We continued our visa wait (we paid for the standard four day turn-around time through the travel agency) by venturing out to see the standard tourist sites of Bangkok. The convenient thing about the Khoa San Road area is that is close to the impressive Grand Palace and Wat (wat means temple) Phra Kaew complex, which is a very beautiful architectural site, in addition to being an important spiritual center for the Thai people.
It is important that visitors remember to wear long pants and shirts that cover the shoulders for the Wat Phra Kaew site. The Wat complex contains the Emerald Buddha (a revered jade Buddha statue) and the whole site is the most important Buddhist site in Thailand. We saw many of the Khoa San Road degenerates stopped at the gate since they seem to have forgotten that Bangkok is more than a playground full of cheap booze, loose women and fake designer clothes and tried to enter wearing shorts and beer logo t-shirts. They all had to wait in line to rent pants and skirts in order to be allowed to enter, many of them grumbling about the inconvenience.
The Thai guards are polite but firm in their instance that visitors observe a basic dress code and code of conduct (no photos in the temples, take your hat off, etc.). As we checked about the dress code before heading in, we didn’t have to wait in the long line with all the others to rent the long pants and skirts required to enter. An Australian we met in Bali noted that we wouldn’t dare show such disrespect when visiting the Vatican or comparable western religious site, so why should visitors assume they should act any different here and show some basic reverence for the beliefs of the local people.
Wat Phra Kaew and royal palace complex have some really awesome buildings with elaborate decorations. It is a great experience to walk around the site, and you can go into some of the temples to see the elaborate Buddhist icons (including the jade Buddha statute) and other icons and alters gilded with gold (no photos allowed on the insides though). The buildings have some amazing detail work and elaborate architectural features.
We also went to the famous floating market (Damnoend Saduak) near Bangkok. We knew it was a tourist trap, but we went anyway. It was worse than we expected. The “all inclusive tour” didn’t include a boat ride through the market, and our guide insisted we had to pay for a ticket to get on the boat in order to see the market. Once we paid the for the boat ticket (an additional price that was an 50% of the cost of the “all inclusive tour”) we saw tons of tourists walking along the banks, for free, seeing the same thing we did on the boat. If you insist on visiting this site, we would not recommend paying for the additional boat ticket (in spite of how much your guide may insist that “it is not possible to see the market” without going on the boat).
Once upon a time, maybe there was an authentic floating market where locals bought and sold things from boats. Now it is just tourists and people on boats selling things to them. Stalls along the banks sell the same knick-knacks seen elsewhere in Bangkok. The floating market is marketed with the photo on the left, which looks authentic. The reality is more like the photo on the right. There is even a platform on the bridge where everyone takes the same picture (on the left) to perpetuate the myth.
***click to enlarge photos***