Vietnam-Cambodia-Thailand, Day 5, Part 1: Of death by buffet, refined urbanity, and bling bling (All Seasons Hotel Victory Monument, BTS Skytrain and Gems Gallery International)
April 6, 2011 3 Comments
We’ve always thought of Bangkok as the cool down, chill leg of the trip. Ho Chi Minh was foreplay, Siem Reap was climax, Bangkok was cuddling. Hehe.
We couldn’t have been any more correct.
We woke up with really no plan in mind. The only three things we had to ensure was first, to visit any Golden Buddha (Thailand has many), second, to get a genuine Thai massage and third, to get to the airport on time for our midnight flight. That was it. Right off the bat, I’m going to tell you we successfully did all those three, and then some.
The group was up and about at half past nine in the morning ready to down as much of the breakfast buffet the hotel had. The spread in itself was standard fare with the addition of some Thai food like stir-fried green noodles, nothing fancy, but everything was good. We all loved the Danish pastries and the fresh yogurt. I found it funny though that the bacon was not displayed. One had to ask first before getting any. Portion control for the bestseller? Perhaps, but very peculiar, yes? Anyway, I already accepted that buffet breakfast will be the end of me. I think I had one bacon too many.
After consuming enough to make us last the entire day without eating another meal (really), we went up our rooms to freshen up and left the hotel a few minutes before noon. We decided to go the train-cab (Sanam Pao to Siam to National Stadium via train, then cab from MBK Mall) route to Wat Pho’s Reclining Buddha.
One of the remarkable things I saw at Bangkok is this:
These BTS Skytrain commuters were so organized and disciplined, they actually lined up without anyone telling them to do so. This picture was taken at Siam station but every station we passed by, we saw this as well. Amazing. Now tell me again why we can’t do this in Manila? Anyway, we got off at the National Stadium Station and hailed a cab at MBK’s taxi lane. At first we were confident we’d get to where we wanted to go because the guard manning the cab stop talked to the cabbie. We were really nervous after getting in, though, because the driver did not speak good English. It was a disaster waiting to happen. Our hunch was right.
After a few minutes, the driver asked us to pay for the meter (60 Baht I think) dropped us in this street
and instructed us to go to this restaurant beside a river bank to get a boat ride to the Reclining Buddha. It turned out to be a tour kind of thing that costs way out of our budget (if I remember correctly a couple hundred Baht per person) and would take our entire day. Ugh.
We saw a nearby Shangri La hotel and decided to just go there to ask for directions. Fortunately, while walking towards the hotel, another cabbie spotted us and asked us what we had planned. Of course we were hesitant at first because of the earlier episode, but he spoke English really well and was warm and charming we were convinced he’s for real. He had this spiel that we were his first customers for the day and he just really wanted to have a first trip just to get the day rolling. The only catch was that we had to visit a jewellery store before getting to the Golden Buddha at Wat Traimit. (Apparently and for some reason, the Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho was closed during that time.) His asking price was also a steal at 50 Baht for the entire group. (He was really nice and the trip we had was so long, we eventually paid him 200 Baht.)
We passed by a long stretch of highways before we were led to this place:
Our cabbie told us he gets a commission for every tourist he brought to Gems Gallery International. It was legit! And boy was it humongous! (Apparently, it holds the record for the title World’s Biggest Jewellery Store.) Upon entering, we received a welcome drink, and were given a few minutes to view some jewellers doing their thing on uncut stones. We were then led to an enormous gallery filled with silver, gold, and precious stones in every imaginable shape, size and color. You should have seen the three girls we were with. Maan, Cha and Leah were like little kids in a candy store. It was like bling bling heaven. (For obvious reasons we weren’t allowed to take pictures.) I think Maan and Leah ended up buying three items each, while Cha, Anthony and I each got a ring.
And to think before we entered, we said something to the tune of “Sana may bumili sa atin kahit isa, para di naman nakakahiya…”. Hahaha!
Next: The world’s heaviest Buddha, touchy feely masseuses and ice-cold beer