I spent the morning figuring out my schedule for the next couple days and when/how I was going to ge to Surin for the Elephant Round-up. I determined I’d be best going on a night train (about 8 hrs). Then headed out to see Wat Phrea Kaew (Temple with the Emerald Buddha) and stop by the train station to buy my ticket.
The Emerald Buddha was beautiful, but a bit disappointing… it’ no where near as large as I expected. Being the most venerated Buddha image in all of Thailand I just expected it to be bigger. It’s most special because it is carved from jade. It is just about life size, which is small in comparison to many of the seated buddha images are several meters tall or more. The Emerald Buddha on an very high alter about 10 meters up in the air… The alter is spectacular, but somewhat overwhelms the Emerald Buddha. Regardless it was wonderful to see and sit and mediate, briefly, before it.
I walked around the temple grounds seeing all the amazing Chedi and Stupas around the grounds. There are also magnificent murals on the walls. As I left the Wat and Grand Palace I decided it’d be fun to make my way down to the train station by river boat.
I walked along river until I found a boat dock. I’m not sure why the river was so high, but much was flooded along the edges, water coming up into the streets. To get to the boat dock you walked through a little set of stores, quite like walking into Kimo’s on Maui. The floor of the stores all had a tiny bit of water on them and they’d built a temporary runway down the middle so that you could walk through to the boat docks without getting your feet wet. The runway however made the ceiling about 5 feet high. The boat dock actually had several docks for boats going to different places. It was all a bit confusing but I wasn’t too worried about getting on the wrong one since it just meant seeing more of the river. It’s not obvious since there are ordinary boats and express boats both going up and down river, as well as a third boat the simply goes across the river to another Wat. Fortutantly I made it on the correct boat, and no it’s not the boat in the picture, that’s a river cruise boat not a taxi boat. It was great to see the city from the water, so many houses and building sitting right on the edge of the water.
The ride down the river was wonderful and I started to see the real city of Bangkok. I saw dilapidated shacks falling into the river, next to new-ish high rise condos. It was great to see it all, to take it all in. From where the boat dropped me off I made my way through several non-touristy alleys toward the train station. Apparently I was in the automotive district or something, because every other shop had huge piles of car parts out front and were busily rebuilding engines, transmissions, differentials or whatever… Every few shops there would be a food place, sometimes tiny, sometimes larger. How great to be able to walk five feet to lunch… how horrible to eat the food soaked in diesel fumes all day. The highlight of the walk though was something unexpected as I walked along the channel. Just as I was walking past a local guy pulled a huge catfish out of the water. I gave him a big smile and thumbs up on his catch, he was clearly very proud. I ended up walking a long way down the street behind him as he walked and all the other locals would do the same thing (big smile/thumbs up) and comment on his good catch. So cool… this is the stuff I love about “getting lost on a walk in a new city”.
I finally made it to the train station and found the 8:30pm train was the only one with sleeper cars and it got in at 4:30am. I think it’s strange that neither the 10:00pm, 10:30pm nor the 11:15pm trains had sleeper cars, maybe they were just already booked… oh well.
With that taken care of I made my way back towards the hostel for a foot massage, a shower and dinner before turning around and heading back to the train station. The foot massage was fantastic the one hour massage which was 80% feet, 15% lower legs and 5% neck and back, cost me all of 250 Baht… US$7. It did wonders for getting my body back in balance after the plane flight, walking with an overly heavy pack, and the general lack of sleep.
The train ride started out louder and rougher than I expected but I got use to it and got a little bit a sleep as we went along eventually getting a few hours of sleep, but mostly doing some reading.