Final day, and don’t really have any plans. My night train is booked in the morning and leaves at 19:30, so accounting for the traffic that time of day I’ll have to leave at 18:00, plenty of time. Don’t want to spend the day just hanging round the hostel, so I ask the desk for ideas. Immediately veto his first option of shopping (seriously, that’s what he recommended the first day and I went to the floating markets the day after, he really thinks I need to do more?). I say I was considering going to the Grand Palace and Museum, and he agrees its a good idea, but I should definitely try to go by boat. Its not too expensive, and its a great way to get around, so decide to give it a try. The tour bus is 40 baht for a one way trip, so head over to the docks.
Unfortunately, I cannot tell the difference between the boats. I miss the tour boat and grab the next boat that arrives, which turns out to be a regular boat which is cheaper, and doesn’t stop at the dock I need. So I have to get a ferry crossing on top of the ticket I already had. But chaos aside, I make it to the Grand Palace in generally one piece.
Almost immediately there’s a problem. People are saying the Palace is closed and that you need to be in respectable clothes. I’ve got zip off trousers but I’m wearing a vest top. There are places offering clothes for hire, but decide to check at the source. Turns out this place is just a hotbed of people wanting to make a fast buck. Place is open until 15:30 and you DO have to have your knees and shoulders covered, but they have a free hire stand actually at the Palace so there’s no worry. Immediately get in the rental line and make small talk with the Welsh girl in front of me, when I finally catch sight of the poster in the window stating the price of a ticket to enter the grand palace. Aproximately 500 baht.
…Are you kidding me? I’ve spent that on full day tours. No way was I spending that to enter one attraction. I did a full one eighty and headed out the door – the museum’s not too far, and I can enjoy the park outside for free. Entry into the museum is much more like it, 200 baht.
And its actually a pretty interesting place to spend the afternoon. The first hall is the history of Thailand, told through relics and a quite a few dioramas. Afterwards, you can head out and enter the Buddha temple (which I ended up saving till last), or go into the deeper part of the grounds and see the Red House, or the 2 large buildings on each side of the grounds that are filled with different types of Thai art. The middle building (which was frustratingly hard to get into) also houses a variety of different exhibits, including money, weapons, puppets and ivory art. The front of this building is for travelling exhibits – currently hosting an exhibition on the Khon theatre – a performance where many of the cast wear monkey or demon masks (depicting characters from the story) and have elaborate costumes and perform elaborate and unique gestures throughout to express themselves.
The final building featured the most impressive exhibit. Huge gold leafed chariots and carriages designed for the funeral processions of the Royal Family and certain officials – some of which still get used. They even had replicas of certain royal members cremation caskets, which are works of art in and of themselves.
Once I’ve had my full of history however, its time to go back and try my luck with the boats again. It doesn’t start well – I try and buy some deep fried sweet potato, and the woman ends up giving me fried banana instead. Don’t discover until its too late. And then I get on the right boat…just going in the wrong direction. So end up practically on the wrong side of Bangkok and just jump in the first boat heading back towards pier 13…which is not a tour bus at all but at least it GETS where I want to go.
Get the feeling I’m leaving Bangkok at a good time – yesterday the roads were closed for marches, and today the roads are blocked again. I end up having to give myself an extra half an hour to get to the train station because of the delays (and honestly considered paying a flat fare for a motortaxi since the cab taxis didn’t want to take me). However, got one who’d take the job by meter, and saved myself 30 baht in the process.
The night trains heading South are nowhere near as nice as the ones heading North, but they’re just as comfortable – and for the first time, quiet. Guess since its no longer busy, and this trip is shorter. Although not elated at having to make sure I’m up at 5.30…