Back to Bangkok

As you may have picked up from posts on my various social media feeds my husband works overseas a lot and this includes extended periods away. Last year he was in Saudi Arabia for approximately eight months, which though hard at times did give me the opportunity to return to Dubai as well as travel to, Petra in Jordan and Muscat, Oman, which were both amazing! At the moment he's working in New Zealand which with the time difference and just how far away it is from the UK is proving far more of a challenge than Saudi Arabia ever was. Obviously I'd love to visit New Zealand but simply because of that distance and only having a limited amount of annual leave I'm not sure how realistic that hope will be so we had to compromise. We wanted to meet up somewhere to break up the time apart before his next trip back to the UK at Christmas so it gave us a good excuse to make a return visit to Singapore, a halfway (ish) meet up point. 

Just in case you haven't realised we used to live in Singapore before returning to the UK and moving to Edinburgh so a visit there is more like going back to our second home. It gives us the chance to catch up with friends, visit a few of our favourite places and eat some of our favourite food again, including prata, murtabak (which we somehow ran out of time for when we were last back), local staples at our old neighbourhood hawker centre, dumplings at Din Tai Fung (who are FINALLY opening in the UK in London this December after what seems like a never ending wait) and so much more! This post from when we were last visiting sums up pretty well just how important food is in Singapore and how much time is spent devoted to it on our trips back. Last time we went back we also included a few days in Penang, Malaysia in the itinerary and this time we decided to hop over to Bangkok.

Looking back at my Singapore blog the last time I was in Bangkok was November 2010 so not only was I overdue a return trip my memories of what I'd seen previously were pretty hazy. Since my own last trip my husband has been several times for work trips and somewhere he visited when he had a free day on one of these was Jim Thompson's house which he suggested we do on this visit. Jim Thompson was an American businessman who is credited with helping to revitalise the Thai silk industry in the 1950s and 1960s. He trained as an architect initially but volunteered for service in the U.S. army during the Second World War and was eventually sent to Asia following some time in Europe. However the war ended before he saw action there and he was sent to Bangkok shortly after as a military attaché, during that time fell in love with Thailand, returning to live there after he left the service. Once he returned it was the hand weaving of silk that attracted his attention and he devoted himself to reviving the craft. Jim Thompson's life ended in mystery though with his disappearance whilst on holiday in the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia in March 1967. Despite an extensive search at the time and many subsequent theories since no body or any other evidence was ever discovered as to the cause or reason for his disappearance and he was eventually declared dead in absentia by a Thai court in 1974.

His house, which he began in 1958, was a combination of six teak buildings, most of the houses were at least two centuries old and represented traditional Thai architecture. Thompson was keen to maintain authenticity in the building of his house and adhered to the customs of the early builders as much as possible. This included the houses being elevated a storey above the ground, a precaution to avoid flooding during the rainy season. Thompson was an avid collector of antiques as well and he subsequently filled his house with treasures, which you can see on your visit, from around South East Asia and beyond. His house is nestled in beautiful tropical gardens on a klong (canal) in Bangkok, just across from an area known as Bangkrua where his weavers were located at the time he built this house. Viewing of the house is by guided tour only, when you arrive you'll be told what time the next tour is and no photography is allowed inside the house so you'll have to go for yourself to see all the many treasures he collected and how cleverly these separate houses were put together to form one. If you need to wait though for any length of time or if you fancy a bite post visit there is a restaurant / café or alternatively just take the time to have a wander around the beautiful gardens.

Two of the lovely Jim Thompson silk shawls I've been previously lucky enough to be given by my husband

Whilst my visit to Jim Thompson's house was a first (for me at least) we also did a few things we'd done before. The main one being a return to Wat Pho and a visit to the Reclining Buddha. Wat Pho is one of Bangkok's oldest and largest temples existing before Bangkok was established as the capital by King Rama l. He ordered the rebuilding of the temple complex in 1788 on the already existing older temple site and here was where some of his ashes were eventually enshrined. Around the same time he also instructed the building of the Grand Palace which is adjacent to Wat Pho. Since then it has undergone further renovation and changes with repair work on the buildings being a constant process. Wat Pho is regarded as Thailand's first university and it is a centre for traditional Thai massage. It was also a medical teaching centre in the mid-19th century before the advent of modern medicine. Even with modern advances it is still a centre for traditional medicine with a private school for Thai medicine still operating from there.

The Reclining Buddha is 15 metres high and 46 metres long and covered in gold leaf, it's one of the largest Buddha statues in Thailand. The Buddha's soles (in the photo above) are 3 metres high and 4.5 metres long and inlaid with mother-of-pearl. The chapel, where the Buddha is, and the actual statue were built in 1832 by Rama lll. The image of the Reclining Buddha represents the entry of Buddha into Nirvana and the end of all reincarnations. It's an amazing sight close to, looking like it's been squeezed into the temple it's so big. Not surprisingly it's always very busy in this area too and since we last visited there is now also an entrance fee for this part of the complex, which is currently 100 baht. 

When we weren't being tourists we fitted in some time to go for a stroll around Lumphini park, somewhere I've been too previously and  I think may have been one of the first places in South East Asia that I encountered the huge monitor lizards you'll often see. We saw some again whilst we were there but I'll admit the one in the photo below was actually taken when we were back in Singapore. The park is a rare open public space in Bangkok with a large lake offering the opportunity for a bit of wildlife spotting (look out for those lizards), jogging, walking or simply just relaxing. It was created in the 1920s by King Rama Vl on what was royal property. When the park was created it was actually on the outskirts of the city but is now right in the middle of the main business district. Like a lot of places in South East Asia there are plenty of street cats around Bangkok and in the park we spotted a couple that reminded us a lot of our own Singaporean rescue cat, George. There were also plenty of lovely looking ones all over the Wat Pho temple complex, a couple of which you can see in the photos below too.

Cats at Wat Pho

Naturally we couldn't travel to Bangkok and not partake in just a little of the many delicious food options available to us. Handily with my husband having travelled there a lot over the years choosing where was still difficult but we were able to at least start with some sort of a list of possible places. I couldn't post photos of everything we ate but these three below were all pretty amazing and actually were all from the same great place my husband knew, Thai Niyom. The Thai sausage or sai oua (middle photo) hailing from Northern Thailand was a first for me and I've definitely been missing out there. This spicy pork sausage flavoured with a variety of herbs, spices and red curry paste is incredibly tasty and if you've never had it either make sure you try it if you get the opportunity. By the way that Thai green curry at the bottom was possibly one of the hottest I've ever had. When we ordered it our server did point out that it was but we honestly didn't anticipate it being quite as feisty as it turned out to be. Nonetheless though it also was amazing!

Being back in South East Asia and its consistently reliable temperatures meant we were able to enjoy a few sunset drinks in a rooftop bar with views across the city. Whilst I always missed seasons when we lived in Singapore I can't deny it wasn't nice knowing that it was October but not having to think about how many layers I needed for a few days again. Even when we were enjoying some spectacular thunder storms, which I used to love and still miss, because its warm rain layers are still not needed. I'm probably the only person who goes on holiday actually hoping for rain and luckily I wasn't disappointed. 🤣 Anyway just as in Singapore and many other cities in the region the rooftop bar options are countless but in the end we opted for the bar on top of the Hotel Indigo. With the sunset, the city view and a glass of wine in hand it was the perfect way to end our mini break. 


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