My first stop in Thailand was Bangkok, where I stayed at Hotel Muse. Located right near Siam Paragon, and within walking distance to Lumphini Park, this is a great spot to stay while in Bangkok if you are looking for something a little different from the traditional backpacking experience. The service was great and the concierge was very helpful in arranging trips and tours. In addition, the rooftop bar is also top-notch and gives you a great view of the city right around sunset.
That first evening I headed down to Khao San Road to meet up with some friends who had just arrived the day before. Khao San is the main drag for all of the backpackers coming through town. With its ‘anything goes’ vibe, it was a perfect introduction to the city. After indulging in an obnoxious amount of pad thai and curry, we hopped around from bar to bar until it was time to hit the hay.
The next morning, I headed to Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha). The admissions fee was 400 Baht, or roughly $13 (US), which also grants entry into the Grand Palace and a few other monuments worth seeing. I suggest getting a guide, and if you can mange it, try to split the cost with a few other people. In addition to making it a little cheaper, I have always found that strangers ask all the questions that you think of an hour after you receive a tour. So, its nice to have a few people there to keep the information flowing.
The temples in Thailand adhere to a very strict dress code. Men must wear long pants, and keep their shoulders covered. Apparently at times, men will be asked to wear long sleeves, but I saw plenty just wearing a t-shirt. Women must wear long pants or skirt as well. Below the knees seemed to be sufficient for skirts, but I recommend going with a maxi just to stay on the safe side. Women also have to keep their shoulders covered, and ladies, it’s important to keep your cleavage to a minimum as well. If you forget, don’t worry, there are clothes for rent that you can pick up at the entrance. Whenever entering the temple, it is also important to remember to remove your shoes. Throughout Thailand, you will either find shelves for your shoes, or bags will be provided to carry them. I found it really helpful to wear shoes that you can just slip off and on. You don’t want to be bothered having to tie and untie your shoes all day.
All of the architecture, once you get inside, is amazing. Everything is hand done, and yes, all of that gold is real. Just remember to be respectful of your surroundings, especially when going into the temple. Too many times I saw people pointing their feet at the Buddha, taking pictures of the Buddha, and bumping into people who were in the midst of prayer. All three of those things are big no-no’s. Just because you are dressed appropriately, doesn’t mean you are being a good tourist.
If you do get a tour, remember to take your time taking photographs. Once you leave Wat Phra Kaew to head to the Grand Palace, you cannot go back inside. I didn’t know this until the end, so I asked my tour guide for some time to walk around and take some photos before we moved on.
Your guide will likely want to move onto the Grand Palace as soon as possible, but don’t rush! Take time to appreciate the little details from the hand painted porcelain tiles used for the roof, to the individually placed gold tiles and the hundreds of intricate statues. This by far was one of my favorite sites in Bangkok. When you go, make sure you have your camera charged and that you are on your best tourist behavior. After all, I think here is as good a place as any to remember the “Golden Rule”.