On our last day in Bangkok, we took another tour, this time with Nok Tours. After having breakfast in the Executive Lounge at the Conrad Bangkok, we toured the hotel a bit as we weren’t meeting Nok until noon. I mentioned to DOS I really wish we had an extra day to relax here at the hotel, as they have a beautiful landscaped pool to lounge by; a true bit of the ‘islands’ right in the middle of the bustling city of Bangkok. Alas, with time of the essence, we had to make the most of our touring.
When we met Nok at noon, and she took us to the van, we immediately smiled when we saw the driver. It was the same driver we had yesterday with Mandy! She then said she and Mandy were best friends, and they share drivers, and share bookings with each other if one person is booked up already. We immediately felt like we were with family as we took of on the 70 kilometer ride outside the city of Bangkok. We first arrived at the Summer Palace. Similar in size to the Grand Palace we toured yesterday at 60 acres, the similarity ended there as they were night and day different. While the Grand Palace was over the top exotic and ‘Grand’,
by contrast the Summer Palace was set in a tranquil, park-like setting without the pizzaz and grandeur of the Grand Palace. We actually much preferred this Summer Palace for it’s quietness, lack of crowds, and calm and relaxing setting. When we first walked in, we saw a topiary garden complete with several elephants. Elephants are synonymous with Thailand, and you see their image or statues throughout the country. We would later take an elephant ride, but for this morning tour thru the Summer Palace, we enjoyed the life-size elephant topiaries.
Towards the entrance, we saw a tiny temple, really just a small ‘box’ maybe big enough for a couple people. I walked up to it and started to go inside, and was kindly reminded by our guide to take off my shoes before entering, which is required before entering any of the temples.
We walked around for an hour and a half, taking in the beautiful gardens, guest houses, Temples, Towers, and though we couldn’t go in it, we walked up to the official and guarded residence of the Royal Family, who occassionally uses this facility along with visiting Heads of State.
We climbed this tower to the mid level via a narrow circular staircase, which seemed much higher than it looks. (The top portion was closed off for climbing up.) We had to take off our shoes for this as well. Note to self: next trip wear easy to take off and put on shoes – we did this constantly it seemed like!
We later toured an ancient temple that was destroyed, but still has a reclining Buddha remaining. As at all sites, people were selling flowers and incense to lay down by the front of the altar. While we’re not Buddhists, DOS bought a small flower and incense from a lady there as a means of supporting her financially and as a respect for the culture.
On our all day tour, we went to many sites, including the ancient city and island of Ayutthaya which is recognized as a UNESCO Heritage site.
to our Elephant Ride! We had a fun 20 minute ride atop an elephant, along with a very skilled ‘driver’. Afterwards, we had a ‘meet and greet’ with a couple of the elephants who posed with us.
We later stopped to get a couple elephant souveiers at a local outdoor market. While DOS was browsing all of the elephant and other gear, I made a friend with the owner’s pooch!
Moving along towards the end of the day, we passed thru another historical park with the ancient ruins and Buddha carved into a tree.
As it was getting towards 6pm, Nok made sure we got on our evening boat in time for a beautiful sunset cruise. We had a nice private sail on one of the ‘Venice-type’ boats we were on yesterday, but on a suburban river, which lead to our final destination – another historical park with ancient ruins. We arrived as the sun was setting, which offered beautiful sunset pictures both on the water, and with the ruins as a backdrop.
We posed with our driver, shortly before heading the hour drive back to Bangkok.
Along the drive towards the city we admired the sights and lights along the freeway, very festive celebrating the Chinese New Year.
We arrived back at the Conrad Hotel shortly before 8pm. Yet another full day of touring, but so well worth it!