Where We Be
|Bangkok, Thailand -- Wat Arun
The easiest way to tour Bangkok is to travel by
ferry boat up and down the Chao Phraya River.
The river runs through the heart of the city
past many of its key historic sites. An all-day
ferry pass will run you 150 baht ($5). It allows
you to take any Chao Phraya Tourist Boat with a
blue flag up and down the river between two
end points, from Sathorn (Taksin) pier to Phra
Arthit pier. This is fun: it's a bit like taking the
vaporettos up and down the canals of Venice.
Our first stop was Wat Arun, or the Temple of
Dawn -- one of the most symbolic landmarks in
Bangkok. Its central tower rises 75 meters high
and is decorated by thousands of tiny seashells
and mosaic tiles. Climbing up the steep steps
of the tower takes some effort, especially in the
extreme heat that is Bangkok in May, but the
views from the top are worth it. The Khmer-
style tower, or "prang," was built in the early
1800s during the reign of King Rama II.
After our visit to Wat Arun, we continued up the
river all the way to the last stop, Phra Arthit,
before returning to Sathorn pier and catching
the elevated SkyTrain back to our hotel.
|Next to the central prang is the Ordination Hall with its
own central spire, set amidst beautiful landscaping
|Two temple guardians protect the entrance to the Ordination Hall
|Mixed in with all the modern skyscrapers are much older churches and monuments
|We continued north on the ferry as far as it went to Phra Arthit before turning
around and heading back. This is a view of the Temple of Arun from the north.
|From Sathorn pier it was a wonderfully air-conditioned ride on the Skytrain back to our hotel.
The SkyTrain (or BTS) is a joy to ride -- it makes getting across Bangkok almost stress-free.
|From the SkyTrain you can take advantage of the shopper's paradise that is Bangkok. The Siam Paragon
is one of the biggest shopping malls in all of Asia. It even includes the largest aquarium in Southeast Asia.
|Then of course there is the Thai food. Yes, the Pad Thai really is excellent in Thailand, as is the Tom Yum soup and
just about any curry dish. Our dinner at Na Aroon featured green curry with eggplant and massaman curry with tofu.
|Our week in Bangkok actually started with some medical tourism at Bumrungrad Hospital in the center of
Bangkok. As you can see, the lobby looks more like the lobby of a comfortable hotel than that of a hospital.
|We stayed at the Skyy Hotel adjacent to the hospital and each got full health check-ups. My regular
screening with physical exam, blood work, x-rays, and doctor's report (all on the same day) ran about $100.
|The Chao Phraya River is a major artery that flows through the heart of historic Bangkok.
From daytime sightseeing ferries to evening dinner cruises, this is a great way to see the city.
|Tiny temples are dwarfed by their glass-fronted neighbors
|This is Wat Arun, the Temple of Dawn -- one of the most symbolic landmarks in Bangkok. The ferry
drops you off at Tha Tien pier, then you take a quick local ferry across the river for 4 baht (12 cents).
|The central tower ("prang") rises 75 meters (250 feet) high.
Both the river setting and the temple decorations are lovely.
|The temple is bejeweled with colorful porcelain designs
|Seashells and bits of porcelain make the creative details of this place a delight. The seashells
and porcelain had previously been used as ballast by boats traveling from China to Bangkok!
|These demons are wishing the designers had used a bit less porcelain
|Here's your workout for the day: steep steps in extreme heat
|The views from the top are expansive: across the Chau Phraya
River you can see the rooftops and spires of the Grand Palace
|Between the elevated SkyTrain and the Chao Phraya ferries,
seeing the main sights in Bangkok is surprisingly easy