The chance to travelling around Asia without your family – a dream come true or something you would never consider doing?
To me it had always been both. But that was the opportunity that we’d been presented with and suddenly here I was in Bangkok experiencing feelings that covered a mix of both.
Just a few days in the ‘family-sickness’ kicked in. Being away without them showed me that for me family travel has it’s negatives but so does the carefree solo travel my memories have romantised. There’s nothing quite like travelling around solo to make you realise how much better sharing the challenges and joys of the world is with your best friend, and how quickly you can miss your children.
But it wasn’t all bad. Once the usual hassles like finding clean, reasonably priced accommodation (more tricky than it sounds!) and working out the best exchange rates were out of the way, there were some great moments. The absolute highlight was exploring Wat Pho and Wat Arun, two temples that I’ve always wanted to visit. To have the chance to spend a day exploring them at my own pace was magical!
Wat Pho is one of the most beautiful temples I have ever visited. I’ve never seen so many chedi or so many surfaces covered with intricate designs.
Every chedi, temple roof and column was covered in ornate tiled patterns.
Wat Pho is the largest and possibly oldest temple in Bangkok. Walking around the many sections takes hours. It is also home to a 46m long and 15m high reclining Buddha, the largest Buddha in Thailand.
Near the buddha I could hear a faint sound like tweeting. At first I thought a flock of swallows was living in the roof but behind the Buddha I found the real source – a long row of 108 metal bowls. For 20 baht you can purchase coins and walk along the bowls placing coins into each of them. The sound I had heard was the noise of visitors dropping coins in the bowls as they made a prayer or wish. Walking along dropping the coins silently repeating a wish in your head or trying to clear your mind was completely mesmirising and possibly the best form of meditation I’ve ever done!
Entry to Wat Pho costs a 100 baht, a very reasonable price when you consider entry to the nearby Grand Palace costs 500 baht or using a currency convertor, $3.20 and $16 respectively. I enjoyed my visit to Wat Pho just as much as the Grand Palace. The palace is larger but when you are paying entry prices for a whole family, it’s a big difference and Wat Pho was just as splendid in many ways. It was also a lot quieter, making it easier to get photos that weren’t filled with people and it would have been a much more relaxing place to explore with kids. We were there for close to 2 hours and could have stayed longer.
Wat Pho runs a teaching school for traditional Thai medicine and massage. A massage here costs more than elsewhere in Bangkok but the massage is amazing.
Wat Arun lies across the river from Wat Pho. The view of the temple from the ferry was almost as enjoyable as visiting the temple itself.
Up close the intricacy of the temple is even more amazing those at Wat Pho. The views from the top of the tallest temple in Bangkok are also breathtaking.
I’m not petrified of heights but long steep, narrow stairs cases will send my heart racing and my knuckles white every time. The stairs at Wat Arun are some of the steepest I’ve ever seen. Descending was a fun challenge but it was worth it for the view from the top and the chance to explore the temple up close.
Entry to Wat Arun costs 50 baht.
Tips for visiting:
Wear clothing to the knees and shirts that cover your shoulders. Wat Pho didn’t enforce this when we visited except for inside a couple of the temples, but it is the respectful thing to do. It was required at Wat Arun and if you don’t have appropriate clothing you will need to rent some.
Wat Pho is a short walk from the Grand Palace. Both temples can be reached by public water ferries. Wat Pho is located across at Tha Thien Pier.
Chao Phraya Express Ferry runs a boat from Tha Thien Pier outside Wat Pho to Wat Arun. The cost is 5 baht and the trip takes 5 minutes, although you may have to wait while the boat fills up. To catch the ferry to Wat Arun you need to get off at Tha Thien Pier and change ferries.