We battled traffic from the Suvarnabhumi Airport (pronounced “su-waan-na-poom”) all the way to our hotel, and the closer we got to our downtown digs the more pedestrians filled the sidewalks. Motorcycles sped by in-between the bumper-to-bumper traffic as our taxi moved at a snail’s pace to the next stop light. With each new block, we marveled (and cringed) at the mess of power lines strung between the impressive highrises, and I curiously peered down the small, hidden alleyways wondering what adventures would be found down each path.
I knew that Bangkok would feel overwhelming after reading about the city and its 6.4 million residents, so to minimize the anxiety we decided on a short stopover to give us enough time to check out the highlights without getting too overwhelmed by our surroundings. In order to maximize our time in the capital I turned to Viator.com to scope out the recommended activities, and after a little bit of review Cody and I decided to book the Viator VIP Exclusive: A five-hour tour including a Morning Almsgiving, a visit to the International Flower Market, and a tour of the Grand Palace.
We began our tour
bright and early dark and early on our last day in the country–I’m talking out the door at 5:30am, early--and as we drove to our first destination our tour guide, Jeerawat, introduced himself and gave us a rundown of our day. Along the route to our first stop we discussed Thai history, the larger-than-life-sized photos of the Thai Royal Family that were prominently displayed throughout the city, and as we drove by yet another group of soldiers–guns in hand–standing guard in the capital our conversation turned to the current military coup and its impact on daily life. Which, for the record, didn’t seem to have much of an impact at all.
We pulled up outside of the Marble Temple and Jeerawat explained the meaning behind the daily Alsmgiving–simply, every morning before sunrise Buddhists present daily offerings to the monks which provide the monks with sustenance and in turn, those giving will receive blessings and good-will in their own lives. Residents from all walks of life pulled up in front of the temple gates to give Alms–one by one they would remove their shoes and present their offering always followed by the traditional wai.
As an introvert, I prefer to sit back with my camera and observe the shenanigans as they unfold around me, however on this morning I felt immensely grateful for the opportunity to experience and participate in such a sacred ceremony.
After participating in the Almsgiving, we walked the immaculate grounds of the Marble Temple and Jeerawat explained that almost all Thai men become a monk at least once in their life; some serve for only a short period of time and others decide to serve for life. His insight into the daily life of these monks was fascinating and quite interesting.
The peaceful feeling that surrounded the temple was contagious and I was surprised to find a moment of tranquility in the middle of this bustling urban city.
After our peaceful morning at the Marble Temple we were off to explore the massive
and slightly chaotic 24-hour International Flower Market. These two stops were complete opposites from each other–peaceful and serene followed by extremely busy and chaotic–and during our two weeks in the country I realized that Thailand is not only the land of smiles, but also the land of striking contrasts.
We worked our way through the market and browsed hundreds of different flower venues all while dodging delivery men, bicycles, vehicles, and other shoppers. Vendors worked on their displays, while others created beautiful leis and jewelry to sell, and in the middle of it all a group of women gathered to complete an early morning cardio workout. My favorite part of this stop was sampling the sweet Thai coffee from one of the vendors and finding a small bakery for a quick snack.
Now, to be honest, if I were planning a day trip around Bangkok I would have probably skipped the flower market entirely, however, it fit nicely within the schedule of this half-day tour and it was an interesting stop full of photo ops. After our pit stop at the bakery we climbed back into our private car and drove the packed, narrow, streets to the prized highlight of the day. And what a delight the next stop would be.
Before I go, I wanted to remind you about my previous Thailand post where I dished about our contemporary Bangkok hotel and shared a discount code for you to use on your next booking with Travel Pony. The discount code is still valid and can be used at hotels around the world, so don’t forget to check it out as you’re planning your next trip.