let your thoughts wander

Category: Thailand

Busy street intersection with multiple electrical lines hanging above.

One day in Bangkok

As part of our Epic Adventure, Bill and I had a 13 hour layover in Bangkok, Thailand. To take advantage of the time, I put together a reasonable schedule (much unlike our first day in London, May 2013) with Lumphini Park and Wat Pho as the highlights of the visit. Little did I know, we would end up a little off track along the way.

Lumphini Park

We arrived in Bangkok and dropped our bags off for safe keeping at the airport storage area. Then we found the subway and were off for the city. Upon arrival, we sought out Lumphini Park and the adjacent street market so Bill could have his first taste of authentic Thai food and I could get a coconut to drink. Bill’s spicy pork salad certainly lived up to its name and I avoided it at all costs. It did, however, come with a plate of vegetables that I was able to enjoy. The only thing I did not like was the Thai basil, which was far too licorice-y for my taste.

Three plates sitting on a table covered by a teal tablecloth. One plate with spicy pork stir fry, one with salad, and one with silverware.

While strolling through the park, we came across the native monitor lizards (one of the main reasons I had chosen to add the park to our itinerary). They were, however, smaller than I expected. But I posed for my photo with one none-the-less. Another interesting characteristic of the parks in Asia are the outdoor gyms – not a bad idea if you ask me! Nature and exercise go together perfectly.

Adult female with long dark hair and glasses squatting down next to a large lizard in the grass.

The Turning Point

After the park, we were off to see Wat Pho, aka Temple of the Reclining Buddha. First we took the subway to Hua Lamphong. When we emerged from underground, we were welcomed by Wat Trimitre and consulted our map. This was a turning point for us (no pun intended) – Bill decided we should turn left, in which I expressed my disagreeing with the idea, but followed anyway. An hour or so, one bridge crossing, and MANY motorbike repair shops later, he realized I was right. Now it was time to make a decision – still attempt to make it to Wat Pho before it closed, or head back to the airport unsuccessful. I had my heart set on seeing the temple, so we set out to find a way to try and get there in time.

Water canal with native Asian tree hanging over it.

We checked with a tuk-tuk driver and were told it would be 3000 baht. When he realized we were not willing to pay that price, he tried to do some haggling, dropping the price down to 1500 baht, with two stops along the way. We graciously declined this offer and continued down the road to the boat station. This, again, was an interesting experience. Everything was in Thai, which made it impossible for us to decipher what the costs listed actually meant. After some debate, we stepped in line and readied the amount we expected to pay for the fare we needed to Wat Pho. To our delight, the woman selling tickets handed Bill two tickets and most of our money back. We boarded the boat and were on our way – secretly worried we were not headed to the right place. When we pulled up to the stop we knew we needed, we were relieved to know we had made it, however with little time to spare before the temple closed at 5pm.

Young couple sitting on a boat.

Wat Pho

After disembarking from the boat, we passed through Suan Nakarapirom park – decorated for the Christmas season – and crossed the street to Wat Pho. Upon arriving at the wall outside, we were pleased to find it was open until 6pm, which gave us more time to explore. We purchased our tickets, slipped off our shoes, and entered the building that housed the Reclining Buddha. Before our eyes was the largest sculpture either of us had ever seen. Plated in gold, outstretched for 150 feet – it was awe inspiring. Its feet were even more special on their own. Longer than I am tall, the feet are inlaid with mother-of-pearl, depicting the auspicious symbols of Buddha. The walls of the room were also a sight to see – intricately painted with stories of Buddha’s life.

Large gold Buddha reclining on its right side.

The bottom of large sculpted feet with black background inlaid with scenes created with mother of pearl.

After circumventing the Reclining Buddha, we went back outside to explore other areas of the temple complex and were greeted by endless rows of seated Buddha statues lining each wall. Wat Pho is not only the home to the Reclining Buddha, but is also known as the home to the largest collection of Thai Buddhas anywhere in the world.

Golden Thai Buddha statues in a row side by side against a white wall with a red ceiling above.

Soon we entered another building which housed a large seated Buddha and had huge doors inlaid with mother-of-pearl, depicting more stories of Buddha’s life.

Black background with mother of pearl inlaid design depicting the life of Buddha.

While exploring even further, we were greeted by the sights of monks hanging flags around the complex, and the moon shining down on us from above. As dusk arrived it was time for us to make our way back to the boat dock, but not before we took time to enjoy the lights at Suan Nakarapirom park and the evening sights along the river, including the view of Wat Arun across the way.

Multi-colored temple across a river in the foreground.

Eventually we boarded the boat and were on our journey back to the airport to prepare for our departure to Melbourne.

Tryptic of three photos: Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbor Bridge, adult female sitting on a large gray boulder, and sandy beach with turquoise water and an island.

Epic Adventure: Bangkok, Australia, New Zealand & Oahu

Starting Christmas Day, 2014, Bill and I embarked on our 26 day Epic Adventure. Our flight routing consisted of Chicago-Tokyo-Beijing-Bangkok-Melbourne-Cairns-Sydney-Chrischurch-Auckland-Honolulu-Dallas-Chicago with an overnight in Beijing, most of a day in Bangkok, several days in the Melbourne area, several days in Cairns, several days in Sydney, several days exploring the south island of New Zealand, a short layover in Auckland, and a three day stop over in Oahu. If that isn’t an epic adventure, I don’t know what is! (To add to its grandiosity, we flew business class for the longest legs of the trip.)

Adult female with long dark hair and glasses sitting in business class section of an airplane.

This trip was a long time coming. I had yearned to return to Australia ever since my People to People Student Ambassador trip back in 2000. Fourteen years later, it finally became a reality. After being there, I think Bill now realizes precisely why I was so adamant about wanting to go back. The country is beautiful, the people are wonderful, the sights are great, and food treats you right! What more could you ask for?

This trip was not exactly the same as the trip I was on in 2000, but it hit some of the highlights and added even more great things. In 2000 we took a bus from Sydney up the eastern coast to Cairns, with frequent stops along the way. On this trip we first explored Bangkok for a day and then were off to Australia, starting in Melbourne – driving the southern coast along The Great Ocean Road to Port Campbell and back.

Photo of Melbourne, Australia skyline in the distance.

From Melbourne we flew to Cairns, rented a car, and visited the Daintree Rainforest. We also took an organized snorkeling trip out to the Great Barrier Reef – no trip to Cairns is complete without visiting that natural wonder.

Photo from airplane window over the Great Barrier Reef.

When we were done in Cairns we flew to Sydney. After exploring the city and reminiscing on some of the things I had seen on my previous visit, we took the train in to Blue Mountains National Park for an overnight.

Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbor Bridge.

Then back to Sydney and off to New Zealand! New and unchartered territory for both of us. After visiting, it was clear why many people say you cannot visit Australia without visiting New Zealand and vice versa. Both are amazing, but in totally different ways.

Adult female sitting on top of a large gray boulder with several other large boulders surrounding.

To end the trip, Bill had found that we could include a stopover in Hawaii on our way home, so we took full advantage of that and spent 3 days on Oahu soaking up some more sun before returning to the cold midwestern winter.

Sandy beach with turquoise ocean and an island in the distance.

Three continents and four countries later, this epic adventure is what I consider to be our best trip to date.

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