Bangkok is a bustling city, as the largest one in Thailand it is not only full of people, traffic and temples, it is also full of attitude, scams and pollution. For us Bangkok was the low point of our 5 week journey through Thailand. If I was to plan our trip over again I would spend one to two days in Bangkok, see two places and then see the rest of the country.
Here is what we saw.
Wat Pho. This incredible temple and monastery was definitely our highlight in Bangkok. There are many temples each one with their own Buddha, and each one worth seeing and taking the time to pray or make an offering. Of course while you are there you have to see the reclining Buddha who is 138 feet (46 meters) long. He is absolutely remarkable. It gets really crowded in the temple so you can’t spend much time there but make sure to check out the design on his feet, and to spend 20 thb to make offerings in the bowls along one wall. This is done in lieu of food offerings. For me this was an amazing moment as I said small prayers along the way.
There are several hallways filled with large statues of Buddha, all gold, which are worth seeing as well. Enjoy the water features and lotus gardens in the pots are you walk through the complex. This is still a functioning monastery so you will see many monks coming and going which is pretty incredible. As one of the largest temple complexes in Bangkok make sure you allow yourself enough time to not only tour the area but sit on a shaded bench and enjoy the architecture.
Definitely get there early in the morning before all of the tour groups do so you can enjoy the reclining Buddha. If you are visiting the Grand Palace they are located right next to each other so make sure to take the time to visit Wat Pho.
Grand Palace. While there are certainly beautiful buildings here it was a very big disappointment. The jade Buddha is so small and far away you can barely see it after you fight the people, tour groups and lines to get in. Even though we went early in the morning there were so many people that moving around was hard, and appreciating the architecture was almost impossible. The rest of Thailand offers architecture, Buddhas and surroundings that are much better and more easily enjoyed. Definitely be careful here of the men outside who act like they are helping and offering to get you tuk-tuks for a low price, they are a part of a huge scam where they take complete advantage of tourists.
Temple of Dawn. Wat Arun This beautiful Wat was definitely worth the trip over the Chao Phraya River. The temples are constructed using Chinese porcelain pieces, much different than the rest of the temples we had seen in Thailand. It is an architectural symbol of Mount Meru, the center of the world in Buddhist cosmology. There are four corner prangs at Wat Arun which each have the guardian of the gods. These are quite impressive and again decorated in porcelain pieces. The center spire stands majestically at 210 feet (70 meters) high. The walls of the ordination hall are beautifully decorated with Buddhist paintings. We were not able to climb to the top since it is under repair, but given the height I was glad to have an excuse to not climb. It was very cheap to get to, about 3 thb to cross and 50 thb to tour. As one of the most impressive and unique Wats in Thailand it is not to be missed!
I was really shocked by the horrible air conditions in Bangkok. When we traveled downtown I found it almost impossible to breathe and had an almost immediate headache. It is quite dirty all over Bangkok, with overly crowded markets, and much less friendly people than we experienced anywhere else in Thailand. It is obvious that tourism has taken much away from the locals in Bangkok which was not great to see, I felt guilty for being part of the loss of their culture, clean air and traditions. While there are other things to do in Bangkok we felt like the rest of the country had much more to offer and really regretted that we scheduled 3 days in Bangkok.