As soon as we were disembarked and their international airport dwarfed us with its size, I immediately took my camera out. The documentation started rolling. Without an effort, I’ve already seen an indoor ad of Mario Maurer in the arrival halls. He is one of my assignments in Thailand. Imagine having a sit down interview in an intimate Bangkok river cruise with a superstar celebrity. Who wouldn’t be up for that mission? It’s a major stint! We’re only hours away from the interview so we didn’t waste time right after we’re cleared in the immigration.
But Mario Maurer isn’t just the headlines. With the recent passing of the King Bhumibol the Great, ninth monarch of Thailand, the city is painted with black in memory of His Highness. Almost every establishment, government and private, is paying tribute to the royalty. The locals are wearing black in unison. To feel this vibe in a land known for its smiling people is a different experience. Despite the mourning, the city is still accommodating.
As a responsible visitor, I came prepared by familiarizing with the etiquette around the country. Except for the reminder where ladies shouldn’t touch the monks, the rest of those listed in the pamphlet is basic courtesy. An additional prompt though as I’ve seen in the airport, the people are being reminded by the authority that statues of Buddha are not for decoration. As a symbol of religion, statues and images are not for ornaments and displays other than for worship. They discourage the practice we’ve seen elsewhere in Buddhism-inspired interiors.
The River Cruise
First Order of Business: Food
This is what you’ll get in a Evening Cocktail Cruise with Supanniga River Cruise. I got plates of those as we enjoyed the view of the Bangkok sunset and Mario Maurer. I better stuffed myself since the cruise would last approximately an hour. As we sailed over the Chao Phraya, I noticed that our cruise is of higher class among other operators. It has even a bar on board.
One way to discover what Bangkok can offer is to sail over Chao Phraya because along the historic and main river are attractions that are uniquely Thailand. Wat Arun is one of the popular temples in Bangkok. One can actually climb on that steep top to have a better view of the river and the tourist spots nearby.
First Fan Meeting with the Ambassador
With millions of fans and a strong following, it isn’t hard to know why Tourism Authority of Thailand picked Mario Maurer as the ambassador of their country. But what makes Mario Maurer fit for the job is his heart. He, himself is a living proof that Thais live up to the Thailand’s tag as the Land of the Smiles as he introduced the country all-genuine smiles to the attendees of the first fan meeting ever organized by TAT. According to him, he’s honored to promote Thailand to us because this is his way to show the love for his country.
Philippines as one of the emerging markets
Mario Maurer was tapped to boost the tourism of Thailand for emerging and young market in the Philippines. His film with our own movie outfit, Star Cinema, went well and a continuing contract as clothing brand ambassador are some of the indicators of his influence. This intimate fan meeting with Mario Maurer is just part of the long and ongoing campaign of Tourism Authority of Thailand dubbed as Experience Thailand with Mario Maurer.
The temples in Bangkok have similar features especially the roof part. The upper covering of the temples are prominently accented with golden heart-shaped leaves from the tree known as the Bodhi. It was believed that Siddhartha Gautama, what we know as the Buddha, reached the highest level of enlightenment under one of this fig tree.
Seen here is Wat Rakang which means Temple of the Bell. It is derived from an ancient bell excavated within the grounds of the temple premises.
Another attraction along the river is the Sky Wheel in Asiatique the Riverfront, an open-aired shopping complex. Few original buildings of the old Danish international trading company are still present nowadays. Is this their answer to the Brit’s London Eye?
River of Kings
Translated as river of kings, Chao Phraya offers a unique view of the sunset against the modern city skyline as well as religious temples. The river cruise ended as the sun set however the night with Mario Maurer has just started.
Despite being a big celebrity he is, I didn’t feel any wall of superiority complex surrounding him. He is very accommodating with his fans and interviewers. I was able to sneak in his pod in the cruise ship for a selfie. He’s still game for pictorial even though the waters of the river came in at one point and got our feet soaked. He was worried when the Instax ran out of film after our shoot. So we took the next shot with my mobile phone. After the exclusive interviews, I went back again to his pod for him to sign an autograph over his photo.
In a local travel show, this picture was somehow incorrectly captioned thinking I was one of the lucky winners of the meet-and-greet. The Tourism Authority of Thailand picked and had flewn two winners each from Indonesia, Vietnam and Philippines to see Mario Maurer up close and personal. I came in as a visiting blogger. The fans love and adore him much. One of the fans from Indonesia gave me a poster of Mario for just being nice with people around.
To be honest and if you haven’t figured it out, I am a secret fan of him. I didn’t make it to his fan’s day in Manila before, but fate has better plans as I met him in Bangkok at the perfect time. I approached him again for another pictorial in our dinner in the hotel. I also asked him for a video greeting to his Filipino fans. When I got a chance to thank him in behalf of the Philippine delegate, I volunteered to say the words of appreciation for him in the stage, in front of everyone. My thoughts were screaming inside. It’s a surreal experience worth of my unpaid leave back home.
The Bustling City
I was surprised but not complaining that each of us gets an executive suite that is too large for a solo traveler. If this trip was personal, I would play a strong swipe-right gaming to invite a group to a house party in my turf. Even though the suite is better than the most condominium units and lower-starred hotels in Manila, the cost won’t hurt much in comparison. The executive suite in Chatrium Residence Sathon Bangkok, a 4-star hotel, costs around PhP 5,000.
Beat Energy Gap
The most important meal of the day is the breakfast. I’ve got myself at least three roundtrips to and from the buffet table before calling it quits. My tummy is so proud of me during the entire stay in Thailand because we’ve been eating a lot. Full board every day.
While we’re toured around the city by a chartered van, I didn’t miss the chance of seeing the iconic tuktuk of Bangkok. They’re everywhere. The said transportation is somehow reminiscent of the Philippine jeepney and tricycle. Surprisingly, tuktuk is more expensive than regular taxis and Grab. However, tuktuk is the faster option because it can turn left, can turn right, and as our guide quipped, can turn upside down too. Isn’t that fast enough?
Interestingly, a pagoda in Thailand, the ones particularly in Wat Pho, is a resting place where the former kings of Thailand were buried where as pagoda in Manila colloquially means tired. Each pagoda is intricately designed with floral and fractal patterns made of Chinese porcelain. But if ever you get tired touring around Wat Pho, the quadrangle has a top massage school inside. A massage costs only 100 baht.
Temple of the Reclining Buddha
Wat Pho is one of the largest temples in Thailand. It also houses the reclining Buddha covered with gold leaves plating. It was said that each image of Buddha we’ll see was captured at different times. And this particular sculpture is an image of Buddha living at peace. When the Buddha image is seen with closed eyes, either the god is meditating in a prayer or is already dead and has ascended to heaven. Some image of the Buddha have different facial expressions depending the time of reference. These can be seen as uneasy facial features during war times or of happy spirits during peaceful times.
Nifty Shades Darker
The statues come in different color depending on the remaining gold plates still intact. These images were restored after war regimes. Back when the enemies captured such treasures in possession, they were taking the gold out of the sculpture for their value. Thus, one statue ended up darker than the other.
Different Religion, Same Prayers
The monk in the temple is reading the prayers of those who are seeking peace, happiness and wealth. Visitors may clip paper money along with a prayer. The donation helps the monk to maintain the temple. Inside Wat Pho is a quarter for the monk.
Love of Siam
Wholesalers from Manila visit Bangkok for cheap clothes and for wide variety of beauty products. Heard of Bangkok pills? We’re given two hours to shop in Platinum Mall and nearby malls. However, since I was not into retail therapy, I used my free time to get around the city as a pedestrian and commuter using the public transportation. Pedestrian skywalks were recently built connecting key blocks to the train station. One of the train lines in Bangkok runs over the city so I had a glimpse of how busy the city is. I visited 16 stations in less than 3 hours and took a headshot on every station sign of that line.
Siam Niramit is known to host the greatest show in Thailand which I can attest open arms. However, while I couldn’t present you what’s on the actual stellar performance, I can show you around the Thai Village within the premises of the complex.
We only have two days to experience Bangkok. We’re moving to another city next. The first day is dedicated to Mario and the next day is a quick tour with a jam-packed itinerary. So a walkthrough the Thai Village is a good decision to taste Thailand. It’s a live exhibit where participants can actually try local delicacies, watch a puppet show, or witness how local industries work.
The Impromptu Night
This is What I Came For
One item off from the bucket list is to eat bugs in Bangkok. For 20 baht, curiosity killed my cravings for a crunchy grasshopper sprayed with soy sauce. The scorpion costs 100 baht. I thought I would need a Tiger beer but the bug is okay. Easy peasy.
Bes, this is the place to be if you want to experience legit and lit fun of the local red light district. Well, there are other red light districts around but I was only left with one mornight to enjoy one so I pick Khao San.
Truth to be told, Manila or Makati scene is pale and lackluster in comparison with this side of Bangkok. Ask a notorious backpacker who’s been in Asia, they would pick Bangkok in any day, um any night. While Khao San is known for thrifty backpackers, people open to new and wild experiences will throw money and chances to this infamous road. According to my friend, Khao San alone generates a lion’s share of income to the tourism pie.
It was Sunday when we went there so the locals were less visible. When Thais have work the next day, I’m werking the night out. More chances of winning for a Pinoy like me, then.
Alleys in Wonderland
I met my friend, Ace. He is now a masters degree student in Bangkok. He showed me the ins and outs of alleys and clubs. Some of which are where the bad becomes good for a night. I’ve seen a lot, thanks to him. I’m more than prepared when I get back. So Khao San, get ready.
Titas of Thailand
But you shouldn’t be worried if you don’t get this kind of Bangkok feels. If you feel too old for fun, or if you wish to get relaxed, there’s a side in Khao San where you can get Thai massage at the side of the streets. And they’re far cheaper than those in hotels.
Before the tourism campaign became how it’s today, Amazing Thailand, Tourism Authority of Thailand invites everyone to Discover Thainess. Since the country of Thailand wasn’t occupied by any foreigner conquerors, the culture of Thai remains intact and still evident in the modern times even in the caoital city of Bangkok. Even though we’re halfway on our entire stay in Thailand, I knew I am coming back here for more.
Now, we’re off to Pattaya! Stay tuned for the part two of our experience how amazing Thailand is.
This entry was posted on Thursday, March 9th, 2017 at 1:41 am
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Tags: Asiatique the Riverfront, Bangkok, Bodhi, Buddha, Chao Phraya River, Chatrium, Erich Gonzales, fig tree, Khao San, King Bhumibol the Great, Mario Maurer, pagoda, Penshoppe, river cruise, Siam, Siam Niramit, Siddhartha Gautama, Sky Wheel, Star Cinema, Supanniga Cruise, Temple of the Reclining Buddha, Thai massage, Thai Village, Thailand, Tourism Authority of Thailand, tuktuk, Wat Arun, Wat Pho
Posted in: Journeying Jonas' Journal