Because of the social and political unrest in Thailand, there was some concern about traveling into Bangkok. Regent offered all of their passengers on the World Cruise one night in Bangkok complete with deluxe hotel, transfers, meals and a cocktail cruise on the Chao Phraya River at sunset. The weekend prior to our arrival there were 100,000 protesters on the streets of Bangkok. Several days before our scheduled stay, the protesters began collecting their own blood which would be used in upcoming marches. The leaders of the Red Shirts declared class warfare and vowed to shut the city down. So things didn’t look too promising! We also had private car arrangements pending for some of our guests. Our tour operator and the ship’s staff kept us apprised of the situation and the decision was made to go ahead with the excursion to Bangkok.
We went with Mike and Evy and Bruce and Kathryn in their van from the port of Laem Chabang on the two hour drive to Bangkok. On the ride into town we saw many truck loads of Red Shirts with their flags and banners flying heading into Bangkok.
Our driver was constantly in touch with his office checking on the road closures and where the 60,000-100,000 protesters were staging. When we got into the city, we went directly to the Grand Palace. This 60 acre masterpiece is the crown jewel of Bangkok. It is comprised of many buildings, temples, shrines and residences. The golden stupas, shining spires, mosaic covered pillars and the larger than life carved statues are very impressive. The Grand Palace is one of the most unique buildings as it is a combination of European and Thai architecture. It looks like Buckingham Palace meets the King and I. The Wat Phra Kaeo temple houses the Emerald Buddha—which is actually a statue carved from a single block of jade. This is one of the most revered images in all of Siam.
We checked out Chinatown and the colorful 24 hour flower market which runs for blocks on end. We managed to dodge the protesters and made our way to the Shangri-La Hotel.
On our evening cruise on the River of Kings we got to see the all of the temples lit up and marveled at the heavy ship traffic. There were rice barges as long as trains plying the river along with hotel ferries and long-tail boats dashing about. There is a tremendous current as the river has been narrowed significantly by dredging and reclamation. The highlight of the evening was a fireworks display the likes of which we had never seen before. We sat on the front deck of our river boat and watched the aerial display launched from a nearby barge. The booms echoed off the tall buildings lining the river. Our friend John was dining on the terrace at the nearby Oriental Hotel, and he said he was sprinkled with some of the ashes from the fireworks. John announced to the other restaurant patrons: “Compliments of Regent.”
The next day we enjoyed the fine facilities of the Shangri-La and visited a local market. We made the return journey to the ship in record time. Because of the threat of more massive demonstrations the roads were empty. None of the passengers we talked with encountered any problems as the protests were peaceful and the atmosphere carnival-like, according to the local newspaper. We’re glad that we got to spend a few days in Bangkok enjoying the sights and sounds of this intriguing city.
When we got back to the ship we were greeted by most of the staff and crew who were on the pier with the band playing. It was a warm and regal welcome home for all of us travelers.
Kevin and Susan – See the pictures here on our Regent Voyager World Cruise Blog