The day began early for me at 8:30 with instant coffee and posting news on BatamExpat.com. When he finally woke, Jack went to Starbucks downstairs for coffee and then started the bacon for breakfast.
The boat tour terminal was a three block walk from the condos. Being Saturday, it was busy. There was one area for “direct flights” to specific destinations on the river and a second area, where we went, for the hop on hop off boats. These are 100-foot, narrow boats seating about 120 people, which at the end of the day were jamming in many more standing room only style.
A guide at the front of the boat tells you what stop is coming up next. We got off at #8, which was the Wat Pho temple. This is where the huge reclining buddha statue is located.
I have to insert here that the hawkers are extremely aggressive here. I mean extremely. At the Grand Palace later in the day, I stopped to admire some paintings on fabric and couldn’t get away until I bought one. The price started at 1800 baht ($60) but quickly came down to 600 baht. That was still too much but I bought one for a souvenir. In comparison, original batik paintings I bought in Yogyakarta only cost $8-10 and these were just prints, not originals.
Getting on and off the boats is a cattle car experience, with many people jostling for the front of the line. We wondered how many tourists end up in the water, as we saw several cases where getting on and off some of the boats was a real challenge, especially for the older and usually overweight people.
The Chao Phraya River is a very busy waterway. Loaded barges in caravans of three pulled by tugs ply the river constantly, carrying sand and rocks mostly it looked like. Streamlined fast boats with huge motors and long propeller rods speed up and down the waterway. Several types of tour boats, including the ones we used, work both directions. At various stops, other boats take you across the river for a mere 3 baht. These were often packed for the 5 minute ride.
The all day hop on hop off boats (Chao Phraya tourist boat) cost 150 baht ($5) per person and are a great way to avoid the street traffic to see some of the most sought after temples. The basic service plies from Wat Rajsingkorn all the way north to Nonthaburi, with stops at most of Rattanakosin’s major attractions, including the Grand Palace (at Tha Chang) and Wat Pho (at Tha Tien).
We got off at Tha Tien for the Wat Pho temple, a sprawling complex of ornate buildings, with one holding the buddha. After about 30 minutes or so walking around the grounds and taking photos, we headed back to the boat dock, where you have to pass through a gauntlet of vendors selling mostly tourist trinkets and souvenirs.
We boarded the next boat going our way and got off at #9, where the Grand Palace is located. Here, we only walked around the grounds, and did so illegally since we had shorts on and that is not allowed. Somehow we managed to go around the main gate and avoid the guards. To get into the buildings, however, we would have had to don pantaloons they provide.
We had one more temple to see and it was back to #8 and then across the river to see the Wat Aran temple. Located in the Thonburi district, this temple became the logo for the Thai tourist authority. It rises about 88 meters high and is surrounded by four smaller prangs. Entry fee was $15 and the climb up the steps is very steep. We stayed outside, tired of temple diving and ready for a beer.
A quick trip back across the river and we found a waterfront table at the terminal restaurant. The food turned out to be poor and mine made me sick (fate noodles and chicken) and in need of a mint to settle my stomach.
It was late afternoon and all the ferries heading our way were full to overflowing, but the one we hailed was not so crowded. On the walk back, we stopped for something Jack had been talking about since I arrived – a foot massage. A very pretty 26-year-old named Bibbie worked on my tired feet for an hour. I left Jack there to also get a massage upstairs. Cost of the foot massage was 250 baht ($8), and 500 baht ($17) for the massage.
By the time I had processed today’s pictures, Jack had returned refreshed and it was Miller time. Surprisingly, we did not go out, except for a short time to the Sky Bat on the 65th floor of our building. This is a spectacular open-air bar on the top of the building, with very expensive drinks.
Tomorrow, more touring.