This morning was a late arrival into the port of Bangkok so we spent some leisure time at the pool while the captain navigated us through the channel into the city. We passed many types of water craft while on the river – everything from larger ships to small junks. One of the nice things about being on a relatively small ship (600 passengers) is that our ship could dock close to the city in the port of Klong Toey. Larger ships are required to dock in Laem Chabang requiring a 2+ hour drive into the city.
After a very nice brunch in Discoveries that included fresh pasta and shrimp, we were ready to meet our guide for our private tour. Our disembarkation was quick and after a short walk through a small terminal building, our guide was ready and waiting for us. Ms Lek quickly loaded us into our mini bus and we were off towards the city centre. Along the way she purchased fried bananas from a street vendor for us that were super tasty!
On the way, she explained that the King of Thailand had passed away in October 2016 and the country was still in a state of mourning. This meant that some areas of the Grand Palace would not be available for visitation. She went on to tell us that of the entire country – some 80 million people – they expected approximately 75% of the population would make the trip to Bangkok over the next year to pay their respects to the King. The people of Thailand loved their King who was the longest reigning monarch and had been in power for 70 years. He was described as a King of the People who visited much of the country and put programs in place to help and support the Thai people. We were unprepared for the sheer number of mourners lined up in the streets to wait for their few precious moments to say prayers in the Palace where the King was laid out. In some cases, people were standing for 8-10 hours in line. The city has a network of volunteers who provide water and food to the people in queue, along with medical and emergency services provided to anyone requiring it. It was a truly amazing experience to see the dedication of these people to their ruler. Very inspiring.
Our first stop was the Grand Palace and Royal Temple. To gain access you require verification of your passport and women must have their knees and shoulders covered since it is a religious venue.
Once we entered the gates, it took a little bit to decide exactly where we should look. The complex is just incredible. Never have we seen such ornate buildings with stunning detail and sparkly gold adornments. Originally built in 1782, over the years, each of the Kings has created an area that is specifically theirs within the complex. They each had pieces commissioned that meant something to them at the time of their reign. Some were created with territorial thoughts in mind and others just to be impressive. We wandered around taking in the fancy facades, the never-ending number of gold Buddha statues and jutting roofs, each of which had multiple regal looking peaks pointing to the sky.
Inside the complex is Wat Phra Kaew or the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. This is considered to be the most important Buddhist Temple in Thailand as it houses the Emerald Buddha. This Buddha is carved from a single piece of Jade and shows Buddha in a meditating position. It dates to the 15th century. You are not able to enter the Temple to get close to the Buddha however we could observe it from outside. Each season (summer, winter and rainy) the King changes a cloak that is draped on the Buddha to bring good fortune to the country. The Temple is very ornate and beautifully decorated.
After wandering the grounds of the Royal Palace and taking in all the sights, we were picked up by our driver and taken to a boat dock where we boarded a Longtail boat for a canal tour. The Chao Praya river is heavily congested with tour boats, ferries and private watercraft. Our Longtail boat was a narrow wooden craft with festive ribbon decorations, but the real marvel is the motor – basically it is a car engine with a propeller attached to it by a long pole. It is noisy and spews all kinds of smoke but this seems to be the norm. The ride through the canals was fantastic. We saw houses of all kinds lining the water’s edge – fancy homes through to dilapidated platforms perched on stilts. There were temples, shrines, schools and people swimming in the water. This was real life on the water and we were so amazed to see each part, while we snacked on yummy banana pancakes and fruit.
Our tour concluded with a choppy ride out back across the main river where our driver dropped us at the dock beside Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn). This temple has a different type of architecture however we were unable to see it well as it is currently covered in scaffold while it undergoes a full renovation. We weren’t able to enter the temple either since the entire building was closed. This is one of Bangkok’s most known temples and is often one of the landmark buildings shown as a symbol for the city. It is quite impressive in size with the spires reaching 70 metres. The grounds and gardens surrounding it are also very pretty and we enjoyed a walk through the area before heading on a ferry across the river to Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha).
Wat Pho is a massive complex that houses the Reclining Buddha. What a sight! This huge Buddha measures 46 metres long, 15 metres tall and is completely covered in gold leaf. Even his feet are gigantic - measuring 5 metres long and they are covered with mother of pearl illustrations. After walking the length of the Buddha, we explored the rest of the Temple and enjoyed seeing beautiful golden Buddhas, intricate murals and lovely foliage within colourful ceramics. This location was the first public university in Thailand that specialized in religion, science and literature so the walls are full of prescriptions and teachings of scholars from long ago. One of the most intriguing things we saw inside were monks chanting in the Ordination Temple. This was a wonderful experience to hear their melodic sounds amongst the perfect acoustics of the Temple.
Our afternoon tour was complete and our tour guide dropped us back to the ship. We had a quick bite to eat at the buffet and then boarded a coach bus for the planned Azamara Evening. On each Azamara voyage, there is a special night where the cruise line provides an extraordinary experience for all those guests wanting to participate. This voyage, the ship transported most our 600 passengers to the Ancient City that was open only to the guests of the ship. This incredible open air museum houses many of the famous buildings of Thailand in a scaled down format. Special buildings such as the Grand Palace in Bangkok and Sanphet Prasat Palace are re-created amongst beautiful grounds decorated with flowers, shrubbery, fountains, ponds, temples, shrines and statues. When we arrived, we boarded little trains that took us on a tour through the grounds to a beautiful open area with seating and a large stage. We were greeted by stunning Thai women who gave us tropical drinks and led us to the area where food and more drinks were available. The weather was wonderful and we thoroughly enjoyed the entertainment of Aspara dancers and Thai martial artists.
Before our departure each person was given a basket full of lotus flowers with a burning candle in the centre that we set into the river to float. This is a traditional ceremony called Krathong that is celebrated earlier in the year in Thailand however they recreated the festival concept for us to participate. The idea is to set forth the basket with the light of the Buddha and at the same time release any negativity you may be holding onto. It was very pretty to see hundreds of baskets floating in the water. Such a lovely tradition.
With our evening ending, we boarded the trains once again and then the coaches to make our way back to the ship. We were delighted to received champagne and a welcome back band playing for us as we boarded the Azamara Journey. It was as they say – An Azamazing Evening!
We went directly to our cabin as tonight was going to be a shortened sleep as we anticipated our departure for Cambodia at 2:30am!
Adventures in South East Asia - Hong Kong Part 1 - click here
Adventures in South East Asia - Hong Kong Part 2 - click here
Adventures in South East Asia - Hong Kong Part 3 & Onboard Azamara Day 1 - click here
Adventures in South East Asia - Onboard Azamara Day 2 - click here
Adventures in South East Asia - Onboard Azamara Day 3 - click here
Adventures in South East Asia - Onboard Azamara Day 4 - click here
Adventures in South East Asia - Onboard Azamara Day 5 - click here
Adventures in South East Asia - Onboard Azamara Day 6 - click here
Adventures in South East Asia - Onboard Azamara Day 7 - click here
Adventures in South East Asia - Onboard Azamara Day 8 - click here
Adventures in South East Asia - Onboard Azamara Day 10 - click here
Adventures in South East Asia - Onboard Azamara Day 11 - click here
Sharing Our Travel Dreams
Sharing our personal experiences onboard and on the road, along with tips and insight for creating memorable vacations.