Becky, thanks for your nice comments about our viewing of the beautiful buildings lit up along the Chao Phraya river. They looked amazing! Having overnights in the ports allows for some great excursions and is the strong point of this cruise.
I also want to thank an anonymous person who corrected me on the name of the Skytrain station near our Bangkok hotel and the fruit on the table in our room. The Skytrain BTS station near Siam Paragon is called Siam and the Taksim station is the one at the pier. The fruit on the table in our Bangkok hotel room is Dragon fruit , not Jack fruit. Apparently Jack fruit is very smelly and along with Durian is banned in certain public places and hotels. I appreciate the help and have made the corrections.
We slept very well and especially loved the fantastic pillows on the bed! We are going to ask if we can purchase them. Yes, we really liked them!! They were firm yet very fluffy too. I enjoyed the lovely rain shower and it was a pleasure getting ready this morning. We both feel very energized and are ready to bounce back from the travails of yesterday. We used the free wifi to check email for a few minutes before going down to breakfast. We are fortunate that we get to spend almost the entire day in Bangkok.
|View from our room|
We are looking forward to exploring Bangkok on our own today but wish we were here longer. There is a lot to see but we are going to have to limit ourselves to just a few venues.
Bangkok is a large city of over 8 million people. 22% of the Thailand's population (14 million) live within the Bangkok metropolitan area. It is a sprawling city with limited roads and has a reputation for horrific traffic. The extensive Skytrain BTS system has solved some of these issues. The building frenzy in the 1980's transformed the city into an urban jungle of skyscrapers and high rises. Many countries maintain manufacturing facilities near Bangkok. The automotive industry around the greater Bangkok area is the largest in Southeast Asia. Tourism is also a significant driver of the economy generating over $13 billion in revenue. The famed Oriental Hotel has regularly been ranked among the top hotels in the world.
The government is headed by the Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. She is only 45 years old and the first female prime minister of the country. She is the sister of the disgraced former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. He was overthrown in a military coup and went into self-imposed exile. Although she was democratically elected, some people view Yingluck as just a proxy for her brother.
In 1932 Thailand abolished absolute monarchy and has undergone numerous coups and uprisings. Although Thailand suffered under Japanese occupation, it is the only Southeast Asian country that was not colonized. The Chinese have played a major role in Bangkok's trade and accounted for half of the population in the 1950's. There are still many wealthy Thai Chinese families in the country. However, the Chinese influence has since then been diminished.
Thailand is known as the "land of smiles". They are generally very happy and friendly people. As eighty percent of the population is Buddhist it is impolite to touch someones head as that is the holiest part of the body. It is also rude to point at anyone with your feet. The Thais love to eat! A common greeting is "Have you eaten yet?". This does not mean they are asking if you are hungry but is just a way to say hello.
We arrived at the beautiful breakfast room about 7:45 am and there were just a few other guests.
The room is very relaxing and we were seated at table with a view of the pool.
|View to the pool outside|
|Nice selection of fruit and Asian specialties|
I was very happy with the healthy and lovely selection of breakfast items. Everything was scrumptious! The service was also terrific. I had a nice large pot of green tea which was excellent and my mother enjoyed the coffee. There were eventually other guests having breakfast too but from the photo is looks rather empty.
|View of the buffet|
We love everything about the Siam Kempinski and don't want to leave today. However, our reason for coming was to see Bangkok and not lounge at the hotel.
I am the tour guide today but our schedule is thankfully not very hectic. I wanted to take the BTS Skytrain to the station near the Chang pier to catch the ferry to the Grand Palace. However, I was overruled. As we were driving by the Skytrain station yesterday my mother noticed the stairs and did not see any escalators. She took one look at the stairs and said we will be taking a taxi! We waited in the lobby for our car to arrive.
|Driveway in front of the hotel|
The overhead expressway has alleviated some of the traffic problems but we it can still get congested on the narrow roads. .
Bangkok scenes along the way to the Grand Palace
The King of Thailand, His Majesty Bhumibol Adulyadej is the world's longest living monarch. He has reigned since 1946. Under the constitution the King is given very little power but remains a figurehead and symbol of the Thai nation. The monarchy and the royal family command huge respect in Thailand. Palace law only allows males to succeed to the throne.
|A Tuk-Tuk to the side of us.|
The traffic actually was not too bad and we were soon approaching the Grand Palace.The cost of the taxi was only 50 baht.
As the Grand Palace is also the official home of the monarchy and there are several government buildings, there is a military presence.
We joined the short line to purchase our tickets. Notice the sign that says they are open everyday. We did encounter the ubiquitous hooligans outside who try to tell you it is closed so they can take you somewhere else. We paid the 400 baht and received our tickets and a small guide book with a map and diagram of the Grand Palace.
|Purchasing our tickets|
Map of the Grand Palace
We consulted the map but mainly just walked to where the signs directed us. There are apparently guides you can hire on site but we decided to tour on our own. Directly ahead is one of the gables of the Royal Chapel of the Emerald Buddha.
The buildings in the Grand Palace complex are truly amazing. It is a photographers dream! There are so many interesting textures, shapes and colors.
The Grand Palace construction began on May 6, 1782 and has been the official residence of the King of Siam (later Thailand) since that time. The palace complex is surrounded by four walls on the banks of the Chao Phraya river. There are over 100 buildings which include various halls and pavilions. The asymmetry and eclectic styles resulted from various additions and rebuilding over 200 years. The two earliest structures erected within the complex were the Dusit Maha Prasat Throne Hall and the Phra Maha Monthian.
The area below is called the Upper Terrace. There are four main monuments found here. 1) There is a reliquary in the shape of a Golden Chedi, 2) The Mondop which is a repository for Buddhist sacred scriptures, 3) A miniature Angkor Wat crafted by the order of King Mongkut (Rama IV) and 4) The Royal Pantheon in which statues of the past sovereigns of the ruling Chakri family dynasty are enshrined.
The golden Siratana Chedi below is a 19th century Sri Lankan-style stupa supposedly housing the ashes of Buddha.
|Upper Terrace Buildings|
|The Mondop is an ornately decorated library building and holds sacred scriptures|
Here is another view of the Upper Terrace buildings near the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.
There were signs to provide direction to where we needed to go. We were most interested in seeing the Emerald Buddha so we went there first.
Royal Monastery of the Emerald Buddha
This temple is located in the lower left corner of the complex. The monastery consists of all the architectural features of a Buddhist monastery but without residences as no monks live here. It also serves as the monarchs private chapel.
The Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew) is regarded as the most sacred Buddhist temple in Thailand.
The walls of the ordination hall are decorated with mural paintings, including a series of paintings depicting the Lord Buddha's life. On the east wall are scenes portraying Temptation and Enlightenment. The Buddha sits on a golden throne made of carved wood.
The outside of the building is covered in marble, multicolored mosaics and gold embellishments.
As this is a Buddhist temple you need to remove your shoes before walking inside. There were shelves to deposit the shoes until we returned.
|Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew)|
The Emerald Buddha is a dark green statue made of jade and is only 26 inches tall. The word emerald in Thai means "dark green color". The Thai King is the only person allowed to touch the statue. There are winter, summer and rainy season costumes which are changed by the King three times a year.
The Emerald Buddha originated in Cambodia in the 15th century. It was moved to Laos in the 16th century where it remained for 215 years. The Thais captured Angkor Wat in 1432 and the Emerald Buddha was taken to Ayutthaya and finally Chiang Rai. In 1434 a lightning strike damaged the temple and the statue fell down and was chipped. Some of the mud plaster that protects valuable Buddha images was washed away. It was then discovered that the Buddha image was from a solid piece of jade. In 1778 Siam (now Thailand) defeated Vientiane, capital of Laos and the statue was taken to Thailand.
The outside of the building is beautiful and very impressive!
The Emerald Buddha is actually very hard to see. No wonder it was able to hidden away for hundreds of years. You cannot get very close and as photos are prohibited it is hard to tell what it really looks like. I took this photo from the entrance but did not get a good shot. I was not sure if I would get in trouble for the photo so I took it very fast. The Buddha is dressed in his winter costume covering almost all the jade.
We exited the Temple and watched several people purify themselves with water before entering the temple. They look like a very happy bunch!
|Lots of smiling faces as they sprinkle themselves with water|
The Royal Pantheon (Prasat Phra Dhepbidorn) was built in the reign of King Rama IV in 1855. This Pavilion has four square prangs. Initially it was considered to house the Emerald Buddha but it was too small to accommodate royal ceremonies. It holds eight statues of kings of the Chakri Dynasty.
On the left side of the Temple of the Emerald Buddha is the Hor Phra Gandhararat. It is covered in the same mosaics as the temple.
Mother posing in front of the Hor Phra Gandhararat with her rented shirt. The Kinnara statues are mythical creatures guarding the entrance.
|Some of the lights which show off the temple from the river at night|
The Phra Wiharn Yod is decorated with Chinese tiles similar to those used at Wat Arun. Wiharn Yod houses two Buddha images, the Phra Nak and the Phra Thepidorn.
|Hor Prha Monthian Dharma guarding the gate|
There is a beautiful shrine in the foreground guarded by elephants.
|Phra Wiharrn Yod|
|Tantina" bronze statue guarding the Wiharn Yod.|
This temple had a Golden Buddha inside. We had to remove our shoes once again.
I think this was one of my favorite buildings. I like the small size, the gilded and glass covered windows.
We admired several chedi's in the courtyard. A chedi is a bell shaped monument erected to house a holy statue or object of a prominent person such as the ashes of monks or royalty or relics of the Buddha. In Thailand they are called Phra Chedi and most commonly used as a relic shrine.
Another view of the Chedi and Mondop as we are leaving this area.
A group of students sits patiently on the floor of the chapel.
Chakri Maha Prasat Hall
The Chakri Maha Prasat Hall is a western style building with a Thai roof. It was built by King Chulalongkorn (King Rama V) and completed in 1882. The only areas used in this vast building are the reception areas. The building consists of a a central throne hall and two wings. The throne hall is the receiving area for foreign ambassadors and for state banquets for visiting Heads of State.
|Chakri Maha Prasat Hall|
Dusit Maha Prasat Throne
This building was constructed by King Rama I to replace the wooden Amarintharapisek Maha Prasat which burned to the ground in 1790. Its principle function is as a hall for lying-in-state kings, queens and honored members of the royal family. It is also used for the annual Coronation Day Ceremony. Inside the throne is inlaid with mother-of-pearl. The hall has four wings and is surmounted by a four-tiered roof and topped by a seven-tiered spire.
|Dusit Maha Prasat Throne Hall|
Aphorn Phimok Prasat Pavilion
The Aphorn Phimok Prasat Pavilion is the little building in the center. The open air pavilion was built by King Rama IV as a robing pavilion for the King to change his regalia before entering the Maha Prasat premises. The pavilion is considered the epitome of the finest qualities of Thai traditional architecture in its proportion, style and detail.
|Aphorn Primok Prasat Hall|
Before departing the Grand Palace we made a stop at the Textile Museum which is included in the price of the admission ticket.
Queen Sirikit Textile Museum
This museum is a gift of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit and her Foundation to the people of Thailand. The establishment of the museum embodies the Queen's efforts to assure the preservation of Thailand's textile arts for future generations.
The museum collects, displays and preserves textiles from Southeast, South and East Asia. There is a special emphasis on textiles related to the Royal Court and to serve as a center for those who wish to learn about textiles.
The museum took nine years to complete and just opened in 2012. The transformation of a 1870 building (the former Ministry of Finance) into a state-of-the-art museum began in 2003. The building was completely remodeled and includes, a lobby, galleries, education studio, library, lecture hall and a gift shop. The museum is open daily from 9:00 am - 4:30 pm. It is located just inside the main visitors gate at the Grand Palace.
This was one of the highlights of our visit to the Grand Palace. We are both very interested in textiles and the elegant dresses did not disappoint. Many of the garments were done by Paris designer Pierre Balmain. He appeared to be an early favorite of the Queen perhaps due to her years spent in France.
|Queen Sirikit Textile Museum|
The building is very beautiful and the restoration is wonderful. We entered the elegant foyer and showed our tickets and then proceeded to the galleries.
There are two floors to the museum. Italian chandeliers hang from the ceiling.
Mohm Rajawongse Sirikit was born in Chiang Mai in 1932 to a Thai diplomat and his wife. Her parents lived aboard for many years and she was raised partly by her grandparents. In 1946 when she was 14 she joined her father when he became the Thai Ambassador to England and then later France. In 1950 King Bhumibol took a break from his studies in Switzerland and visited Paris where he met Miss Sirikit for the first time. They fell in love and on April 28, 1950 the Royal couple were married. They have four children.
|Queen Sirikit in 1962 wearing a Pierre Balmain design|
A description below from Vogue Magazine in 1962
I should note photos are not permitted in the museum but the gowns were so beautiful I threw caution to the wind and took few shots. I didn't want to tempt fate so I kept it to just a few photos.
|Beautiful Thai dress|
Another dress in the Queen's younger years. There are a few garments which show Her Majesty's expanding girth. The clothing is beautifully displayed in free standing glass capsules.
There was an amazing animation showing how one of the outfits is tied in several different ways. We were so captivated that we watched it twice!
The Queen, who is now 80 years old, is well known for her charitable work and has supported over 350 projects. Her primary interests are the environment, wildlife conservation and the preservation of Thai handicrafts. She has provided financial support and personal encouragement to women in the textile industry.
After we viewed the galleries we took a look in the very nice gift shop. I purchased two little silk trays that lay flat and can snap together to form a box. They are easy to pack..
The gift shop in the Textile Museum
This is where you make the returns and get your refund.
Shirts available for rent
Our next venue on the agenda is the Wat Pho with the Reclining Buddha. We exited the Grand Palace and at first turned the wrong way and ended up in a market. it was a wet market and seemed interesting but not what we wanted to see. We finally found someone to ask who pointed us in the right direction. It is very easy to get to the Reclining Buddha. You just exit the Grand Palace and turn left and walk along the white wall for 20 minutes.
|Wall outside Grand Palace leading to Wat Pho|
|Photos of the King and Queen of Thailand|
We finally made our way to the entrance of Wat Pho. Before we could get inside were again told that it was closed which it was not. We purchased our tickets for 100 baht each. There were fewer people here than at the Grand Palace.
Beautiful gilded window of Wat Pho
Wat Pho and the Reclining Buddha
Wat Pho is the largest and oldest wat in Bangkok with an area of 80,000 square meters. Parts of the temple date to Rama I in the 1700's. This wat has the distinction of having Thailand's largest reclining Buddha and the most number of Buddha images in Thailand. The Buddha measures 150 feet long and is 50 feet high. It stretches half the length of a football field. The statue is made of plaster and covered in gold leaf. Wat Pho was the first stop for President Obama when he visited Bangkok on his Asia trip in November 2012.
Wat Pho is famous as Thailand's first university and is a center for traditional Thai massage. They offer 30 minute and on hour treatments. Be advised that Thai massage is not exactly a gentle experience. The massage school is located at the back of the wat at the opposite side of the entrance.
The Reclining Buddha rests on its elbow before passing into nirvana.
|Peek-a-boo I see you!|
The feet are covered in mother-of-pearl decorations and show the 108 auspicious characteristics of the true Buddha.
|Feet with mother of pearl|
The building was actually constructed around the Reclining Buddha.
As we viewed the statue you could here the twinkling of coins from the opposite side as people were making donations.
There are also many interesting buildings in this area.
There are four Chedi's constructed to honor the first three Chakri Kings (two for King Rama III). There are also 91 other chedi of varying sizes around the grounds.
|A Chedi Cluster|
The statues at the entrance were brought from China as ballast on ships. Marco Polo was the Venetian traveler who lived in China for 20 years. Marco Polo's likeness is depicted in the statue though he never visited Thailand.
|Marco Polo statues guarding one of the main gates|
After 30 minutes we arrived at the Jim Thompson House.
Jim Thompson House
James Harrison Wilson "Jim" Thompson was born in Greenville, Delaware on March 21, 1906. He was an American entrepreneur who single handily helped revitalize Thailand's silk and textile industry in the 1950's and 1960's. He received the Order of the White Elephant for his exceptional service to Thailand.
Thompson mysteriously disappeared while going on a walk on Easter Sunday, March 26, 1967 during vacation in the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia. It is rumored that he was in the OSS (and a spook) and that his disappearance is circumspect. However, there is no proof.
Thompson had a great respect for Thailand's rich cultural heritage. The house consists of six traditional Thai style houses made of teak. He purchased the homes and moved them to this site. Construction was completed in 1959. The walls are hung on a superstructure without nails.
We purchased our tickets and told what time to return to the area for our tour. We spent the waiting time which was about 20 minutes in the lovely shop. I found several items to purchase and had them hold them for me as it was time to take the tour.
There were about 12 people in our group and the tour leader was energetic and had excellent spoken English. We were required to put our belongings in little keyed wooden lockers. They were a good size.
We went up to the second floor and as the buildings are joined it was hard to tell where one ended and another began. Mr. Thompson was talented and had exquisite taste. He never married and several servants lived in the house with him.
|Cute Bird House|
On view was a very nice porcelain collection.
No photos were allowed but I snuck in a few. When I was in the shop I noticed they did not sell any good postcards of the house. The dining room is below.
All the rooms were beautiful and very elegant. They are open on the sides with nice windows and/or shutters. The flooring not surprisingly was also very nice.
At one point while we were viewing the house there was a speed boat that went down the canal outside.
The tour was 45 minutes in length but it seemed to fly by! I went back to the shop and made my purchases. I bought a couple scarves, 2 silk pillow covers, and a little cosmetic case. It was now time for lunch and we walked over to the Jim Thompson restaurant.
Jim Thompson Restaurant
There was outside and inside seating but we chose to sit inside. There was a/c but the room was also open on the sides. It was quite pleasant.
|Jim Thompson Restaurant|
|Fish tacos and spring roll|
The total bill came to 1200 baht including tax.
Lunch was delicious and also very relaxing. We had several options to return to the hotel. The Jim Thompson House offers a free shuttle to the Skytrain. We could also take a taxi, a tuk-tuk or perhaps a boat from the canal. We had been advised to steer clear of any tuk-tuks but he was right at the exit and the people working at JT seemed to think this was fine. My mother was not interested in the taking the Skytrain so we climbed into the tuk-tuk, The driver seemed very nice and we felt safe.
The images of the pandas on the seatback were very cute and comforting. There was information on not to have bags visible or they night be snatched by a passing motorcycle.
We passed the Skytrain station on our way back.
We arrived safely at the hotel in just 10 minutes and it was also very cheap!
|Mother being careful getting out of the tuk-tuk|
We went up to our room for a quick refresh. We collected our bags and then went down to check out. It was now 2:15 pm and were a little later than our agreed late checkout time. They did not complain about us being tardy and told us we had full use of all of the hotel facilities until we departed the hotel at 4:00 pm.
We had not seen some areas of the hotel so took a walk by some of the public rooms. We stopped to look at the Sri Bui restaurant which serves Thai molecular cuisine. They are open for lunch and dinner. I am looking forward to trying it the next time.
|Sri Bui Restaurant|
The Kempinski also has an amazing Tea Lounge where they serve cocktails and a wide variety of speciality teas. They have live music in the evenings. We definitely need to come back!
Since we had use of the facilities we decided to change into our swimsuits and use the pool. We changed in the bathroom located near the Tea Lounge. It was quite nice.
We had a lot of choice of where to sit as the pool is huge! It is actually divided into separate areas so you can almost have your own private pool section. It was not too hot and the foliage made it feel much cooler.
We chose a quiet area for our swim. The water was great! We spent 1 hour and 15 minutes either in the pool or lounging beside it. Some of the hotel rooms even open up directly onto the pool area.
The seating areas are spread out for privacy. The whole area is so relaxing! I considered going to the Gaysorn mall which is nearby but I was enjoying the pool so much and did not want my mother to worry about me so I stayed put.
We decided to order a dessert. They brought us fruit and water and we looked at the menu. We chose a dessert with coffee ice cream and caramel.
It took a long time for the dessert and what they brought seemed different from the description. We had two banana splits! It was still good though.
While we were having dessert I was thinking it would have been really nice to stay one more night. However, it also seemed easier to just to go back to the ship. We would second guess that in a couple hours!
We changed back into our clothes and went to the lobby to meet our driver from Oriental Escape. He was right on time at 4:00 pm for our departure to the cruise port.
We easily made our way through Bangkok traffic and there was hardly any congestion the entire way.
There were many motorcycles which we had not seen any of during our drive yesterday or this morning.
Another sign showing the King and Queen. I like the magenta colored taxis. It is very cheerful.
Must be a Thai pop group on the billboard below
Everything was going great until our luck started to change just 9 km from the port. We waited 20 minutes at a traffic light. When we started to move again it was 6:00 pm. The ship requires everyone to be onboard by 6:45 pm and they are sailing and 7:00 pm.
Another 20 minutes later we were still driving to the ship...and it was starting to get dark!
|Getting close to the port|
We finally could see the port which is humongous! The driver turned around at one point and perhaps he was lost or confused. However, 5 minutes later we finally made it! It took 2 hours and 45 minutes. The last 45 minutes was the hardest part! I don't think the driver had ever been to the Laem Chabang cruise port before. He left us near the rear of the building and told us to go inside but it was only for employees. We had a short walk to the front of the cruise terminal.
We were thinking if we did not make it that we would spend the night in Pattaya and then fly to Saigon tomorrow afternoon. Actually looking at flights later I noticed that Lufthansa has an afternoon flight from Bangkok to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) that only costs $115 USD and takes just 1 hr and 40 m. If I could have a do-over I would have stayed overnight in Bangkok for a second night and flown the next day. the only problem would have been notifying the ship. We had no number to call so that would be a challenge. The only number is for the Miami office.
Even though the ship was soon to depart over 200 passengers were in the shopping area of the terminal. My mother purchased a skirt for 30 usd and we looked at some nice jewelry.
We boarded the ship shortly before 7:00 pm and I think we departed close to 7:30 pm. As we boarded the ship they requested our passport but decided to keep going! It was the same crew member who we are developing a strong dislike for who asked for them.
We went to our room and there was an announcement to bring the passports to the Conference Center. We went there but it was empty! We bought them into to Guest Relations instead.
I took some photos of the port at night.
|Laem Chabang at night|
We changed quickly and went straight to dinner. Apparently everyone had made it back. Blu was very busy.
I think this is where the food started to go down hill for what would be the remainder of the cruise. The salad was terrible. I didn't eat it.
This is the golden halibut which seemed to be a deconstructed fish & chips without the chips. It was just okay.
The sorbet was great though and continues to please.
We went to checkout the last part of the show in the theater. I can't remember who it was but I think he was Australian. We only stayed for 20 minutes and then went back to the room and looked forward to a good night sleep.