Monday, May 29, 2017

Bangkok, Thailand

    It's been a while! My family has been caught up with all of our "last month at post" to-do lists and I haven't had time to write. I'll catch up on all of that later this week though because right now I want to focus on the amazing trip to Thailand we were able to squeeze in over spring break. Sometimes you just have to take off and travel. It always energizes Dan and me. We love it. Thailand definitely did not disappoint. The only sad thing about the trip was our lack of time to visit Chang Mai and see an elephant preserve there. We also opted to spend the last day of our trip at an aquarium instead of traveling to Ayutthaya to see temple ruins, but I'll talk more about that in a minute.

I guess I'll just post a rough itinerary of what we did in Bangkok and then get straight to my pictures. I have to say, right off the bat, that if you like to take pretty pictures, Bangkok is the place for you. It was incredibly beautiful.  I clicked away like there was no tomorrow.

    We arrived in the evening on Thai Air and headed straight to our hotel (The Royal Princess Lan Luang) late in the evening. We weren't sure we liked our hotel at first. The location wasn't ideal, but the price was good. In the end, we were really happy we stayed there. They had a great complimentary breakfast and a number of different restaurants to choose from (a bit pricy) right in the building. But my favorite thing about our hotel was a small, local buddist temple we discovered just up the street. We noticed it from our balcony and made time to walk over the day before we left and it was so special. Very different from all the fancy, touristy locations there were to see. (Though lets be honest, those were pretty spectacular too.) Also, we had the good luck of being in Bangkok over Thai New Year and witnessed the COOLEST New Years tradition I have ever seen. Everyone hit the streets with buckets of water and water guns and held spontaneous city-wide water fights. No joke, if you walk around outside on New Years Day in Bangkok, you'd better be prepared to get soaked. (Pics of that coming!) It was really fun.

    So, for our fist day, we spent time getting acclimated and searching for long pants for everyone. We failed to bring our own and the main temple we wanted to see (The Grand Palace) required all visitors to wear pants and shirts with sleeves.  You'd think a simple things like finding pants would be easy right? Yeah, not so much. Bangkok's climate is hotter than Manila's so pants were not easy to find. We went to the huge MBK mall and spent hours looking through booths and shops before finally finding what we needed. It was a lot of fun though. I found the most comfortable pair of pants in the world. I wish I could wear them outside everyday and I would if they weren't covered in purple elephants and shaped like something from a circus. The kids and I spent the afternoon at our hotel recovering and swimming while Dan took the scariest motorcycle ride of his life to visit a tailor he'd heard good things about and was fitted for a suit. I think he had a bad run-in with a taxi driver too. In our five days there we had at least three taxi drivers try to cheat us. It was almost funny. Just make sure they use the meters. They will try to cover them up and charge you a lot more, or they will take you to the places they recommend instead of where you want to go. It's all about commissions for many of them.

    On our second day we arranged a tour through our hotel to see the floating markets, elephants and a fun place called Tiger World. (Owen's favorite!) The floating markets were packed with people and though it was very commercial, it was spectacular and unique and I would do again in a heart beat. It was such a fun experience to sit in a long skinny boat and go up down rivers packed with vendors. If we saw something we liked, our boat driver would pull over and give us time to make our purchases. There were many food vendors paddling around as we shopped. Some advise I'd give if you ever go is to be prepared to spend a little money there, and to have your driver stop at places you aren't interested in. I am sure they also get a commission or something for taking you to certain shops. We got very good at smiling and saying "No, thank you!"
      After the Floating Markets we went to see elephants at 'Elephant Farm' and I would not recommend it at all. We didn't stay long and I don't have pictures to post. The elephants there were chained and they used pokers. Next time we will go to an actual sanctuary. My advise about seeing elephants? Do your own research. I told our tour guide we wanted a humane place and he said it was, but I guess the word "humane" is interpreted differently to some people. That's about all I'll say about that.
     Tiger World was incredible. The facilities were large and clean and the animals looked to be really well taken care of. Being up close with the tigers was so cool (and terrifying!). My younger kids were only allowed to go in with the baby tigers, while my oldest son, husband and I were able to get close to a "Medium" one. The large tigers were off limits, lol.

    On day three we donned our new "fancy pants" and took a lovely river-tour that dropped us near the Grand Palace. It was so incredibly hot and crowded, but the colors and architecture were breath-taking. It was hard to get a picture that wasn't photobombed by someone (part of the charm), and we did have to deal with people shamelessly cutting in line at the drinking fountains (More charm, right?), but really, I'm so glad we made it. You can't see Bangkok without seeing the Grand Palace.
After the Grand Palace (and a quick stop at a conveniently located Baskin Robins just outside the palace gates) our entire family crammed into one Tuk-Tuk and traveled a short distance to the beautiful Wat Pho temple. It was less crowded than the Grand Palace, but still had plenty of visitors. Wat Pho is the residence of the large reclining Buddha. He was huge and being renovated while we were there.
We ended day three with another dip in our hotel pool and some food from the hotel's Japanese restaurant.

For our last full day (as I mentioned before) my husband and I debated whether to travel an hour to the temple ruins in Ayutthaya, or to stay in the city and visit an aquarium. Our hotel was happy to arrange a tour, but we felt like our kids were a bit templed-out, and it was very hot, so in the end we opted for the enormous, some-what pricy, air-conditioned aquarium located in the bottom of the Siam Paragon Mall in downtown Bangkok. Apparently its the largest aquarium in south-east Asia and it did not disappoint. Sorry, ruined temples, we will have to see you another time! After the aquarium we made our way to the quaint, local temple I mentioned before and on the way home found ourselves caught-up in the middle of a water fight. Our kids were apprehensive at first, but it didn't take long for them to get into the New Year spirit.

That was about it. Bangkok was an incredible experience. The Thai people are friendly, fun, and full of pride for their culture. I loved hearing the nasally language and music, and all of the color and beauty of the Buddhist temples was something I will never forget. Here are some of our favorite pics from our trip!

Floating Market:

Tiger World:

The Grand Palace:

Wat Pho:

River Tour:

Bangkok Ocean World:

Local Temple:

New Year's Water Fight:

A Lightening View From Our Balcony

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