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DAY 3: BANGKOK

 
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WATS IN STORE TODAY?

Three days in and you should now all be refreshed and recharged and ready to tackle BANGKOK’s mightiest temples. Make an early start (you don’t want to be trudging around in the midday heat) and catch a Chao Phraya Express Boat to Tha Chang pier. Ahead of you, surrounded by a high white wall that stretches as far as the eye can see, is the GRAND PALACE [daily 8.30am–4pm, last entry 3.30pm | ฿500, children under 120cm free], the most incredible temple complex in Thailand.

It’ll be hot and crowded, but boy will it be worth it. Entering the main temple area, you’re greeted by a kaleidoscope of golden stupas and spires, ribbed prangs and a whole range of brightly coloured chapels, halls and pavilions, their stacked rooves curling up at the ends in that distinctive Thai style. This is WAT PHRA KAEW, and junior photographers will have a field day snapping all the stern-faced demon guardians that seem to be everywhere you look. The main blue-roofed building is the CHAPEL OF THE EMERALD BUDDHA; perched aloft in a golden casket, this diminutive carving is the most important Buddha statue in the country (which is saying something because there are a lot!). On the way out of Wat Phra Keow, it’s fascinating to watch local Thais making offerings of incense sticks, lotus flowers, candles and gold leaf.

Despite being the former residence of the King of Thailand, the Grand Palace itself can’t quite compete with the majestic buildings of Wat Phra Keow, though it’s still impressively vast. The huge palace on your left, the CHAKRI MAHA PRASAT, was the king’s actual home, whilst the hall straight ahead of you, the DUSIT MAHA PRASAT (open weekdays only), houses his original sparkling throne. Just before the exit, there’s a café selling coconut juice and ice cream, which could come in handy as a bribe!

Everyone’s probably in need of a break by now, so take a long leisurely lunch to avoid the worst of the day’s heat before heading to WAT PHO [daily 8am–6.30pm | ฿100, free for children under 120cm], a few hundred metres south of the Grand Palace. There are hundreds of domed chedis, decorative halls and pavilions here, but the big attraction (literally) for children is the RECLINING BUDDHA. He lounges, a broad smile on his huge face, in his own chapel, his equally oversized toes sparkling with mother-of-pearl. For ฿20 each, your kids can drop a coin in each of the bowls that run in a line behind the statue – it will reputedly bring them good luck. Wat Pho is the home of traditional THAI MASSAGE, so teenagers might like to try a rubdown at one of the pavilions at the far side of the other courtyard (฿260 for 30 minutes).


TOP TIP Adults will need to be dressed appropriately to enter both Wat Phra Kaew and Wat Pho, although you can borrow or buy a sarong from the office just inside the gate entrance to the Grand Palace complex.





 

THE LIJOMA LOWDOWN

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