When we booked the cruise, we didn't realise how much travelling we had to do in order get to destinations from the ports. Although, only two hours from Bangkok, we were told to expect long delays because of traffic. Here we decided to get our cultural fix out of the way and visit some temples.
An early start again wasn't welcome, but we were soon on our way and our guide was a real character telling us all how to be healthy and leading us on a series of exercises on the coach. He even went around offering back massages, before trying to sell the herbal medicines he assured us would solve all our aches and pains. Not much information about the places we passed on the way though.
Our first stop was the Grand Palace. On previous tours, we had borrowed cover ups before going into temples and hadn't realised we needed to bring our own on this cruise. Fortunately, they sold trousers and tops for a couple of pounds outside the entrance. Suitably attired, we entered and joined the ensuing throng of visitors. The palace was impressive and the decorated shrines were awesome. We expected a commentary from the guide but he just told us where to meet him and left us to find our way around; not ideal but a chance to explore on our own.
One of the most famous artefacts within the Palace was the Jade Buddha. This was a tiny statue situated on top of a decorated shrine. No photographs were allowed but it truly was an impressive sight.
We left the Palace and followed our guide down to the river, where we had a short boat ride to visit a Hindu Temple called the Wat Arun Temple, which again was amazing. We were able to have a quick look round the market area on the riverside whilst we waited for the boat to collect us. Once on the boat, we sailed along the Chao Phraya River; we were off to visit the Wat Pho Temple, which was the home of the giant supine Buddha. Walking around the statue, you couldn't help admiring the workmanship and wondering about the amount of gold used to cover it.
,Back on the coach we set off for our return journey. It was a long, tiring journey, with the first two traffic lights, leading out of the city centre, taking one hour to pass through!
Arriving back on the ship, we reflected on our impressions of Bangkok; an interesting city with its traditional historic and religious sites, intermingling with the modern skyscrapers and not forgetting alongside the river, the old sections of city with ramshackle, decaying houses. A city worthy of a longer visit!
Apparently, at one time it had been like Venice but now most of the canals had been filled in for a road network, but this has created something that feels like a large car park that takes ages to drive through.
Just as a footnote, after spending all of the journey to the city, telling us how to stay healthy and the benefits of exercise and herbal medicines, the guide gave us a long talk about his illnesses. This then led on to the cost of health care in the country and how he was struggling to pay for all the medicines he needed. He also told us how previous members of tour groups, often offered to let him stay for free, when he holidayed in their countries! Needless to say, after these subtle hints I'm not sure if anyone gave him their email; we certainly didn't!