Even though I was still hung over from the simple lifestyle and the mountain vistas that trekking in Nepal afforded me, I knew that I was already in another country with its own rich culture waiting for me to explore it. It was the first time, too, that I was traveling solo. My trekking partner has moved on to Vietnam, whilst I opted to stay in Thailand. So on that day, I decided to get out of the hostel and walk around Thailand's capital Bangkok.
Since I was staying in the Khao San Road area, the one thing I knew I could walk to was Bangkok's Grand Palace complex. It takes around 30 minutes to get there. Just walk west along Khao San Road towards the police station on the street corner. Turn left and walk straight, crossing one big intersection, until you get to Sanam Luang Park. Walk the length of the park and at some point, you will find yourself staring at high white walls. That's the the Grand Palace complex. And within those walls lies Thailand's most sacred building—Wat Phra Kaew, also known as, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.
It was a bit difficult to enter the temple, money-wise. It costs 400 baht (around 13 USD) per person. Steep by my standards, especially when I saw that Thai nationals get in for free! For a split second there, I pondered on the idea of me pretending to be Thai and just breeze through the entrance for Thai nationals. To be fair, I could. I am Filipino after all. But I left my criminal ways to fantasy, sucked it up and paid the fee.
Once inside, I was happy to find that it wasn't crawling with tourists like me. There were a lot of us, sure, but not enough to obstruct my views of the wats and chedis inside the complex. In fact, the only thing I had to struggle through was the enervating heat of the afternoon sun. And I had to wear long pants that day, too, since I wouldn't have been allowed in the palace had I been wearing shorts. But I powered through it, soaked up the intricately-designed, bejeweled, golden structures, and took my shots. People were right. You cannot take an ugly photo of this place. It was stunning every way you look at it.
The entrance fee was definitely worth it. I reckon an allotment of two hours to explore the whole complex, which is what I did, was enough. It may be worth to get a guide from the tourist office at the entrance gates, just to have somebody there telling you what exactly you are looking at. One, there is a dizzying number of structures in the whole complex. Two, it can get boring just looking at temple after temple after temple. I enjoyed it though. My solo Thailand adventure was just beginning then. I knew right there and then that I would like this country a lot.
* For more photos in this set, please see my Flickr page: Bangkok, Thailand.
Landmarks like this are usually regarded as a "must-see" in guidebooks. Do you make it a point to visit whatever famous landmark there is in the city you're traveling in? Why? Why not?