Photo Of The Day: A Golden Thai Temple

Buddhist temples in Thailand are unlike any other in the world. They are intricate, colorful and laden with gold. Mark Fischer took this amazing shot of Wat Pho in Bangkok, putting the golden chedi spires in stark contrast with the night sky. There are dozens of major temples throughout Bangkok, not to mention the spectacular temples throughout the rest of Thailand, such as the amazingly pure white Wat Rong Khun.

If you have taken a great travel photo, submit it to us and it could be featured as our Photo of the Day. There are two ways to do so, either by submitting it to our Gadling Flickr Pool, like Mark did; or via Instagram, by mentioning @GadlingTravel and tagging your photo with #Gadling.

[Photo Credit: Flickr User Mark Fischer]

GadlingTV’s Travel Talk – Thailand Part 3: Temples & Boats

Gadling TV’s Travel Talk, episode 33 – Click above to watch video after the jump

Travel Talk is back! After our fall hiatus we are excited to bring you our greatest adventure yet: Thailand.

From the vibrant heart of Bangkok to the remote countryside, we traveled by foot, car, boat, motorbike, ox cart and elephant to savor the the splendor of ancient temples, the energy of the muay thai ring, the serenity of rural life, and every single spicy bite of Thai cuisine. We’ll be bringing it all to you in the coming weeks as part of our special 12-part feature: Travel Talk Thailand.

Just minutes away from the “Gateway to Southeast Asia”, Khao San Road, are some of Bangkok’s most famous sites; Wat Arun, Wat Po, the Grand Palace, and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. In episode three, we get an up close look at vibrant temples, hop on boats to see the canals of Bangkok, and even run into some adoring fans!

If you have any questions or comments about Travel Talk, you can email us at talk AT gadling DOT com.

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Hosts: Stephen Greenwood & Aaron Murphy-Crews
Special guest: Joom!
Produced, Edited, and Directed by: Stephen Greenwood & Aaron Murphy-Crews
Special thanks: Tourism Authority of Thailand, Trikaya Tours

Travel Talk took Thailand by storm on invitation from the Tourism Authority of Thailand. No editorial content was guaranteed and Aaron & Stephen were free to openly share all adventures that they embarked upon.

Bangkok nocturne

One of the great pleasures a traveler can have is to re-discover a place that has become a little too familiar — a once exotic city where the thrill of visiting long-loved shrines and favorite restaurants has devolved into pleasant, predictable routine.

My great friend Annie, a brilliant artist who has worked as a graphic designer in the Thai capital for 20 years, had set herself a challenge: to give her husband Jock, as a 10th anniversary gift, a new perspective on the metropolis they’d lived in together since the 1990s. She was one of the few farangi who could pull off such a feat. Fluent in Thai and enthralled with the culture, Annie is intimate with facets of old Krung Thep that most travelers never get to see.

A few weeks later, I visited Bangkok for a few days on my way to Kathmandu. The anniversary had passed, and Jock was out of town. But Annie, bubbling with the glee she brings to every activity from painting to shopping, offered to reprise their expedition.

It was an autumn evening. We met at 6 pm at the Black Canyon Coffee stall in the Phrom Phong SkyTrain station, and set off on a journey through the nocturnal byways – obscure and otherwise — of a maddening, fascinating city that, after three decades of following a Habitrail, I comically thought I knew.

Annie (or “Plannie” to her friends) had mapped out our route. We rode the sleek SkyTrain to the dock at Silom, and boarded the river ferry. As we motored down the Chao Phrya river, the sun set through the haze behind Wat Arun, the Temple of Dawn. The four spires of the Buddhist pagoda soared into the sky, one of Bangkok’s most breathtaking sights. I spied what looked like a beautiful private home, or boutique hotel, on the far shore. “Hey, Annie,” I remarked, “that place looks interesting….””I’m glad you think so!” This was The Deck at Arun: the first stop on our itinerary. We climbed to the patio roof, ordered drinks, and absorbed a bird’s-eye view of the Temple of Dawn, a crescent moon hanging above.

And then it was off again, farther up the river to the funky wooden pier at Ta Thien. A winding path led us to a broad avenue, and the entrance of Wat Pho. This is the oldest – and largest – Buddhist temple in Bangkok. Reconstructed during the 18th century and recently restored, this has long been one of my favorite stops in Bangkok. During the day there’s a real scene at Wat Pho; a school of traditional Thai massage draws long lines of jet lag-addled tourists. But it’s also a great place to wander. The immense, labyrinthine compound is filled with more than 1,000 buddhas and scores of small shrines, many decorated from top to bottom with mosaics made from shattered plates and ceramics. Dozens of cats wander freely amid these spiky viharas, lapping from small bowls provided by the resident monks. In the Wat’s central shrine is a stupendous reclining Buddha, 150 feet long and nearly 50 feet high. The soles of its feet are a marvel, each one the size of a billboard and inlaid with mother-of-pearl.I’d been to Wat Pho many times; it was a staple of my visits to Bangkok. But I’d never seen it by moonlight, when the empty marbled courtyards and the soaring, mirrored spires made the place look like a time traveler’s fantasy. Even the cats — all Siamese, by citizenship — seemed otherworldly.

A block or two outside the gates of Wat Pho is a strip of wood-framed shops and stalls selling traditional Thai staples, from dried shrimp to medicinal herbs. We strolled down the street until Annie spied our destination: a humble wheeled stall offering what locals consider the best kway thiew (noodle soup) in the city, ladled into porcelain bowls by an elderly man whose mild case of Tourrette‘s made every successful serving seem a miracle of coordination.

I protested when Annie ordered only a small bowl, for both of us to share. “We don’t want to fill up on soup,” she warned me, hinting at a culinary climax yet to come.

From there we dropped into a taxi, and wove through the relatively empty streets and over a few small khlongs to a huge quayside vegetable warehouse. Eggplants, kumquats and mangosteens formed ceiling-high pyramids, and seas of coriander filled the air with their roasted chlorophyll scent. Hidden away in this agro enclave was a ramshackle bar, built of plywood and cloth, on the theme of an Old West saloon. Annie had hoped to drop in for shots of a potent liquor called yadaung, but the swinging doors were chained and the lights out. I could barely make out the pictures of gunslingers inside.

We left the warehouse and walked a few blocks farther, emerging into a district I’d never even imagined. This was Pak Klong Talat: Bangkok’s astonishing flower market. We wandered up block after block of bulb-lit street stalls overflowing with orchids and chrysanthemums, marigolds and birds of paradise, a thousand Technicolor varieties exploding across the sidewalk. Hundreds of Thais wove between the displays, bargaining over dizzyingly fragrant bouquets. I often think of myself as a jaded traveler, and wonder what a vast, gray city like Bangkok can turn up to surprise me. But Annie had led me through the looking glass, into a kaleidoscopic world that I’d managed to miss during uncounted visits.

Our ultimate destination lay a short distance farther, on Mahachai Road. Though it was nearly 11 pm, the street was packed with pedestrians – all of them eager to drop their baht at one of the bare-bones, fluorescent-lit eateries selling one thing and one thing only: noodles.

Annie led me directly to a shop called Thipsamai, where a fast-moving line of locals waited patiently for the best pad thai in Bangkok (and, therefore, the world). We sat at a rickety square table in blue plastic chairs, near a battalion of blackened woks sizzling atop propane burners. The pungent smell of hot oil filled the air, and the menus were covered with stains — but in Thailand (unlike Nepal, my next destination) one can eat without fear.

We ordered the traditional version. Two minutes later, our dishes arrived: piping hot, perfectly spiced and loaded with succulent shrimp, with a fried egg and dash of onion on top. We dug in our forks, releasing clouds of steam. Annie grinned and raised her eyebrows, her irresistible way of taking a bow. I clapped in admiration. She’d outdone herself, from start to finish: Our plates of mile-long noodles were the crazy country cousin of a dish that, just yesterday, I’d considered a cliche.

It was too late for the Chao Phraya River Express. After our midnight dinner we took a cab back to Jock and Annie’s, where I’d stay the night. As we navigated the anonymous streets, I thought of that wonderful line by Lawrence Durrell — “A city becomes a world,” he wrote, “when one loves one of its inhabitants.”

Lucky me: For one unforgettable night in Bangkok, a close friendship was as good as love.

Jeff Greenwald is a writer and performance artist. His books include Mr. Raja’s Neighborhood: Letters from Nepal, Shopping for Buddhas, and The Size of the World. He has written for The New York Times Magazine, National Geographic Adventure, Outside, and, among other publications. For more, visit

Dim Sum Dialogues in Thailand: The sounds of Siam

Monks chant at Wat Chana Songkhram, near Khao San Road.

It’s my last day in Bangkok and I’m not ready to leave Thailand. If I had another two weeks, I would have opted to stop at Ko Phi Phi and then cut north to trek through Chiang Mai, but my time is up. In my preparation to leave, I get the feeling that I’ll be back soon enough – there’s too much that I love about this place to not come back.

A couple memories stand out above the others.The utter serenity of the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, right after a mid-afternoon rain shower. The polite, genuine smiles of school children and street vendors. The new friends from the Khao San, and Diow. The breeze through the open window on the train to Surat Thani. The feeling of freedom at the Full Moon Party. The dangerous scooter maneuvers. The flavors of the food. The upbeat greeting from Thai women “Sawadee kaaaaa”.

One of my favorite ways to remember a place when I’m traveling is to record audio. Then, thousands of miles away from the point of capture, to sit with headphones on and let my mind recreate in the rest. So, to end this series, I though that I’d share that experience with you. Below you’ll find pictures and their accompanying ambient sounds, with a brief description for context. If you have headphones, please use them to get the full experience.

For those that have been, I hope it brings back the same good memories. For those that have yet to go, I hope the open road is calling your name…

Visitors drop 1-satang coins in 108 bronze bowls that represent the 108 auspicious characteristics of the Buddha. Doing so brings good fortune and helps the monks maintain the wat.

A gong is hit at Wat Pho. Nearby, two young monks check for mobile phone service.

A Secondary School band performs in the courtyard of the school. Typical noisy Bangkok traffic passes in the background.

Chimes at the Temple of the Emerald Buddha blow in the wind.

A riverboat operator signals to the driver with a whistle, indicating when to reverse and when to stop the boat on approach to the riverside docks.

A tuk tuk rumbles through the streets of Bangkok.

The lounge car on the train to Surat Thani enjoys an impromptu DJ performance. Techno blares over the rhythm of the train tracks.

The train to Surat Thani pulls out of a station at midnight.

The night of the full moon party, competing soundtracks of electronic music are observed from a hillside bar.

If you’ve missed the previous articles in this series, be sure to check out the entire Dim Sum Dialogues column for more on the road from Bangkok to Ko Pha Ngan.

Dim Sum Dialogues in Thailand: Bangkok

The city of Bangkok is a dichotomy between peaceful Buddhist temples & sordid red light districts. Beautiful national monuments & shoddy patches of low-income housing. Large, upscale shopping malls & equally large, rickety floating markets. Bright pink taxis or loud tuk tuks that jam the streets & a convenient but limited elevated metro line. Gleaming skyscrapers & lowly guest houses. The list goes on.

For the Americans out there, imagine a metropolitan area with a spread just about double that of Los Angeles, containing one million less people but three times the spice.
The area developed as a small trading post at the mouth of the Chao Phraya River and became the capital city of the kingdom of the Siam Empire in 1768. Around that time, it was given the ceremonial name of (take a deep breath) Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Yuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Phiman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit. That became shortened to Krung Thep Maha Nakhon, which is still the official name in Thai – but the name Bangkok stuck with foreigners and became the official English name for the entire city.

Brightly lit and ornately decorated gold signs stand tall on the corners of the streets, proudly displaying pictures of Thailand’s King and Royal Family. The King’s face is a familiar sight due to it’s prominence on everything in Thailand. Money, pictures, posters, signs. I’m told that Thai people really love their King, yet it seems that most people are reluctant to discuss thoughts on the Royal Family with foreigners.

There are a few stops that are mandatory in Bangkok. The first is the Grand Palace, which was the official residence of Thai Kings from the 18th century until present, when the current King chose to live in a different palace. The detail and architecture of the entire complex is mesmerizing. On the grounds is The Temple of the Emerald Buddha, which was built as the Monarch’s personal place of worship. It’s a breathtaking collection of holy buildings, statues, and pagodas – and regarded as the most sacred temple in Thailand. I find the visit to the temple alone was worth the 350 baht entrance fee for the Grand Palace.


Wat Pho is also worth the short 10-minute walk from the Grand Palace, where for 50 Baht you can see Asia’s largest reclining buddha (46m long) and gaze at the remarkable mother of pearl inlaid into the buddha’s giant feet.

From there, it’s easy to jump on a river taxi (don’t fall for the overpriced tourist boats) for 15-20 baht or so and take in a different perspective on the city (or avoid the notoriously bad traffic jams). The Skytrain is also another option for avoiding street transportation, although it doesn’t cover the areas near the Grand Palace & Wat Pho. On the elevated train there are two lines to choose from, and you’ll need coins to pay for tickets which should cost anywhere from 15 to 40 baht depending on the destination.

The Skytrain provides access to Bangkok’s most popular mall – MBK, which is near the National Stadium stop on the Silom line. Shoppers can find virtually anything at MBK, and can even attempt to barter with independent shop stalls – but it will help to have a Thai friend with you.

The Bang Ramat Floating Market is also a major attraction in Bangkok, although only open on Sundays it’s easily accessible from the adjacent Taling Chan Floating Market, which is open on weekends. Whichever floating market you visit in Bangkok, make sure to plan an early morning visit when the markets are most active and transportation is readily available.

There are plenty of great local & foreign restaurants around the city, and a variety of upscale bars and nightclubs at the city’s fancy hotels around the downtown area.

One word of warning: when you’re looking for transport, watch out for tuk tuk drivers that offer ridiculous multi-stop city tours for ridiculously low prices (10 baht per person), or that tell you that your destination (a temple) is closed until 3pm, so they can take you somewhere else instead. These usually end up being a series of spontaneous stops at tailors or travel bureaus, where they’ll receive commission for your possible patronage. Stick to metered pink taxis if you’re not looking for the thrill of the tuk tuks.

Whatever adventure you’re looking for in Bangkok, it’s likely you’ll find it – no matter the time of day or night.