I awoke to fantastic views of the city from my floor to ceiling windows and nicely rested given the 8.30a.m wake-up. I was super excited to explore Bangkok and our first stop of the day was the Grand Palace, after we tucked into our yummy breakfast included in the room price. Our hotel was located a little back off the main Sukhumvit road and so our hotel provided a free tuk tuk to take us there. It was a 2 minute walk along to the skytrain which transferred us to the pier where we picked up the tourist boat which dropped us at the Grand Palace stop. It all went pretty smoothly and because of the set prices we managed to avoid the Bangkok scams you hear so much about. A word of warning to those visiting any Royal buildings or temples in Thailand, they have a strict dress code of covered legs and shoulders and no open shoes. I took my trainers in the rucksack but since no-one seemed to be enforcing the open shoe policy I got away with flip flops however, lots of girls (no men surprisingly) were having to use the clothing provided inside to cover their shoulders and legs and it seemed to be very much pot luck as to what was enforced and what wasn’t so best to be prepared.
The Grand Palace complex includes the Grand Palace itself as well as Wat Phra Kaew – The temple of the emerald Buddha – which actually turned out to be our highlight. As you enter the enormous complex you walk through a series of covered areas with intricate wall murals painted on and then arrive at some absolutely spectacular temples. I have seen a lot of temples in my time in a variety of Asian countries but these were definitely the most ornate. All hand painted and covered in gold everywhere you looked was a feast for the eyes. We wandered around the complex taking in each of the individual structures (there are so many small temples, statues and small courtyards all with something to see). We must have spent at least two hours including some time going inside the main emerald Buddha temple where of course shoes are not allowed. Despite the hordes of people it was so peaceful sitting and contemplating life in that serene moment. We continued around the complex and eventually the temples became plainer and we reached the Grand Palace itself which is situated right at the end of the complex. It was set in gorgeous gardens but itself was quite plain in comparison to the detailed temples we had just seen. Size is not everything, or so they say. We watched the guards as Chinese tourists wandered up to them for pictures and they had to maintain their stony faced expressions before a desperate need for water forced us to leave the complex (there are water fountains situated throughout but nowhere to actually purchase water so definitely get it before you head in). After 3 hot hours of wandering in the sun we were parched and tired and so took some time to sit on a wall next to the entrance to the complex with some water and ice. However, this was also where the bus loads of Chinese tourists were getting their group photos taken and so I imagine there will be 2 unknowns in a lot of those photos.
After all that sightseeing it was time for lunch and after consulting the Lonely Planet book we opted for nearby Poj Spa Kar allegedly the oldest restaurant in Bangkok which maintains recipes handed down from a former palace cook. The service was not the best, mainly because no-one seemed to be serving but a friendly group of Thai’s who were dining themselves told us to sit and a waitress eventually gave us a menu where we ordered the recommended lemongrass omelette with hot and sour prawn soup. It was delicious and definitely worth the less than perfect service. Being only a 5 minute walk from the Grand Palace and Wat Pho it is a perfect option for some downtime in between.
Feeling nicely refreshed we headed back over to the famous Wat Pho or temple of the reclining Buddha. There are 7 different Buddha positions, one for each day of the week and so depending on which day you are born you would worship at the temple dedicated to your Buddha’s posture. Wat Pho again was a huge complex of intricately painted and designed buildings and smaller temples surrounded by the main famous reclining Buddha which was huge and very impressive, surprising when I have seen so many pictures of it before. One of the highlights for me was the detail on his feet! The complex needs at least an hour to do it justice and has other options such as a massage centre for those wishing to make the most of their day. Again we wandered around completely mesmerised by the many carved buildings and statues, with me nipping in to sit in a couple and just empty my mind. There are a few entrances and so we worked our way around in a clockwise fashion from 6 until 12 and then decided we had had our fill of temples and so took a taxi back to the hotel. This became quite difficult to do given the traffic, Bangkok is so congested and so none of the taxi’s wanted to agree to taking us by meter. We eventually found a willing soul but it took much more than an hour to head back to the hotel, most of the time in crawling traffic. What a crazy city!
We spent a nice chilled few hours enjoying our rooftop pool and terrace before getting ready for dinner. Tonight we were going to be enjoying our first Michelin restaurant of the trip at Nahm – the world’s 22nd best restaurant. It was a short trip away on the metro and then a 5 minute walk to the Metropolitan Hotel. We arrived a bit early so had some welcome drinks – a lychee martini for me and a g&t for my dad. Delicious! We opted for the chefs menu which was a selection of appetisers and then a dish from each part of the menu followed by 2 deserts of your choice. We were brought palate cleaners of pineapple with sweet pork before moving on to the canape style appetisers of; crab wafers, egg nets with prawns, pork and lobster with ginger and thai red curry scallops. They were all delicious but the pork and lobster was a definite favourite. We ordered a nice bottle of Chablis to go with our meal from their extensive wine list and then enjoyed our mains of; scallop salad with coconut and lemongrass, hot and sour soup with chicken, prawn and mushroom, shrimp and crab in coconut cream with fried prawns and vegetables, wagyu beef penang curry and whole fried fish with lemongrass sauce. It was all delicious (maybe apart from the shrimp and crab one only as it was served with a whole bunch of raw vegetables which just tasted a bit strange but otherwise a fantastic thai feast! We were both really struggling but still had desert to go and asked the waitress to pick her favourites for us. We ended up with white sticky rice with durian (definitely not as bad tasting as I imagined, kind of feels like burning) and sweet thai wafers filled with poached persimmon and golden duck egg noodles. We finished the whole extravaganza with green tea and thai petit fours.
We wanted to check out one of Bangkok’s many sky bars and luckily enough Vertigo and Moon Bar was right next door in the Banyan Tree hotel. We wandered round to walk off our meal and took the lift to the 61st floor where we managed to get a table with spectacular views over the city (and gin and tonics and £10). I was absolutely mesmerised by the views and wandered around the bar area to get photos from a couple of different angles. The perfect end to our first day in Bangkok! We took a taxi home and luckily because of the time the traffic wasn’t even bad. Winning!