Our first afternoon in Bangkok was spent relaxing in the hotel and walking the neighborhood. Dinner in the hotel was wonderful and later in the evening we watched a few episodes of the old TV series M.A.S.H. Both kids enjoy watching Hawkeye and it gives Bill and me some quiet time. We were all tired from the 2 long train trips, and planned to start sightseeing the next day. Our first tourist attraction would be The Grand Palace.
A travel agent from Sweden was in the reception office of the hotel when we checked in. She spoke English very well. She chatted with Bill and provided some great tips for both Bangkok and Chaing Mai. One tip was to use the boats instead of taxis to get around Bangkok. Thewet Boat Stop #15 is about 4 blocks from our hotel and could take us right to The Grand Palace. That was our plan.
Unfortunately, good plans often go awry. Heavy weather moved in during the night. It lightninged and thundered loudly for hours and the rain sounded like rivers flowing down from the sky. At dawn it was still raining and looked like it would continue all day. This would require a change of plans. We were not going to go down the river and tour those large palace grounds in the pouring rain. A good alternate for a rainy day would be the Museum of Siam. This museum was built in 2008 and has many interactive exhibits geared for children aged 10 and above. The focus is on the anthropological history of Thailand, with minor focus on the political history. We grabbed the umbrella and hailed a taxi......with the name of the museum written in Thai to use to tell him where to take us. The hotel clerk had written 2 words in Thai. The taxi driver pointed to each word and said "here? or here?"
Uh-oh. The only thing that was supposed to be on that paper was the name of the museum. Bill pointed to the second word written in Thai and said "here." So off the taxi went.
We arrived at a very large brightly colored temple complex with all words written in Thai. This did not seem like the museum we had read about online, but maybe the museum was spread out between these buildings. We bought tickets and entered.......only to find that this was indeed some kind of large temple complex. Of course no one spoke English. Well, okay; we will visit a temple instead of the Museum of Siam.
There were golden Buddha statues all over the place. Every building was filled with them; and there were a lot of buildings in this complex. When walking out of one of the largest buildings near the center I overheard a female guide speaking English and quickly asked her if this complex was the Museum of Siam. She explained that we were in the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. There was a long Thai name for this temple complex, of course; but that was the English translation. She said the Museum of Siam was down the road a few blocks. So off we went.
When we got near the Museum of Siam a tuk-tuk driver told us that the museum was closed to tourists today until 1:00 p.m. It was only 11 a.m. and he would take us around the city in his tuk-tuk for 2 hours for 40 baht. We said that all 4 of us could not ride in a single tuk-tuk, so he arranged with another driver to accompany him for the same price -- only 20 baht each for 2 hours. That is about 66 cents each for 2 hours work. How could we turn that down? There was a reason it was so cheap. They would take us to places that give the tuk-tuk drivers tokens for gasoline for bringing tourists to shop in their establishments. What did we care about that? We just wanted to waste a couple of hours. Both kids loved riding in the tuk-tuks. (Bill gave them 50 baht each at the end of our rides since we didn't buy anything at any of the shops where they would have received a kickback. We know how this game works.) I had figured that the tuk-tuk drivers had lied about the museum being closed to the public until afternoon, but we did see a bunch of army soldiers leaving the museum as we arrived in the early afternoon.
The first stop was a brand-new Buddhist temple. In fact, construction was not yet quite complete. This was a very modern temple with several levels and very stark architectural design. Very unusual temple.
Then we visited the Temple of the Lucky Buddha. I think that little Buddha statue was lucky because he had a fan inside his room. It was so humid and hot. The rain had almost stopped altogether and the city steamed.
Next stop was an export jewelry shop. They had a pair of ruby earrings that Bill thought I should have. They were very pretty, but I thought I could live without another pair of earrings. What do I need jewelry for given our current lifestyle? All my jewelry is back in a safe in Houston since we will be going through Somali pirate waters next year. Why buy more now!
Since we did not buy any jewelry at the first shop, the tuk-tuk drivers next took us to a larger jewelry shop. Elisabeth bought herself a necklace with a small elephant pendant. Zachary bought his parents a gift (I won't spoil his surprise by tell what it is -- but it is not jewelry). Then we visited a Thai silk shop where the salesperson tried desperately to talk Bill into having custom suits or shirts made. He guaranteed delivery to our hotel that night. Sorry; Bill does not need any silk clothing; and neither do I.
Finally it was time for the museum to open again. But it was also time for lunch. We visited a restaurant on the museum grounds and enjoyed a great lunch before entering the museum. Children are admitted free. The admittance charge for foreigners was 300 baht each. However, since Bill and I are each over the age of 60 we were admitted free of charge. How nice was that!! We spent hours wandering through the air-conditioned museum. The kids had a ball and might have learned a few things about Thailand.
When we exited the museum the sun was finally out. Maybe we would make it to The Grand Palace the next day. We grabbed a taxi back to the hotel (again thanks to our directions printed in Thai). That night we discovered that the hotel will make pizzas. Hurray!!! Definitely pizza for dinner. It was very thin crust and very good. Zach chose plain cheese; Elisabeth ordered chicken with baby corn topped with basil; and Bill and I split a pineapple and ham. All were excellent.
After Bill and the kids had all showered and were ready for bed, Elisabeth wanted to tell ghost stories instead of watching DVDs. They gathered in a circle in the big bed and started telling scary stories while I enjoyed a long luxurious shower. By the time I was ready for bed everyone was beat and ready for sleep. Elisabeth had managed to scare herself about ghosts but she calmed down laying next to me and we were all soon asleep. This day did not go as planned but it was a great day.
Here is a photo of one of the temples we saw when riding through southern Thailand in the train from Malaysia. Seems like you run into another temple every few blocks in Bangkok, and they are also plentiful in the rural areas. Buddha should be very proud.