Much as the midnight downpour is making me feel like I didn’t leave home, I’m glad to report that this trip did kick off on a positive Note. And yes, I intentionally capitalized the last word of the previous sentence because it happens to be the name of my gracious host. I first met Note three years ago, when she visited the Philippines and we took her to see Tagaytay. Fast forward to 2015 (specifically, earlier this morning), she wasted no time getting in touch with me just hours after my arrival. “I’m picking you up within an hour. Wear long pants and shoes”, she instructed via wonky Facebook call. Being a first-timer in the city, I promptly obliged.
Note arrived about half an hour later. As I stepped out of the elevator, she greeted me with a warm-hearted chuckle. “OK, so maybe you took it a bit too seriously”, she said, alluding that I was a tad overdressed. “I just wanted to be sure”, I replied, returning the chuckle. I boarded her car and met her sister Nham, whom she spoke lavishly about back in 2012. Soon, we were off to brunch. “The place we’re taking you is very, very far from your hotel”, Note quipped as she turned at Soi Ruam Ruedi. It was a joke, as it turns out: Baan Glom Gig is only a quick stroll away from Chateau de Bangkok. Upon settling down, I further got acquainted with Nham over duck curry, omelette and rice cakes. Suffice to say, it was a hearty gastronomic welcome.
I accompanied the sisters over a quick errand. After which, Note whisked me off to Phra Nakhon (sans Nham) to see one of Bangkok’s most iconic landmarks: The Grand Palace.
Built in 1782, the Grand Palace traces its origins back in the year Thai (then Siamese) monarchy was established. For a century and a half, this sprawling complex served as the official residence of the Royal Family until 1925. These days, it is still used for royal ceremonies, state gatherings, and other celebratory milestones. The entire facade is occasionally lit at night, making for a dazzling postcard staple. It’s no wonder why this place is considered one of the city’s most majestic attractions.
We arrived in the vicinity around half past three. As expected, the atmosphere was teeming with the synergy of three Ts: temples, tourists, and tuk tuks (motorized Thai rickshaws) – ubiquitous elements in any Thai scene.
It took around 20 minutes for Note to find a parking spot. Before then, the spires peeping through the fences served as my prelude.
After sneaking through the sidewalk stalls, we finally made it to the Palace gates. The Friday crowd was overwhelming but orderly. “Just imagine this place on a weekend”, Note whispered. Tourists are required to pay an admission fee of 500 baht (PHP642.91/$13.75). There are also separate queues for locals and foreigners and they seem to subject the latter to more thorough bag inspection. As a result, Note entered the venue a few minutes ahead.
After that minor bit of segregation, I finally made it into the premises. And what a sight to behold!