Murray Head got nothin’ on us! I see your one night and raise you four!
Our first day in Bangkok was Kara’s 30th b-day and it was a fantastic day. We capped off our amazing Elephant filled adventure with a luxurious dinner, followed by some rooftop cocktails.
We did some extensive research about where to eat (who, us?!) and Kara has a deep love for French food. Turned out that Maverick was only a few blocks from our hotel so we opted to walk. Which, we learned is usually the best alternative for getting anywhere in Bangkok (more on that later). So, who would’ve thought that you’d find 5 star quality French food in a major Asian city?We were pleasantly surprised. The service was exceptionally friendly and all of the food was, well…outstanding. But let me tell you about the best damn mojito ever. So, I like rum. It’s my poison. And over the years I’d like to think I’ve learned how to make some tasty beverages with rum. I LOVE a good mojito. But they upped the ante here. I ordered the lychee mojito, which unbeknownst to me would be given a lavish presentation. When they bring it out, they pour liquid nitrogen over it which chills the cocktail and freezes the jasmine blossoms. Yeah, that’s right. This perfectly crafted mojito was filled with frozen jasmine blossoms which gave it such a unique flavor. After they brought mine out, a few other people at the table had to order one. It was pretty cool. Kara also ordered some sort of drink, but WHO CARES?! Liquid nitrogen on my mojito!!!Let me tell you what you’re seeing here: Starting top left going clockwise: Some bbq polenta, mushroom risotto, seared salmon, and chocolate mousse. Guys, they prepped my salmon table-side. I wish I could dedicate an entire blog to how wonderful Maverick was, they are a wonderful establishment with top-notch service. I am grateful we got to experience this restaurant ‘s fabulous food with my wife’s bestie & new husband!(thanks to Cindy for the quick snap from her iPhone!) After our outstanding dinner celebrating, we had to checkout a rooftop bar because that’s what you do in Bangkok. We walked our way over to Above Eleven where the atmosphere is unparalleled, the cocktails very over-priced, and the view is phenomenal. Like, seriously. You can soak in 270 degrees of Bangkok’s insanely vibrant and seemingly never-ending skyline. It’s an open-air bar. It’s very crowded, and the cocktails are…well…as I said, over-priced. But you’re paying for the view and the vibe. Live a little, man.
The next day, we were up bright and early to check out the Grand Palace, Emerald Buddha, and some other temples as time allowed. My first piece of advice before you go to Bangkok? Study the Sky Metro.Seriously, we spent a good chunk of time getting a little turned around b/c hey…it’s reasonable to think we could get lost. Also, because EVERYONE will try to rip you off. As friendly and nice as Thai people are considered to be, we stuck out as tourists (b/c we’re white and carrying a camera) and many a Tuk-Tuk driver saw us as an easy target. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times people tried to rip us off by telling us bold-faced lies. Such as “Oh, the temples are closed today” when a quick Google search will tell you the exact dates the temples are closed for the calendar year. In fact, “the Grand Palace is closed” is a hugely lucrative scam in Bangkok. There are several articles and blogs on the subject to warn tourists. So, let me verify for you that it is indeed a scam, and you just need to politely say “No thank you” as many times as it takes while walking away. Forget taxis because they will scam you too. And they have to sit in the city’s un-rivaled traffic jams. Charge your phone, keep Google maps handy, and learn the skytrain system. Oh, and wear some comfortable shoes. But make sure they are slip-on because you will be taking them off a TON if you plan on visiting any temples. Which brings us back to….our long walk through old town to get to the temples. We hopped off the last station and had resolved to walk the rest of the way. We were rudely ridiculed by a tuk-tuk driver after we politely turned down his offer for a ride and told him we’d be walking instead. It was a pleasant (albeit humid) 45 minute walk that was pretty easy for us. And it was awesome to see older parts of the city. It was charming in my opinion. A completely different feel than the high-rise districts. We arrived at the Grand Palace and OMG THE CROWDS. Thousands upon thousands of people were out and about. All of them to see the splendor of the many temples and monuments. The entrance fee was 500 baht per person, which gets you into the Grand Palace, Emerald Buddha and all of the grounds. There is also a pretty strict dress code. If you aren’t covered up enough, then you can rent clothes by the front gate to wear. If you don’t want to resort to that, then just prepare for your trip by studying up on the rules, restrictions and dress code. This is a really good article on the topic. Just look at the amount of detail. Can you imagine the man-hours put into this? Crazy. Below is Thailand’s most sacred temple – the Emerald Buddha. No pictures and no shoes are allowed inside, and conservative dress code is a must.Before you enter, a quick history lesson about the Lotus flower. It’s very important in Buddhist culture as it is one of the Eight Auspicious Symbols of Buddhism. Here you dip the lotus flower in water and “cleanse” yourself of any impurities before you entering the temple. (LOL, look at my sly face “I’m gonna watch this person next to me first and do what they do…”)
Again, no photos are allowed inside the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. It is Thailand’s most sacred Buddha, carved entirely out of…you guessed it! Emerald Buddha sits atop a mountain of smaller Buddhas, trinkets, and other things. Quick pointers: Sit cross legged on top of your feet and make sure they’re not pointed at Buddha. Feet are considered the lowest, dirtiest part of the body in Asian culture and pointing them towards someone else is considered a sign of disrespect. Do not turn your back on Buddha. It’s also considered disrespectful. One thing we always try to do is respect other cultures. I’m not Buddhist, but I respect their beliefs and want to honor their traditions. If I wish for others to respect my spiritual beliefs, then I must do the same. Fun fact: The Ramayana Mural is the longest hand painting in the world. Feel free to pose for pictures with palace guards, but don’t expect them to be amused. After we wrapped up with the Grand Palace & Emerald Buddha, which took about 2 hours, we crossed the street around the back of palace grounds and went to Wat Pho, home of the Reclining Buddha. Turns out, this temple was cheaper (the entrance fee was only 100 baht per person), far less crowded, and had cooler things to see. Buddha’s feet include all 108 auspicious characters by which Buddha can be identified. As you walk through this side, there is a constant clanging sound echoing from the other side of Buddha. It would be these 108 bronze pots that people are dropping coins into for good fortune. Surrounding the central Ubusot (temple) there are four smaller Viharas. One for each representation of the four states of mind all Buddhist monks strive to acheive (love, compassion, sympathetic gladness, and equanimity). Here you can pray, pay respect to Buddha or just soak it all in. King Rama statues. Look how tiny Kara is! Note the bag hanging from my wrist. It has clothes. Wat Pho’s dress code is a little less strict, so I brought a change of shorts because I had already sweated off 5 lbs that morning wearing long pants. Also note the slip-on shoes. Again they gotta come off before I cross that threshold. So they are a wise choice for temple hopping in Bangkok. A hot day of touristing had us completely knackered. So much in fact that we were grateful for Caleb’s friend for loading us all up in his air-conditioned van and giving us a ride to a mall close to our hotel so that we could chow down on some good, cheap Thai food. Apparently a lot of locals go to the malls to eat authentic and affordable Thai food, so there’s a tip for you. Find the nearest mall. I think most of us fell asleep on the way there….oops. Walking around outside the malls and we found a Ronald McDonald giving a customary Thai greeting! Ha!
After heading back to the hotel to recharge our batteries, we had to head out for a taste of the Bangkok night life. It is truly a city that never sleeps. NYC got nothin’ on this bustling metropolis. Bangkok is a city in which every imaginable desire can be fulfilled from street food and shopping to even the most depraved acts you could think of. We chose the former. We actually stayed in the Sukhumvit district where the population seems to somehow increase at night. The streets were lined with night market vendors. Walking the sidewalk was almost a hazard b/c it was so crowded. Do yourself a favor and indulge in some street food. It’s cheap, readily available, and delicious. Don’t let what may seem like less than stellar sanitation deter you. It’s Bangkok. Live a little. You probably won’t die. 😉 We spent our final day in Bangkok heading to the world famous Chatuchak Market aka JJ Weekend Market. Only open on Saturday and Sunday, it’s the largest outdoor market in the world at 35-acres divided into 27 Sections, contains more than 15,000 booths selling goods from every part of Thailand. It is impossible not to feel overwhelmed. You will get lost at least twice. BUT it is a MUST DO if you are in Bangkok over a weekend. Don’t miss it – don’t stop, pass go, etc. Keep in mind Chatuchak is a very popular shopping experience; it has over 200,000 visitors each day and only 30% are foreign. There is literally everything you could ever want at this market – art, clothes, accessories, housewares, food, bath products, crafts, pottery, pets…and other animals. Yeah, just AVOID that section. Everything is very reasonably priced and EVERYTHING is negotiable. It’s pretty much the only place you need to go if you plan on doing any shopping in Bangkok. We found a tiny hand-made jewelry shop where we picked up some things for our moms back home to say thank you for dog-sitting our two little corgi monsters for two weeks. On our way out, we stopped by a coconut ice cream vendor because YES PLEASE. It was amazing! The most fresh coconut flavor and who knew peanuts would be a delicious topping choice?? Definitely try the coconut ice cream at JJ Market and definitely get the peanuts.Here’s a fantastic write-up for how you should prepare a trip to Chatuchak. Preparation is essential for survival.
The only proper way to say good-bye to Bangkok is by grabbing some Bubble Boy tea at the Sky Metro station. Spoiler: It was incredibly sweet, but oh so delicious on a humid day.Up next for Thailand, where we stayed while we were in Bangkok.