Thailand & Vietnam Voyage
Thursday November 28 to Saturday November 30, 2013

Three days in the Land of Smiles

After our five day visit to Singapore we enjoyed two very nice and relaxing days at sea as Azamara Journey made the 917 nautical mile (1698 km) voyage from Singapore through the Strait of Singapore and South China Sea to the shallow waters of the Gulf of Thailand on our way to Bangkok. Our arrival into Bangkok was in the early hours of Thursday November 28, and the colour of the sky and sea was a surreal mixture of coral and purples as the sunrise became visible through the morning haze.

November 2013 was the start of a period of political instability in Thailand that ultimately led to a Coup d'état in May 2014 - so there was uncertainty how this would affect our time in Bangkok. We were informed that there were protests scheduled in Bangkok during our visit and that access to some tourist destinations could be affected.

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  • Thursday November 28, 2013

    Wat Taimit, Wat Pho and a tour on the Chao Phraya River

    Our first day of touring in Bangkok started with a trip to the temple of Wat Traimit, home of Phra Phuttha Maha Suwan Patimakon - better known to most of us as the Golden Buddha. At 3 metres tall by 3.10 metres wide this 18 karat gold statue has a mass of 5.5 tonnes. The body is 40% pure gold, the face 80% pure gold and the 45 kg hair is 99% pure gold. Impressive, to say the least.

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      From Wat Traimit we made our way to Wat Pho - known also as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. Either of which is a bit easier to say than its official name of Wat Phra Chettuphon Wimon Mangkhlaram Ratchaworamahawihan. The reclining Buddha is actually hard to see in its entirety because it is just so big. It measures 43 metres long by 15 metres high. The base of the feet alone measure 4.5 metres by 3 metres - inlaid with mother-of-pearl panels showing the 108 auspicious characters of Buddha. That was paired with 108 offering bowls surrounding the reclining Buddha. People were lined up to drop coins in each of the 108 bowls - with the hope of good fortune for doing so. Besides the huge reclining Buddha, Wat Pho’s claim to fame is as the official birthplace of traditional Thai massage.

      We had lunch on a rice barge as we toured along the Chao Phraya River. The river was a busy place and the traffic made the water quite choppy. Our afternoon plans were the first to be really affected by the political demonstrations. Earlier our route to Wat Traimit had to be adjusted to suit what was going on, but our afternoon planned visit to Vimanmek Palace was cancelled because of the proximity to the protests. Instead we went to Suan Pakked Palace. It was a pretty and peaceful venue with a 17th century Lacquer Pavilion, and had a nice art collection display as well as housing one of the Royal Barges used during the reign of King Chulalongkorn - who was depicted as the boy prince in “The King & I”. Our evening plans for the first night were also affected - we had planned a Tuk Tuk ride in the city as well as dinner cruise on the Chao Phraya River, but those too were called off because of the protests. It was still a very full and enjoyable day touring Bangkok.

  • Friday November 29, 2013

    The Grand Palace, Wat Arun and an evening in Ancient Siam

    Day two in Bangkok started with Linda not feeling so well. We suspected that it might have been something she had eaten the day before on the rice barge at lunch. As we got ready and went for breakfast it still wasn’t clear if Linda would be up for a full day’s touring in Bangkok and by the time we needed to head to pick up our tour it was clear it would be best that she stay back on Azamara Journey.

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      The decision was difficult because it meant missing the planned trip to the Grand Palace. Gary made the trip and took as many photos as possible to show Linda later. The Grand Palace is a walled complex consisting of many buildings including what is considered the most sacred temple in Thailand - Wat Phra Kaew, or Temple of the Emerald Buddha, or full official name of Wat Phra Si Rattana Satsadaram. The emerald Buddha itself is quite small - only 66 cm tall, carved out of a single piece of jade. The age of the state isn’t certain, but legend says that it originated in India in 43 BC. For this visit, the statue was decked out in an elaborate gold coat - the most substantial of three gold costumes to suit the seasons in Thailand. It is the King’s responsibility to change the clothing at the appropriate change of seasons. The Grand Palace is huge with lots to see, and is probably Bangkok’s busiest tourist attraction. To Gary it seemed like everyone in Bangkok except Linda was there.

      The next destination was Wat Arun Ratchawararam Ratchawaramahawihan or simply Wat Arun or Temple of Dawn. Access to Wat Arun was via a motor launch on the river and once close to the temple’s towers (called Prangs) then the main feature of this temple was clearly visible - that all of the surfaces were encrusted with colourful porcelain pieces. To get to the top of the central Prang took some effort on very steep steps, but the reward was a wonderful view of Bangkok. Following Wat Arun was a tour back on the motor launch of some of the panel and river tributaries as well as checking out the current stock of massive Royal Barges then a late lunch at a riverside restaurant.

      Something new for this cruise for us with Azamara is something they were calling AzAmazing Evenings that were intended to be an immersive cultural evening in one of the cities for cruises longer than 7 nights. For the Friday evening in Bangkok, there was a AzAmazing Evening planned in Ancient Siam (formerly known as Ancient City) - an outside park/museum with a combination of replica and reconstructed attractions and monuments from the vast history of Thailand. Linda was feeling well enough to attend, so we both decided to go for the evening. Friday night traffic in Bangkok is probably quite bad at the best of times, and the protests seemed to make it even worse - so it was a long bus to the venue. We were one of the earliest to arrive, and there was food and beverages available and a large area set up with chairs outside for the cultural performance. The event was delayed considerably because of some of the buses stuck in traffic. Communication was not the best leading up to the start of the performance - we could have enjoyed so much more of what the park had to offer had we known the sort of delay there was going to be before everyone had arrived. The performance is pretty much what you would have expected as a cultural event in Thailand. On balance, we agreed that our original gut reaction to not attend this AzAmazing Evening would have been the better choice.

  • Saturday November 30, 2013

    Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

    On our final day in Bangkok we went to the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market in Ratchaburi, Thailand - and that turned out to be the highlight of our time in Bangkok. It was a great day.

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      We originally hadn't planned on going to the floating market…but while onboard Azamara Journey earlier in the trip we had a chat with the ship's Hotel Director Heike Berdos, who highly recommended the experience - and we are very glad we followed her advice.

      The day started with a bus ride to Ratchaburi province where we would first get a short ride in one of the long-tailed boats along the canals known as khlongs to get close to the area used for the floating market. We sat very low and the boat navigated the turns with relative ease at considerable speed most of the time. We weren’t in a boat once we reached the market itself, but we were able to get some great vantage points to watch all of the hustle and bustle of this most fascinating market. It was probably a good thing that the market only operates until noon - it would have been easy to just waste the day away watching the activities of the market. As a last minute addition to our plans while in Bangkok it will forever be an endearing memory of the trip.

Bangkok Image Gallery

Early morning arrival in Bangkok, Thailand with surreal colours
The Golden Buddha in the temple of Wat Traimit
Wat Pho
Wat Pho
Golden Buddha statues at Wat Pho
Boats on the Chao Phraya River
Statue of the Hermit at the Hermit Gate of Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha) inside the Grand Palace
The decorative monkey demons on one of the eight sides at the base of the Golden Phra Chedi
The base of the Southern Chedi - built in honour of King Rama 1
A Garuda (bird-like creature) decoration on the outside of the Ubosot
One of the Royal Guards on duty at the Grand Palace
Bangkok street market
The view looking towards the Grand Palace (left) and Wat Pho (right) from Wat Arun
The view of the traffic on the khlongs (canals) from a long-tailed boat
The most entertaining and least happy merchant at the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market
Damnoen Saduak Floating Market
Merchant at the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market
Sunset viewed from Azamara Journey as we sailed away from Bangkok
About WHITEonline

WHITEonline is the digital home of Gary & Linda White. We’ve been married since 1980 and live just outside Toronto in Ontario, Canada. Linda was born and raised in Toronto while Gary was born in London, England and moved to Canada at the age of 11. We enjoy travelling and taking photos while we travel. WHITEonline provides the opportunity to share some of our photos & experiences.

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