Bangkok is a shock to the system. After the laid-back villages of the north of Thailand and even the city of Chiang Mai, Bangkok is a chaotic cacophony of cars and people. As we disembark from the plane, a glorious sunset greets us. Frustratingly, it takes 2 hours queuing in traffic to get to the Rembrandt Hotel just 16 miles away.
Is it worth spending just one day in Bangkok?
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Bangkok Temple Tour with Tour East Thailand
The following morning, my Tour East Thailand guide meets me in the hotel lobby and our driver whisks us away to the first temple. If you are only in Bangkok for a short time this has to be the easiest, most stress-free way of seeing the city highlights. The temples are staggeringly beautiful, as are the Buddhas they house.
Tip: Always remove your footwear before entering a temple. At some of the most popular temples bags are provided for you to carry your shoes in. At quieter temples, it is perfectly safe to leave your shoes outside.
The Golden Buddha
Our first stop is Wat Trimitr, the temple of the Golden Buddha. Made of 5.5 tons of solid gold, it’s a staggering sight and the largest Golden Buddha image in the world. It was made when Sukhothai was the capital of Thailand some 700 years ago.
Originally the Golden Buddha was covered in plaster to protect it from enemies invading the country. Over the centuries what lay beneath was forgotten (how could you forget 5.5 tons of gold). In 1955 when the Buddha was being moved to its current location, some of the plaster fell away, revealing this most beautiful of Golden Buddhas beneath. Estimated to be worth £28.5 million in gold, I’m sure it is priceless to the people of Thailand.
The Reclining Buddha
Driving through Chinatown, I’m relieved that the traffic isn’t as bad as the night before. We make our way to the Wat Pho, the temple of the Reclining Buddha, the largest and oldest Buddha in Bangkok.
The temple complex is huge and I could easily spend all day here but, having seen some of the highlights, we make our way to see the famous Reclining Buddha. I’m pleased that although the complex is teeming with tourists, the queues to see it aren’t too bad at all. It is magnificent. It is a shame, however, that it is housed in such a compact temple with the statue peeking out between the columns decorated in stunning hand painted wall paper, as are the temple walls.
The King of Siam
Without my guide I would have undoubtedly missed an aspect of Wat Pho that I found fascinating, the Phra Maha Chedi Si Rajakarn, The Great Pagodas of the Four Kings, not least because one of them was built by Rama IV. He was known in English-speaking countries as King Mongkut, the fourth monarch of Siam (now Thailand). He ruled from 1851 to 1868 and is well-known outside of Thailand as the king in the Hollywood film ‘Anna and the King of Siam’ and the 1950’s musical ‘The King and I’. Although there are many historical inaccuracies, the films (and the original book) are loosely based on the true story of American missionary Anna Leonowens’ years at his court where she was employed as a teacher. It’s a story I know well and I have fond memories of watching the musical as a child. I was fascinated by King Mongkut and Siamese Culture.
In reality, King Mongkut was even more interesting. Known in Thailand as ‘The Father of Science and Technology’, Mongkut studied both Siam Astrology and Western Astronomy while a monk, prior to being crowned. As king, he embraced many Western technologies and initiated the modernisation of Siam. Just one example of his great foresight, going against his court astrologers’ calculations, he accurately predicted a solar eclipse using the Thai method of measuring time combined with the Western measurement of longitude and latitude. Amongst other things, two Bangkok universities, a hospital and a planet have all been named after him.
He had become king at the age of 47, prior to which he had lived a celibate life as a monk. By the time he died at the age of 67 he had 32 wives and at least 82 children.
The Marble Temple
Our last stop was Wat Benchamabophit, or the Marble Temple, a magnificent monastery built with white Italian marble from Carrara. Considered one of the most beautiful temples in Bangkok, Wat Ben, as it’s known for short, was built in the late 19th century under Rama V, combining Thai architectural styles with European influences.
The courtyard behind the temple has 53 Buddha images (33 originals and 20 copies) showing every mudra (gesture) and style from Thai history. Note the bottle of water to the left of the Buddha below. This is a gift to Buddha intended to be drunk by the people tending the temple grounds.
I pre-booked both my Airport transfers to the Rembrandt Hotel and a morning temple tour with Tour East Thailand via Expedia. My guide was fascinating. I could have seen the temples without her but I would have had little idea of what I was looking at and I’m sure, not knowing my way around, it would have taken much longer. This way, I could let someone else worry about the logistics, concentrate on taking photos and be back at my hotel by noon. I was looking forward to a relaxing afternoon.
Where to eat in Bangkok?
You can’t visit Bangkok without trying its famous street food but with around 500,000 stalls located in 683 locations in 50 districts of the city, the choice is bewildering. There’s a fabulous book that will guide you to the best stalls. You can read my review here, Thailand’s Best Street Food.
For any vegans, you’ll find a useful guide on Mostly Amelie, Vegan Bangkok: 15 restaurants you should try.
Where to shop in Bangkok?
Any shopaholics should check out Wander With Jo’s ultimate Bangkok shopping guide. I didn’t get a chance to do any shopping but having read Jo’s post I wish I had. Apparently, you can pick up some real bargains.
Where to stay in Bangkok? The Rembrandt Hotel
I had arrived in the city the night before and as I walked into the impressive lobby of the Rembrandt Hotel in the Sukhumvit area of Bangkok, a pianist was playing in the bar. Immediately, the hustle and bustle of Bangkok’s busy streets faded away to no more than a distant memory. First impressions were good.
Having given my name to reception I was whisked upstairs to the Executive floors and a dedicated check-in. It was no time at all before I was shown to my room on the 24th floor with a stunning view across the city skyline.
Aimed at business travellers, my Executive Room is spacious and very well-equipped, from the mini bar to the toiletries, everything I could want has been provided and there’s complimentary high-speed WiFi.
It may have taken two hours to get here from Suvarnabhumi Airport due to the horrendous traffic, but thankfully my suitcase arrived in record time. I hate it when you end up waiting for ages for your case and you are left thinking it would have been a darn sight easier to just have brought it up yourself! I quickly change just in time to make my reservation at one of the hotel’s many restaurants.
Bangkok by night is an impressive sight and this beautiful award-winning Indian restaurant makes the most of its rooftop location. Below me, never ending streams of cars run up and down the highways between skyscrapers reaching up into the night sky.
There’s an open-air terrace here too, with equally stunning views – perfect for a romantic aperitif or a nightcap.
The restaurant menu is extensive, with many familiar favourites and I notice that vegetarians are very well catered for here. As I sip on a delicious mango lassi, the manager recommends a number of dishes as well as the most delicious garlic naan bread. It is the house specialty, though, that steals the day. Raan-e-Khyber, tender leg of lamb, marinated in rum and exotic herbs and spices before being barbecued over charcoal. The service is equally good if a little fussy.
Up until now, I’ve had a very busy schedule in Thailand and I’m looking forward to winding down a little and getting an early night. An Indian band is playing in the restaurant, adding to the atmosphere, which is refined and welcoming. I linger longer than I intended, enjoying the music so much that it’s actually quite late by the time I get to my room. I’ve another early start as the tour of the temples I have pre-booked starts earlier than I had expected.
The Executive Lounge
I have breakfast in the Executive Lounge of the Rembrandt Hotel with more stunning views of the city. There’s less choice here than in the main breakfast area downstairs, but the atmosphere is far more conducive to a gentle start for the day. It is also much quicker if you have limited time.
Early evening complimentary drinks and snacks are also available in the lounge for those staying on the Executive Floors.
Relaxing at the Rembrandt Hotel
After a wonderful morning visiting Bangkok’s temples, we arrived back from the tour at around noon. Instead of rushing out again to see more of the city, I head out to the hotel pool where I find plenty of free sun loungers. After a swim, I order a Green Thai Chicken Curry from the poolside snack bar. Washed down with a local beer it hit’s the spot!.
I’m booked in at the spa to experience a Thai massage. I can confirm that, yes, they are painful, and no, they are not relaxing. It’s a very pleasant spa, though, and they have a good range of treatments so if you are after a more relaxing massage, of course, that is available too.
For further suggestions of hotels suiting different budgets visit Nomad is Beautiful’s article, where to stay in Bangkok.
I’m so glad I broke the flight home from Chiang Mai with a stopover in Bangkok. It’s a huge, hectic, chaotic city compared to Chiang Mai but the temples here are stunning and a real ‘must see’. Hopefully, I’ll return one day to see more as I’ve barely scratched the service.
I’ve heard Bangkok compared to marmite (you either love it or hate it). Have you been to Bangkok? Did you love it or hate it?
Disclosure: My stay at the Rembrandt Hotel, dinner at the Rang Mahal and massage were complimentary. As always, I am free to write whatever I wish and will always share my own honest opinions. Please note that some of the links in this article are affiliate links. As such, if you click on one of these links and go on to make a purchase, I may make a small commission at no cost to you. This goes towards the running of this site, for which I am grateful. Thank you!
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