[Airline Review] – Thai Airways (TG402) / (TG401) – Economy Class, SIN-BKK, (6 Nov 14) / BKK-SIN (9 Nov 14)

On The Ground

I usually fly Thai Airways to Bangkok, mainly due to price factor. Originally I was thinking of separating the 2 reviews. However on a second thought, most of the stuffs will be repetitive. The experience in terms of the hardware for both flights will be the same, given that the same type of aircraft was used for both legs of the flight. The differing experience would be the service in flight and the food on offer.

TG402

We boarded TG402 at Singapore Changi Airport. As we were early, the queue was rather thin. It is always recommended to check in early at the airport, especially the SIN-BKK route as the destination is rather popular. The staff at the counter was not particularly in the mood for a chat, but more of trying to get her job done as soon as possible. As per standard practice, we got our bags checked in relatively quick and handed our boarding pass. I always like to check in early whenever I get to the airport, catering more time for shopping and exploring around the immigration area. Changi Airport in Singapore is an Airport where one would find even 3 hours is insufficient to spend here. There are tons of duty free shopping (comparable to the shopping mall that one would find in town), with big brands like Chanel and Gucci for one to shop. There are also tons of activities the airport offers, with amenities like cinema, massage chairs, gardens (there are a number of gardens in the airport spreading across all 3 terminals). We checked in early to cater time for shopping.

TG402 berthing at Changi Airport
Taking off onboard TG 402

TG401

As we were running late on our way to the airport, I whipped out my mobile phone whilst on the cab to the Suvarnabhumi Airport, fearing that we might miss the check in timing. Checking online first does buy us extra time (usually airlines would stipulate at least 2 hours prior to the scheduled departure for passengers to check-in). Speaking of which, one should absolutely cater 2 hours for the journey from downtown Bangkok to Suvarnabhumi Airport, taking into consideration the notorious traffic jam that Bangkok is so famous for. I would say Thai Airways had a great mobile site that allowed me to do online check in whilst on our way to the airport. With the online check in we only have to be at the airport 1 hour before the scheduled departure.

With on-line check in, we headed towards the Thai Airways counter at Suvarnabhumi Airport, located at the mid part of the terminal building to have our luggages checked in. One other advantage of on-line check-in is that the queue isn’t that long, we only have to wait for 2 mins at most for our turn. This saves one a lot more time to explore the immigration area of Suvarnabhumi Airport. I would strong recommend that one make use of the on-line check-in function that airlines provides. The service on ground is pretty much standard, however this time round (as compared to our outbound flight), the staff at the check-in counter seemed more friendly and volunteered directions on where we should head for the immigration area and where our boarding gate will be. As we were already running late, we did not have much time to explore the airport terminal. There are a few shops (mostly selling perfumes, tobacco and alcohol) that we have time to explore before heading towards our gate for boarding.

Sculpture in Suvarnabhumi Airport depicting Thai folklore
Duty free shops at Suvarnabhumi Airport
Duty free shops at Suvarnabhumi Airport

The Seat

We were onboard the Boeing 777-200ER on both flights (TG402 and TG401). Thai airways uses a purple coloured theme in their cabins. The seats are decked out in blue, purple and yellow, which gives the cabin a more vibrant look. The leg room for this configuration of the aircraft is sufficient and does not feel too cramp. The aircraft is configured in 3-3-3 seatings in the economy class, giving each passenger 34″ of space between each seat and 18″ of width on each seat. The seats also reclined 122° which is fairly comfortable for economy class on a 2-hour flight.

Economy flight Cabin onboard TG 402
Economy Cabin onboard Flight TG401
Pursuers going around ensuring passengers are comfortable onboard TG401
The leg room is good onboard TG402
Good leg room onboard TG401

In-Flight Entertainment

Each seat comes with their individual Audio Visual On Demand (AVOD) TV screen. Each screen measures 9″, keeping passengers occupied throughout the flight. The AVOD system is touch screen, however the system seemed lag and rather insensitive. Passengers are better off using the remote controller, stowed on the sides of each seat to gain faster access to the TV/movie programmes one desires.

9″ TV screen
Front camera live feed to the AVOD
Options on the AVOD
AVOD located above the tray table 
Standard controller for AVOD 
Safety Card onboard Thai Airways 
Inflight magazine available in each seat pocket

Amenities

Pillows and fleeced blankets together with headphones are distributed by the flight crew prior to departure, which keeps passengers comfortable and entertained throughout the flight. These days such amenities (at least blankets and pillows) are seldom being distributed, even on full fledged airliners. The lavatory onboard both flights are rather cramp, however sufficient for one to manoeuvre around in. Each lavatory comes with the hand soap, sanitary napkins and hand soap. There are also extra puke bags that can be found in these lavatories.

Lavatory
Basic lavatory amenities

Meal and Service

The service onboard differs on both flight. I shall cover both food and service in this section of the review.

TG402

There are 2 food options on this flight – Omelette and chicken porridge. Both options taste equally bad and blend and there seem to be an obvious note of mass production with very lousy ingredients for both options. The food proportions are small and not good enough to service as a meal. As a pre-cursor to meal, the portions seemed sufficient. Other than the 2 options, Thai Airways also included a small croissant and  some cut fruits (3 slices to be exact) as part of the meal. Coffee and tea along with other drink options such as Coke, spirits and alcohol, and fruit juice are available onboard.

Omelette onboard TG402
Chicken porridge onboard TG402
Orange juice – my only drink onboard TG402

The service onboard this flight is very bad. Throughout the flight, there do not seemed to have any service for drinks. Flight attendants are only seen prior to departure, at meal service and prior to landing. There are no runs for fluids onboard and one would have to call for the attendant to have some drinks served up. The crew onboard this flight do not seemed to be very friendly either. The atmosphere onboard seemed to be very gloomy as I hardly see any smiles on the faces of the crew. There is this particular crew that has a very sour face, as though she just had a fight with her boyfriend prior to the flight. I witnessed an instance where another passenger requested for some drinks from her, she just showed him her palm and only return some 30 mins later despite she was with a cart. The said crew even gave the passenger a very hostile stare when serving up his drink. Throughout the flight, there isn’t any hint of any smiles that the Thais are famous for. Food service is very slow and slag and passengers are rushed into finishing their meal.

TG401

As with most airliners, TG401 also gave passengers 2 options when come to food. There are chicken fried rice and baked fish for passengers to choose from. The food on this flight is decent. At least there are more taste to them compared to TG402 I flown in from. As with most economy class food, the food is sufficient to sustain one from hunger pains throughout the flight, but insufficient to fully satisfy one’s stomach. I had the chicken fried rice, which also comes with an omelette. It tasted decent, but can be a little on the blend side. There are also sides such as buns, salad and moose served along side the meal. As with the previous flight, drink options such as coffee, tea, Coke, juices and alcohol are also available.

Chicken Fried rice onboard TG401

The service onboard this flight is way better than TG402. The crew onboard seemed to enjoy their work and smiles were kept on their face most if not all the time. The crew spread their joy to the passengers, which made the flight lively and enjoyable. Meal service was prompt and the crew distributed the food in good speed, collecting the trays at a later time, giving passengers more time to consume their food. Drinks service is seen throughout the flight. I requested for a can of Coke to be shared with my friend, when the attendant came around to collect the empty can (he was merely passing by my seat), he offered another can so that we can keep ourselves hydrated. My friend also requested for Children activity pack so she can give it to her children who were not flying with her. The attendant took the efforts to look for the activity packs and did so with a smile that the Thais are famous for. Attendants are very visible throughout the flight ensuring that passengers are well taken care of and their requests are being met.

Overall

The level of service onboard Thai Airways seemed to vary with the crew and the time of the flight. I have noticed (with my past experience onboard Thai Airways) that the service level on the first flight is usually the worst, no matter if one is traveling on Business Class or Economy Class, whilst that of the last flight would usually be better.  The airlines have a few misses and hits and the greatest of all misses is the service that one would get onboard. The hits gotta be the little amenities such as pillows and blankets that most of us take it for granted that are still available onboard. Nonetheless for a short flight to Bangkok from Singapore (and back), I would still choose Thai Airways provided the price is right.

Taking off from Singapore Changi Airport
Taking off from Singapore Changi Airport
Arrival at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport
Taxiing at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport

 

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[Hotel Review] – Cape House Service Apartments (1-Bedroom Suite), Bangkok, Thailand (6 – 9 Nov 14)

Location

Cape House Service Apartments is located within downtown Bangkok. It is about 5 minutes walk from the nearest BTS station (Chit Lom), which is one stop away from Siam Central Station. The property is also within 6 mins walk from the famous 4-face buddha shrine – Erawan Shrine. It is within walking distance to major shopping malls such as Central World, Siam Paragon, Siam Square,  Central Embassy. The Platinum shopping mall is within 15 minutes walk from the hotel. There are no lack of 24-hour convenient shops (7-Eleven) near the property. There is one just right opposite to the hotel and one more nearer to the main street.

The Suite

There are 3 configurations of rooms available in this property, namely studio suite, one-bedroom suite and two-bedroom suite. I was informed that the two-bedroom suite is leased out for long term guests leaving studio suite and one-bedroom suite available for short terms stays. The suite that I stayed in is the one-bedroom apartment suite. The suite can be segregated into 4 main sections, namely the kitchenette, the living room, the bedroom and the bathroom.

Kitchenette

The kitchenette is situation to the left side of the suite upon entering from the main door. This small kitchenette features a mid-size 2 compartment fridge, an electric stove and microwave ovens. There are also kitchen sink installed here in the suite. The suite comes with full range of utensils, allowing patrons to host up to 4 guests. There are also pots and pans available in the suite for guests to do some cooking. A front loader washing machine is found in this part of the suite. A clever use of a bar stand separates the kitchenette from the living room. The kitchenette, despite its small size, is sufficient for one to do some cooking. 2 to 3 persons can work comfortably in the kitchenette without bumping into each other.
Kitchenette in the Suite

Living Room

Directly ahead of the kitchenette, in front of the main door is the living room. The contemporary and comfortable living room is the largest area in the suite. This area can be further segmented into 3 sections. Directly in front of the kitchenette is the dinning table. The table is tucked in one corner of the living room, making clever usage of space within the suite. The table is large enough to seat 4. Next to the dinning area is the work desk. The window facing work desk is not intrusive and the way the hotel lays out the work desk makes it functional, yet not cluttering the space with unnecessary furniture. The work desk has a separate lighting and wired connections for internet. The hotel also provides free wifi throughout the hotel. The other segment of the living room is the couch area. The two-seater couch faces a large LED TV. There is also a single seater armchair and a large cushioned stool in this area of the room. There is also a coffee table in the centre of the seating in the living area, decked out with in-house magazines and some other business magazines. To add to a sense of spaciousness, the designers of the hotel made use of the floor to ceiling window in the living room. The view from the suite that we were being assigned is not fantastic, as it faces another apartment building next to the hotel.

 

The dinning area and the work desk
TV in the living room, facing the dinning area and work desk
Cosy Couches for one to laze on

Bedroom

Further into the suite, to the right of main door is the entrance to the bedroom. Separated from the living room with a door, the contemporary bedroom screams of comfort and cosiness. It is of a right size, neither too big nor too small. The bedroom features a king size bed, placed in front of another floor to ceiling window. I kept the curtain here closed most of the time as I can see directly into someone else’s apartment opposite. The sleep quality on the king bed is excellent. One can almost immediately fall asleep on this bed, which is neither too soft nor too hard. The pillows are also just right for my liking. Next to the entrance of the bedroom is a 2 paneled wardrobe. The wardrobe is rather huge as it occupied almost the entire length of the bedroom. The huge wardrobe allows guests to comfortably stow away 2 weeks of clothing for 2 persons. An in-room electronic safe is also tucked away within the wardrobe. There are also a couple of bedside tables being placed on each side of the bed. There is another smaller TV, tucked away to the side of the  bedroom, in the same area  as the make up area. The make up area is located next to the wardrobe and has a separate lighting.

 

Comfortable King Bed
View of the bedroom and the doors leading to the living room and bathroom
Make up area and another small TV in room

Bathroom

The bathroom spans across the bedroom and the living room. Accessible from either of the rooms, the spacious bathroom decked in marble flooring and table tops has a rather large bathtub tucked in one corner of this area. There is a separate walk-in shower located at the other (living room) end of the bathroom. A sink and the toilet bowl is located between the bathtub and the walk-in shower. The hotel provides the standard range of toiletries with the exception of toothbrush and toothpaste. Patrons staying in this hotel are reminded to bring their own dental kits. There are also a couple of racks found on the walls of this room for patrons to hang their wet towels. This is a plus as most hotels lacked area for one to hang towels for drying.

 

Bath tub and sink area in the bathroom
Toilet Bowl and Walk-in Shower
Bath amenities

The Lounge

Guests in the hotel are entitled to free access to the lounge. Located on 15th floor of the property, the spacious Executive lounge is a great place for guests to hang out. Decking out in white theme and wooden flooring, the lounge has several couches for relaxation. There are also business magazines and daily newspapers for guests to browse through whilst at the lounge. There are an assortment of complementary pastries available all day for guests to enjoy, however only coffee, tea and plain water is available for guests. Smoking is allowed in the lounge within its enclosed smoking room. The view from the lounge is much better than that from the suite I was assigned to. Other facilities such as outdoor jacuzzi, swimming pool and gym are also available on the property. However due to my short time stay, I did not visit these facilities.

 

Finger food on offer at the Executive Lounge
Executive lounge decked in White and wooden flooring
Magazines and the reception area in the Lounge
Nice view from the lounge
Smoking room in the lounge

Service

The staffs in the hotel are generally very helpful. There are always a warmth welcoming smile whenever I approach them at the lobby. They are not stingy in offering information on the whereabouts in Bangkok should they be approached. There are also no lack in greetings whenever a guest walk past. These ambassadors of the hotel are very welcoming, truly embracing customer service and the friendliness of the Thais. The same is said of the bellboy. They are always alert whenever guests approaches the main door of the hotel. They would leave no guests having to open the main door themselves. There are no instances where greetings are not being accorded to by these staffs at the main door whenever I walk through these doors.
The same, however, cannot be said of the staffs at the No. 43 Italian Bistro. This is the place where one would have their breakfast daily. The staffs here are a little cold and getting a smile from them seemed to be an uphill task. It seemed to suggest that they are only interested in their function, to clear the plates and ensure the food is being topped up. Despite that, food is rarely being topped up during breakfast service. These staffs seemed to be hiding away from the sight of patrons most of the time, which leaves plates uncleared and food not topped up. There egg station do not seemed to be staffed at all times, and one would be expected to wait up to 10 minutes for anyone to appear at the egg station.
No. 43 Bistro where breakfast is being served
Breakfast
Breakfast
Breakfast
Breakfast
Breakfast
Breakfast
Breakfast

Overall

The hotel is an ideal location for one to be at whilst in Bangkok. Its close proximity to the shopping malls in downtown Bangkok as well as amenities such as the BTS station and 7-Elevens makes it a great place to stay whilst in Bangkok. The well appointed suite that I was assigned, apart from the depressing view, is very cosy and comfortable to stay. The air conditioning of the suite is efficient and powerful enough to cool down guests from the heat of Bangkok. Service wise is a mix comparing to the staffs in the restaurant and the rest of the front line staff. I would not hesitate to stay here, given the price and the location and the size of the suite, the next time I visit Bangkok.

Bangkok Day 4 (9 Nov 14) – Last Day Shopping in Downtown Bangkok

Today is the last of our 4-day stay in Bangkok. After a night of packing, we all slept at around 3am. One of our friends took the second flight out of Bangkok back home. After she had left, we lazed around till around noon. As our flight is late in the evening, we still have some time to kill before heading for the airport. We decided to hang around the area, not too far from our hotel so that we would have sufficient time to make it for checking in at the airport. Our first stop today is to the 4-faced Buddha at Erawan Shrine. One of my friends want to pay his respects before heading back home. The shrine is crowded by the time we arrived at the shrine. Little did we realised that today is the birthday of the 4-faced Buddha. Other than well-wishers, there is also a group of locals performing local dance and human totem for devotees to express there gratitude for the Buddha. One can hire lion dancers or the staffs for some acrobatic stunt (limited to 4 humans stacking on top of each other’s shoulders). There was a long queue for people who wished to hire dancers to dance for the Buddha. Despite the heat, these dancers, cladded in traditional Thai costumes, went on dancing for hours.  We spent around 2 hours here (mainly due to the waiting for the dance) before heading towards Siam Square.
Grabbing a Starbucks on our way to Erawan Shrine
Crowded at Erawan Shrine
Cheeky post
The 4-faced Buddha
A very crowded Erawan Shrine
Human totem at Erawan Shrine
Devotees praying the 4-face Buddha at Erawan Shrine
Taking a wefie at the shrine
Downtown Bangkok Skyline from Erawan Shrine
The crowd just keeps coming
BTS railway
Waiting for our turn to offer our prayers
Human Totem at Erawan Shrine
Lion Dancing at the Shrine
Lion Dancing at the Shrine
Lion Dancing at the Shrine
My friend with the Dancers at Erawan Shrine
My friend offering his prayers at the shrine
While at Siam Square, we decided to dine at the Hello Kitty restaurant to see what the hype is all about. We read that dinning at this restaurant entails one to queue up for hours on weekends. We did not wait for long for our turn in the restaurant. I would say the food there is so-so. They are not that fantastic and all the hype soon turned into another let down in the food. We ordered some cakes and Phad Thai here. I would say the Phad Thai is actually very nice. Wrapped in rice skin (like those of Vietnamese Spring rolls), the bite-size Phad Thai is ideal for sharing amongst a group of friends. We also ordered some pastries, which turns out to be very sweet. After food, we walked around Siam Square. There is a weekend bazaar at Siam Square (on top of the regular shops), where one can find some really good bargains.
Waiting outside the Hello Kitty House
Waiting outside the Hello Kitty House
Waiting outside the Hello Kitty House
Waiting outside the Hello Kitty House
Ordering food inside the cafe
Hello Kitty house is packed
Chatting while eating
We cleaned up one plate of Phad Thai
Wefie inside Hello Kitty House
Phad Thai
Our drinks
Pastries
Hello Kitty House Cafe
Shopping around Siam Square
Siam Square
Shopping around Siam Square
Shopping around Siam Square
Shopping around Siam Square
Bazaar at Siam Square
Shopping around Siam Square
Time passes so quickly when one is enjoying, we have missed our time to get to the airport. We hurried ourselves back to the hotel and collected our luggage and headed to the airport. As a rule, one would have to cater at least 1.5 hours for the trip to the airport, catering sufficient time for the traffic jam. As we were cutting a little too fine for our checking in, I decided to check in online whist on our way to the airport, which would give us sufficient time for boarding. We made it to the airport and line queue for online check in (luggage drop off) is significantly shorter than the usual queues. We were glad that we did the online check in. As there are some time to kill before our flight. My friends and I roamed around the airport terminal before heading to the gate for boarding.
At the immigration area in Bangkok Airport
At the immigration area in Bangkok Airport
At the immigration area in Bangkok Airport
At the immigration area in Bangkok Airport
Reflecting on this trip, though Bangkok is not an unfamiliar place and I have actually blogged about it before, this trip is unique as I have experienced some things for the first time. It was my first time celebrating Loy Krathong in Bangkok, my first time squeezing into the BTS like packed sardines, my first time shopping in Chatuchak market and my first time visiting Erawan Shrine during the birthday of the 4-faced Buddha. This goes to show that although one may have been to a place umpteen times, every trip can be different if planned properly. We have enjoyed our trip this time round as there are several firsts even for some of my friends who have been to Bangkok before.

Bangkok Day 3 (8 Nov 14) – Chatuchuk: The Weekend Market Shopping

This is the day I finally get to visit Chatuchak Market. The plan to include a visit to this market was hatched as this is the first time one of my friends visited Bangkok. As for me, despite having been to Bangkok for around 10 times, all along I have never been to Chatuchak Market. The outdoor market, spanning 27 acres, is only opened on weekends. As such, weekend visits to the Chatuchak Market becomes one of the past time of visitors and locals alike. To get to the Market, we took the MRT to Kamphaeng Phet station. The naming of the MRT station can be confusing for first time visitors to Chatuchak Market. There is another station by the name of Chatuchak Park which is one station before Kamphaeng Phet station and that is not the station to alight for Chatuchak Market. Once at Kamphaeng Phet market, there are no lack of signs to point visitors to the weekend market. The station exit, where we came out from, is right smack next to the entrance of Chatuchak Market.

Having Breakfast at the hotel before we head for Chatuchuk Market
Taking the MRT to Chatuchuk Market
Discussing what to shop at Chatuchuk Market
Taking the MRT to Chatuchuk Market
The MRT station that is right smack at Chatuchuk Market

When we emerged from the station, my friends, like kids in a candy store, were immediately excited by the numerous shopping to quench their thirst for shopping. There are approximately 15000 booths selling goods from all over Thailand at a near cost price. Despite that, one should never give up on bargaining when shopping, especially here in Chatuchak. We walked along the main streets, stopping by at the booth that sells what we wanted throughout our stay here. One tip when shopping at Chatuchak market – one would rarely need to compare prices around as the price quoted by the vendors are usually around the same. When one sees the stuff that one likes, one can approach the vendor to reach a price that is win-win for both the buyer and the seller. There are indeed something for everyone here in Chatuchak market. The market offers things from clothing to pots and pans to massages services to footwear to essential oils. There are even banks in the market that offers forex services for foreigners who did not bring sufficient cash with them while shopping here. There is also a section where one can find pet food and pet clothing. As I speak Thai, my friends relied on me to bargain for them. One can be expected to spend at least one full day here at Chatuchak Market mainly shopping. Shopping in Chatuchak Market will also mean shoppers will never go hungry as there are stalls popped up all over the market selling food. Shoppers also shouldn’t miss out on some of the booths in the sheltered area of the market. Despite the price variation being minimal amongst the shops here, these shops in more isolated areas of the market is where one will be able to drive the price lower by bargaining. There is this shop in one of the isolated area, where my friend wanted to buy a couple of shorts for her causal wear. We drove such a hard bargain that the shopkeeper was able to match our price. At the end of the bargaining session, the shopkeeper naughtily joked that we made his life difficult. He even gave us a hug before we left his premises. Smokers beware!! There has been a smoking ban in the market in place since 2008, which carries a 2000 baht fine if caught.

Along the streets of Chatuchuk Market
One of the sections in Chatuchuk Market
Chatuchuk Market
The crowd is starting to gather at Chatuchuk Market
Taking wefie in Chatuchuk Market
Taking photo with one of the mascots in the market 
Taking photo with one of the mascots in the market
Wefie in Chatuchuk Market
My friend spotting a pair of shades in Chatuchuk Market
My friend with her new shades in Chatuchuk Market
Street food in Chatuchuk Market
More street food in Chatuchuk Market
Time for a drink
Counting change for drink in Chatuchuk Market
Street food in Chatuchuk Market
Thai style fried carrot cake in Chatuchuk Market
Shopping in Chatuchuk Market
Chatuchuk Market
Chatuchuk Market
Shopping in Chatuchuk Market
Taking wefie in Chatuchuk Market
My friends wandering where to go in Chatuchuk Market
Shopping for shorts in Chatuchuk Market

After spending the whole day at the market (we stayed till most of the shops are closing), my friends still couldn’t get their shopping bugs fixed. We headed towards MahBoonKrong centre (or affectionately known as MBK for locals and visitors alike) to get some souvenirs and more shopping!! There is a shop in MBK, that is known by most Singaporeans, where one can get relatively cheaper local snacks at Level 4. MBK is a place that I would not visit these days (if not for the local snacks that I wanted to bring home for my friends and colleagues). Generally the goods are a little pricer that what one can find compared to Chatuchak market or Patpong night market. Nonetheless, MBK remains a “must go” mall for visitors as it offers a one-stop shopping. The crowd at MBK did not seem to thin throughout the years. MBK seemed not to have reduced its popularity even when the new malls sprung up in downtown Bangkok. We had our dinner at Sumo restaurant, that serves Thai and Japanese food. The food is a let down and is rather pricey as compared to other restaurants with the quality of the food. The food is rather blend and lacks the spiciness and sourness which made Thai food famous (despite us ordering thai food). After dinner, we walked around Siam Square a little, which is right opposite of MBK centre. One of my friend saw a nail art saloon and went to get her nails painted. While the rest of us roamed around Siam Square, stopping by for an A&W root beer float. Originally we had a massage appointment at 10pm, however by the time my friend got her nails done, it was already past 11pm. As this is our last night here, my friends wanted to get a good Thai massage before heading back. The only place that has Thai massage near midnight would be Patpong. The massages parlours in Patpong usually closes at around midnight to 1am. Hence should one still wants to enjoy Thai massage late at night, one can try one’s luck at Patpong area. After massage, we headed back to the hotel to pack and rest for the night, getting ready to depart Bangkok the next day.

Dinner at Sumo restaurant in MBK Centre 
Tom Yam Chicken soup
Thai Fish cakes
Pandan Chicken
Phad Thai
Pineapple fried rice
Root beer and Root beer float!!

Bangkok Day 2 (7 Nov 14) – A Wet Wet Day in the Land of Smiles

No visits to Bangkok is complete without visiting some of their temples. Thailand is largely a Buddhist country and the Thai temples are vibrantly decorated with bright red, yellow and gold themes. Mirrors are also used to brighten the facade of the temples There are a few iconic temples that we should not miss while in Bangkok. Wat Arun (the Temple of the Dawn), Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha) and Wat Phrakaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha) situated in the grounds of the Grand Palace are such icons that visitors should not give them a miss. We planned to visit two of such temples – Wat Pho and Wat Phrakaew as well as less famous Wat Saket (Temple of the Golden Mount). Our route for the day includes traveling by the BTS, by water and by land.

I love traveling on the BTS in Bangkok. Not only it is inexpensive, it is also the fastest way to move around the city, given its reputation for its all-day traffic jams. One is also able to avoid being ripped off by the cab drivers (well to be fair not all of them does that). Our first stop of the day is to visit Wat Pho. Getting to Wat Pho on the public transport include a trip on the BTS and transfer to the ferry on Chao Phraya River. A trip to Wat Pho would cost 20 Baht on the public ferry, the one that we mistakenly took costs 4 times that price. Little did I realise we were actually on the ferry meant for the tourists. The ticketing counter at the ferry stop is a tad misleading. They only sell tickets for the tourist ferry. A point to note, to get onboard the commuter ferry, one would have to purchase the tickets onboard and not at the counter. So skip the counter totally and ask the locals where to get a ferry towards Wat Pho. The journey upstream towards Wat Pho took around 20 mins, along the way, one is able to see how the locals used Chao Phraya River as a means for their daily livelihood. Several big chain hotels popped up along the river as on the higher floors, the hotel do offer a fantastic and almost zen like feel over the river. It is not hard for one to realise that one had arrived at the stop for Wat Pho. The iconic Wat Arun, a temple with a single building structure surrounded by 4 towers, is right across the river.

Wefie before boarding the BTS
Riding on the BTS 
Taking the river ferry towards Wat Pho
Scenes along Chao Phraya River
Scenes along Chao Phraya River
Leaving the pier
My friends on the river cruise
Posing on Chao Phraya River
Scenes along Chao Phraya River
Scenes along Chao Phraya River
Scenes along Chao Phraya River
Scenes along Chao Phraya River
Ferry drop off points
Scenes along Chao Phraya River
Wat Arun on opposite bank
Wat Arun
The pier we alighted the ferry

We alighted the ferry and made our way to Wat Pho. The walk from the ferry stop to the temple is just mere minutes. In the event that one is not too sure where to head towards after alighting the ferry, just follow the crowd of visitors as most of them are generally heading towards the same place. The entrance to Wat Pho is nothing grand nor it is glamourous. Behind the plain looking structure and temple walls, the temple ground opens up to a vastness of space and tranquility. While the scene outside the wall is one of bustling and full of life, the scene within the wall is one of peacefulness. We headed for the main temple, which houses the gigantic Reclining Buddha. The Buddha measuring a good 15m in height and 46m in length reclines in a “Lion Sleep”position. Female visitors in shorts and sleeves are required to don on a robe (available at the entrance to the Reclining Buddha building) as a mark of respect. The hordes of visitors did not seem to thin at the time of our visit. It is hard to get a shot of the Buddha without the other tourists in the background. Visitors come to this temple to marvel at the grandness of the largest Reclining Buddha statue, and in fact the largest Buddha statue in the whole of Thailand. The Buddha Statue is covered in gold plating and decorated with mother-of-pearl inlay on his eyes and the soles of his feet. There are a total of 108 auspicious symbols carved on the soles of the buddha statue. These 108 symbols are believed to have its origins from the ancient sculpture of Sri Lanka, spotted by the Brahmins on the soles of Prince Siddhartha (the man whom became buddha) 5 days he was born according to legend.

Entrance of Wat Pho
Inside the temple
The reclining Buddha
Peaceful and solemn Buddha
Reclining Buddha in Wat Pho
Reclining Buddha in Wat Pho
108 auspicious symbols laden with Mother of Pearl on the Buddha’s soles
Me in Wat Pho

One of the must-dos in this temple is the dropping of coins into the 108 bronze bowls. It is believed that it will bring good fortune for those who does that. There is a small counter for one to exchange their bills into small coins to be dropped along the length inside the temple. The dropping of coins is, after all voluntarily. I urged my friends to do so as it not only brings good karma, the sound created by dropping coins into these bronze bowls are rather therapeutic. My friends had a great time doing so anyways. After touring the Reclining Buddha, I brought my friends around the temple grounds to see the other parts of the temple, where most of the visitors would give it a miss. There is a place where one will spot about 400 Buddha statues, mostly in seated positions. Some of the statues are decked out in shiny gold paint, while others are more bronze looking. There is also another side temple where one can offer one’s prayers to the Buddha further into the temple grounds.

Surroundings of Wat Pho
Very colour and vivid architecture in the Thai Temples
300 Buddha Statues
300 Buddha Statues
Chinese elements in Wat Pho
My friends posing under the pagodas in Wat Pho
Shiny gold plated Buddha Statue
My friend posing with the statues
My friend posing with the statues
This is where we offered our prayers to the Buddha in Wat Pho
Getting our offerings for prayers
Offering our prayers to the Buddha in Wat Pho
Offering our prayers to the Buddha in Wat Pho
Serenity in Wat Pho
Around Wat Pho

Our next stop is the Grand Palace and Wat Phrakaew. One can make way there on foot from Wat Pho, which takes about 15 mins. The Grand Palace closes at 3pm, hence one would have to get there by 3pm to get the tickets into the Palace. When we reached the Palace grounds, we were rather put off by the crowds at the Palace entrance. The swarms of crowd, plus the humid weather are the deciding factor for us to give the Grand Palace a miss and headed for our next stop, Wat Saket.

Wat Saket is not far from the Grand Palace. The cab ride took us 10 mins to reach the temple. Half way through the cab ride, it started to pour cats and dogs. We were hoping that the rain would cease by the time we reach the base of the temple. However no such luck. The sky did not seem to be giving way to sunny weather. The cab dropped us at the front gate of Wat Saket. Wat Saket or Golden Mount Temple is situated on tope of a small hill. There was a small scale bazaar at the base of the temple, selling mostly food stuffs and clothing. My friends and I browsed through the bazaar (as there are canvas that offered us shelter from the rain) and headed towards the stairways that would lead us up to the temple. We climbed the 300 steps that led us to the temple for shelter from the rain. When we reached the temple, we saw numerous visitors hiding inside the temple for shelter. Most of us were waiting for the rain to stop before continuing our itinerary. As we were waiting, I brought my friends around the temple. My main focus of bringing them here is for the view. From the temple, one can look out into parts of Bangkok. As there are no high-rise buildings around the temple, we can look as far as downtown Bangkok and Thakksin Bridge from the temple. It is rather therapeutic to look out and enjoy the breeze on a sunny day at the temple. As we were walking around, we spotted a small staircase that seemed to lead upwards. As it was still raining, one other visitor told us the door up there was closed. We must have waiting for another hour or so, the rain finally gave into the sunny skies. As we were heading towards the staircase that would bring us down to the base of the temple, we walked past that inconspicuous staircase again. This time we saw people heading up the staircase and we followed suit. Little did we realise that narrow wooden staircase brought us to the roof top of the temple. I have been to Wat Saket a few times and this is the first time I came up here. From the roof top, the views into downtown Bangkok is event more stunting!! There are a few Buddha statues up at the roof top, surrounding the golden dome that distinct Wat Saket from most other temples in Bangkok. We stayed up at the roof for another 10 mins or so before heading down towards our next destination.

Start of the 300 steps ascent to Wat Saket
My friends waiting to get up to Wat Saket
My friend in Wat Saket
View from Wat Saket
We were all drenched
View from Wat Saket
Dome of Wat Saket on the roof level
Panoramic view from Wat Saket
Buddha statues on the roof of the temple
View from Wat Saket from the roof
Flooded bazaar at the base of Wat Saket
Having fun walking in the water

I am rather excited to bring my friends on the canal ferry, that most Bangkokers utilises to beat the horrid traffic jams in Bangkok. The fare onboard the ferry to central Bangkok did not cost much. The ferry ply through the canal at the back of Bangkok dwellers. For those who pay a lot of attention to hygiene, this mode of transport is perhaps not suitable for you. The foul smell (well it is still bearable to us) will probably turn one off. Nonetheless, my friends had a great time taking this form of transport, as this is the first time they ply through the canals of Bangkok on a ferry. We alighted at the Pratunam pier, which happens to be the interchange pier for this mode of transport. As we were walking out towards the main road, my friends immediately recognise Pratunam Mall, and this marks the beginning of our shopping trip in this area.

Taking the ferry towards Pratunam
The pier where we boarded the ferry
Onboard the ferry towards Pratunam
Onboard the ferry towards Pratunam
And we are leaving
Scenes along the canal
Someone’s backyard
Scenes along the canal

 

We were dry by the time we reached Pratunam

Pratunam Mall is the largest clothing mall in Bangkok. There are over 1000 stores here selling clothes here. There is bound to be something for everyone here. As the time we arrived was near closing time. My shopaholic friends had no choice but to browse through the shops and be very targeted at what they want to buy. For shopaholics, one can spend up to 1 full day here by just walking around once. My friends, who have been here previously, was commenting that the trick to shop at Pratunam is to buy the clothing when you see the one you like. It is like a maze inside here and don’t even hope that you will remember where the shop you last see the stuff you want. Moreover, the price seemed to be standardised from shop to shop, no point comparing prices. True enough, the mall (selling mostly clothes for ladies, out of the 7 storey building, only half of one storey is for guys!) is like a maze. I saw people practically dragging their luggage around the mall seemed like they are here for retail therapy. We stayed here till the malls are closed before heading back to our hotel to rest for the night. This is my first time to Pratunam area, and little did I realise it is actually located within walking distance from our hotel.

Shopping mall opposite the ferry pier in Pratunam