The Grand Palace, Bangkok Thailand
On our second full day in Bangkok we did the major touristy stuff: the Grand Palace Bangkok Thailand and Wat Pho. The Grand Palace is this giant compound filled with gilded pagodas, temples and statues. The attention to detail is amazing. Millions of colored glass tiles, and pieces of broken ceramics decorated the walls of every structure and sculpture.
The weather outside was hot (in the 90s) and moist….sort of like walking in an armpit, but it felt even worse being crammed inside the palace walls with tons of sweaty tourists, not to mention the sun’s heat bouncing off the reflective surfaces we navigated from one sliver to shade to the next.
Jack made sure to tell us what the dress code was inside the palace walls, and after seeing the horrendous patterned pants the fashion police (I mean that literally) made offenders borrow, I’m glad we listened. Shoulders needed to be covered, you had to wear closed toed shoes, and men and women needed to wear pants. Women wearing skirts needed to cover their knees or BAM! Ugly cotton pants with elephants on them.
After the Grand Palace Bangkok Thailand we did a quick tour of Wat Pho (pronounced Po without the F sound) and viewed the giant reclining Buddha. Running the length of four buses put front to back, the structure feels otherworldly to say the least (which I think is what they were going for)….and hard to photograph. These photos certainly don’t do its size justice.
Wat Pho is also the monastery where the art of Thai massage began. Here are some ancient tiles that students used to study when learning acupressure, which is Thailand’s take on Chinese acupuncture. The massage school is still there and operational and they say one of the best places to get a massage in Bangkok. We tried to get some, but they were booked for the day already. No Happy endings for us!
Kao San Road
So we left Wat Pho and headed over to Kao San Road. This backpackers paradise is a two block strip of street-food vendors and shop owners selling inexpensive Thai dishes and crappy souvenirs, knockoff handbags and electronics. Every step we took someone was hawking hand-tailored three-piece suits for $90 USD, t-shirts with Angry Birds on them, or bootleg copies of books that just have pages photographed from originals.
It was nice to see it, since so many tourists to Bangkok check it out at some point, but we didn’t need more than an hour there.
The highlights for me on Kao San Road were these fried spherical balls of dough with hot coconut pudding inside. They use these pans with half spheres in them, and then put two halves of the dough and coconut pudding together just before serving them piping hot. Yum!
We also stumbled upon a street cart serving Khao Neow (mango with sticky rice). The mangos in Thailand are sweet, have a really soft flesh, and the slightest little tang….and they’re nearly all ripe and a solid yellow (the mangos from South America have the green, orange, and red skins).
Mango with sticky rice is one of my favorite Thai desserts. The sticky rice is a high gluten rice that’s soaked in water overnight and then steamed for 10 minutes before serving. Then it’s mixed with coconut cream and sugar. A heavier coconut mixture with some corn starch and a little salt is poured over the mango and that’s it! The stuff on the street was pretty good, but not the best I’ve had. But still, it was great…and since the fruit was fresh, I sort of rationalized it as being healthy?
Since there was a group of us and everyone had a bite of everything I ordered off the street, we were still hungry.
So we stopped at this cart operated by this little Thai woman in an apron and purchased some fried fish cakes with scallions. They were served with fresh cucumbers and a sweet chili sauce.
The same lady had three pots of curries going so we got some of the green curry with chicken and small Thai eggplants. This was served over rice too.
She also had fried chicken, which in my humble opinion was better than anything I’ve ordered from KFC. We got a few legs and the meat was moist and the breading was light and crispy. The chicken was also served with cucumbers and the same sweet chili sauce.
After leaving Kao San Road, Loy drove us back to the Lebua Hotel. Some of us were in desperate need of a massage so Jack recommended a strip of massage parlors near the entrance to the Shangri-La Hotel.
Since there were four of us who all wanted to get our massages at the same time, we picked the first place that could take us without a wait. We settled on this place called The Best Thai Massage, which should have been a red flag for us, but we were desperate.
Now we’d been warned that there were two kinds of massage places in Thailand: those that were upstanding and provided you with shorts to wear during the massage, and those that massaged you naked and tried to jack you off! This place took us upstairs, put us each in our own private curtained rooms and gave us capris to wear. The massages were relaxing and seemed nice until we reached minute number 45 and the masseuse put her hands on my nut-sack and whispered “you like special ending?” in my ear. I said “no,” and we quickly finished.
Upon seeing my brother, Jonathan, and my sister-in-law downstairs I immediately knew we’d all been propositioned. Aside from feeling a little “vio-rated and laped” (remember the Thai switch their Ls and Rs) it was relaxing and we had a good laugh.