Our second day started much earlier than the first. We’d read online that the Grand Palace and Wat Pho (with the reclining Buddha) get incredibly crowded so we wanted to get there as close to the 9am opening as we could. After chowing down on a couple of sweet coconut buns, we ordered a taxi and headed towards the palace. As a quick aside, on this trip we used the Grab app to organise taxis and transportation. I’d heard about people having so many issues with the taxis in Thailand and this app is similar to Uber in that you know the price before you get in the taxi. Unlike Uber though you can pay in cash at the end of the journey as well as using card payments.
The taxi dropped us off around the side of the palace and on the way round to the main entrance we encountered our first scam attempt of the holiday. As we approached a side entrance we were greeted by a man who said he worked as part of the tourism department in Bangkok and unfortunately because of the approaching Thai New Year (which is in April) the palace was not open to foreigners until this afternoon. He then very helpfully got out a map and started showing us alternative places we could visit in the meantime. You can probably guess where this is going but out of nowhere a tuk tuk appeared behind us and he said his friend would happily take us around these sites for 200 baht each. For a minute I tried to think of the best way to say “do you think I’m stupid” but ended up being more polite and saying no thanks we’ll just take a walk. You’ll imagine my ‘surprise’ that when we turned the corner to the main entrance there was thousands of tourists streaming into a very much open palace. Moral of the story? Don’t take people’s word for things, always go and check it out yourself.
We wandered round to the main entrance and paid our 500 baht entrance fee. The palace has quite a strict dress code and as I was in shorts had to purchase the most unflattering black jogging trousers ever – no pictures of these I’m afraid! In short the palace had some incredible temples, statues and other buildings. There is little to no air conditioning though so make sure you bring water, particularly as you’ll need to be wearing modest clothing. Also be prepared for the place to be incredibly crowded, if you don’t like crowds it may not be the place for you.
We spent a few, very warm hours at the palace and then took the 10 minute walk to Wat Pho which is home to the famous reclining Buddha. The entrance fee here was much cheaper at 100 baht including a bottle of water. The queues to take a picture of the Buddha were pretty long, but they’re worth it in my opinion. This thing is massive and really impressive to see in person.
At this point it was around 2pm and we wanted to get something to eat before starting to head to the train station for our overnight train to Chiang Mai. I had a quick look on Google maps and found a well reviewed place called “Home Cafe Tha Tien” halfway between where we were and the boat to get back to the hotel. This was a really good find! The lunch was super cheap at around 300 baht for the two of us. I had vegetarian spring rolls, chicken pad Thai, and a coke zero.
On the way to the boat terminal we stumbled upon another temple. Its no exaggeration that these are everywhere in Thailand! We then jumped on the tourist boat back down the river to our hotel – if you’re going to Bangkok there are several different boat routes down the Chao Praya river. The tourist boat is more expensive than the commuter alternatives, but stops at much fewer stops and is therefore a lot quicker.
The pit stop at the hotel was very short, pretty much enough time to grab our cases and order another taxi to the train station. We had booked our tickets through a travel agent called 12go Asia (who I completely recommend) and had to collect our tickets from their office opposite the train station. The process took about 5 minutes and was completely painless, so we were soon boarding our train – the number 9 overnight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. We’d booked a first class sleeper compartment for about £50 each (if you want to do similar I’d advise booking well in advance) and this meant we had a private compartment just for the two of us.
The compartment was well appointed with bunk beds, a small table, storage space for our cases and small sink. There was also several toilets and a hot shower (exclusive use for our carriage only) and a dining car if we wanted snacks.
In first class you also had the option of dinner being delivered to your compartment, so we ordered a set meal to share which would arrive about an hour into the journey. The train left at 6pm and, as it gets dark early in Thailand, we didn’t get much chance to enjoy the view tonight. We therefore decided to get an early night and headed to sleep about 10pm, soon after the seats had been converted into bed mode.
Coming up in day 3 – lovely views as we arrive in Chiang Mai. Lots of food, a look at our gorgeous second hotel and more temples!