist Sain Relics and two gold Buddha images. ”

Wat
Buddha always chillin
FlagsAnother area with dragons

As we headed along one edge of the complex, we came across an area with cows. Nearby, we saw a few monks sitting in a row together behind a table. It looked like they were surfing the internet on their cell phones. But hey, we saw a monk taking a selfie with his iPhone in Malaysia and saw them checking out tourist sites in Vietnam. Our time in Asia has given us a different impression of monks. One of the monks smiled at Kyle when he saw him petting a cow.

Cows

Another tried to talk to us (unfortunately there was a language barrier) on our second visit to the temple when we were petting a stray cat.

We also came across some nice dogs running around.

Local dogs

As we headed around the complex we found an area with more plants and eventually, a koi pond with a few turtles in it. Behind everything, it looked like there was a school.

Walking over
A school

The “temple” (because I don’t know the name of the building) near the coi pond was my favorite. Though I doubt the temple is very old, it had a sort of ancient and majestic appearance.

Favorite one
Kyle in front of the temple

In addition to the aesthetics of the wat, I really enjoyed the sensory aspects as well: the smell of cows and hay bales which made me think of fall, the sound of pigeons.

Cows eating

One thing that I think may have contributed further to our very positive experience was the lack of other visitors, or even people aside from the monks. At one point on our first visit we saw a Thai boy with his father feeding the cows but no one else. This allowed us to really take in and admire the area.

Red and goldBlue pillars

On our second visit, which was later in the evening as opposed to mid-day, there were more people looming around, but the temple is not really a tourist spot, most likely because it’s not very accessible by public transportation and there are many other far more famous temples in Bangkok. We can find very little information about the wat and probably would not have ever come across it had we not been nearby and searched the maps.

Lovely wat

Wat Hua Lamphong

~K~

After our visit to Bangkok’s Snake Farm, we made our way to grab a bite to eat from Chamchuri Square just down the road. Chamchuri is an interesting little shopping center.

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The food court is in the basement where I got a delicious yet spicy Tom Zap Moo. As you go up the floors, the food gets steadily more expensive. Unfortunately, there weren’t really any vegetarian options for Briana, so she had to settle on pretzels, fries from KFC, and Dairy Queen.

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Once we’d finished our lunch, we made our way directly across the street to Wat Hua Lamphong. The temple is a Royal Buddhist temple, third class.

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The complex is quite large and seems to get many visitors. We first came upon a prayer hall, where you could get prayer sticks, or candles for a donation. The air hung heavy with the smell of incense, and there was a low buzz from murmur of prayer.

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We walked down an alleyway within the complex, past numerous beggars and vendors to find a large pavilion with numerous shrines. Here we found many golden Buddhas and statues of elephants. These are dedicated to important Thai Buddhist figures and a few Hindu figures as well. We wandered around for about ten minutes, exploring the crowded grounds. The temple was renovated to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the ascension to the throne of King Bhumibol Adulyadej in 1996.

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Briana’s feet began to ache, and seeing a price to explore the main temple set her in a mood of not wanting to climb the staircase. Considering we were already here, I decided to go ahead and pay the entry for myself, 40 Baht (~$1.10), and see the main part of the temple. The ubosot, viharn, and chedi all are raised on a one story platform above the rest of the complex.

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A spent a few minutes here, observing the going ons within the main temple itself, as well as admiring the intricate craftsmanship of the temple. The late afternoon sun gave a serene brilliance to the tile roofs, gold ornamentation, and cool marble. Many bells lined the edges, to which I had to resist the urge to ring. From my perch I could make out the monks quarters, which you are not allowed to wander through.

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Many statues start off as a bronze cast, and worshippers will purchase small amounts of gold leaf. They will then take the gold leaf and rub it onto the statue of their choosing until the statue becomes completely gold covered. Generally, this practice is done for locally revered monks, bodhisattvas, and deities, not the Buddha which will generally sit in the center of the main temple hall.

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The interior hall was gorgeously decorated in murals depicting the creation of the universe and Buddha. Gold adorned everything and was light by fantastic chandeliers.

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A few minutes later, I came back down the marble steps and found Briana awaiting my arrival. After spending around 30 minutes at Wat Hua Lamphong, we made our way to our next destination – Lumpini Park.

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Wat Hua Lamphong is pretty easy to visit – located on Rama IV Road. It is across the street from Chamchuri Square and the entrance to Sam Yan Station is directly in front of the compound. You will only need to allot yourself about an hour to see the temple in full.

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Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute (Snake Farm)

~K~

If you’re looking for something to do in Bangkok aside from visiting temples, a great choice would be the Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute. The institute is one of the world’s largest and leading snake farms and venomous snake husbandry. The institute specializes in the extraction of venom, the processing of it into antivenin, as well as the production of the rabies vaccine.

The Building

It was originally founded in 1912 by King Rama VI to distribute rabies vaccines, upon the suggestion of Prince Damrong, whose daughter Princess Banlusirisarn had died of an infected bite. It was placed under the authority of the Thai Red Cross organization and began producing vaccines for smallpox as well. To this day, the institute still offers vaccination and pre-travel consultation services.

Medical

In 1922, construction finished for a snake farm in an effort to produce antidotes to snake bites, as Thailand contains many deadly snakes. The institute was then renamed  from the Pastura Institute to Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute (named after the King’s mother). We learned a little bit about snake bites, what to do if you get bit, and treatment of snake bites on our visit.

Snake bite

The institute began to show it’s age and underwent extensive remodeling. The original building was torn down and replaced with a five story modern building in it’s place in the early 2000s. Today, the institute sits beside the Chulangkorn Hospital (which is nice to know if you’re worried about getting bit.) 

The attraction is one of the top rated activities on TripAdvisor, and I when I saw it, I immediately wanted to go see it. I have always liked snakes, and have found most zoos tend to treat snake exhibits as an after thought, so I thought that a snake farm would be a great adventure. A little research showed that they had venom extraction demonstrations on weekdays at 11am and snake handling shows at 2:30pm and 11am on weekends.

We decided to make our way to the farm on a Monday morning to try and see both shows. Unfortunately, we got a little later start than we intended and messed up on the Metro station and had to backtrack a little, so we arrived just a little after noon and missed the extraction.

The farm is located behind the front building that you see from the street. Simply walk about 100 meters and follow the signs. There is a little cafe directly in front of the ticket booth. Tickets cost 200 Baht for adults and 50 for children (~$5.70 & $1.50). The tickets allow you to leave and enter again on the same day as purchase, should you decide to leave to grab lunch.

Upon entering the farm, you will find yourself in a large courtyard, with various snake enclosures dotting the perimeter. Some of these enclosures are quite large – the one for the King Cobra was huge stretching over 50 feet long with a very natural looking habitat. Other exhibits showcased pythons and anacondas. Under the sun cover in the center, are large open pits that contain non venomous snakes from around the world – many water snakes.

Exploring the outside areaSnake info
Snake outside

As it was quite hot, we decided to make our way inside the building for their indoor exhibit. Here we found the more traditional terrariums that you find in most zoos. The first floor contains a few dozen exhibits of snakes, showcasing the various snakes found across South East Asia, particularly Thailand. We were able to see front-fanged, rear-fanged, vipers, and non venomous snakes. Several cobras were on display – but most were just lazing about. There were a few really active snakes though, with one tree dwelling snake keeping us quite entertained for many minutes as it slithered about and seemed to be interacting with us.

"Friendly" green snake
Snake behind glass
Snake on display
Looking at the snakes
Snakes Out

There is information on all the snakes and they are labeled to show whether they were venomous, rear fanged, or non venomous, where you can find the snake, if it is diurnal or nocturnal, where it prefers to reside (caves, trees, mangrove forest, etc.) and if it’s egg-laying or live-bearing.

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Upon finished the first floor, we then made our way up to the second floor museum. Here you will find numerous snake skeletons and preserved snakes.

Snakes in Vials
Preserved Snakes
Snake Skeleton
Snake Skeleton with Teeth

As well, exhibits go on in depth to explain the evolutionary process that brought about snakes, their reproduction cycles, their anatomy, and venom processes. There are two videos you can watch in both Thai and English as well as a presentation going over snakes in mythology. There is also an egg incubator that you can check out, and if you’re lucky, even see the babies hatch (the eggs for us wouldn’t hatch for another month).

Incubated Eggs

Snake Embryo

Snake Embryo

We finished the building and made our way back outside to the small concrete bleachers to await the snake handling show. As we were at the very top, it was a little difficult to see very well, but the presentation was quite interesting. Several cobras were brought out, and the handlers demonstrated their ease with which they could handle the deadly snakes. The speaker was quite animated and mostly easy to understand as snake after snake was brought out for display. It was interested to see how some of the venomous snakes with simply picked up and handled in a lazy manner while others had to be very careful to not be bit. The show lasted about 30 minutes, and at the end, a Burmese Python was brought out which you could take a picture with if you wanted. We elected not to primarily because of time and we were hungry.

People with Snakes
Monk ready for the show
Snake Show

It was an enjoyable experience, it lived up to my expectation, though I really wish we could have seen the extraction demonstration. The institute, is worth the visit if you’re a little burned on temples, and would also be appealing to children. You can easily make two hours of the place, and stretch it a bit longer if you are take it at a leisurely pace.

Little boy with snake

The institute is located at the corner of Henri Durant Road and Rama IV Road, and open Monday – Friday 9:30 – 3:30 and Weekends 9:30 – 1:30.

Snake Farm