Bangkok, the mother of Southeast Asian cities. Nick and I spent 4 days in Bangkok over the course of a month. We flew from Mandalay, Myanmar to Bangkok, worked our way south by land to Singapore, then spent 2 days in Bangkok as a connection when flying from Singapore to Calcutta, India.
Bangkok was definitely the most developed southeast Asian city we visited before Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. The traffic was hectic and we found the taxis, trains, and buses all unorganized. Similar to Western culture the consumer focused society was obvious. Locals and foreigners alike flooded in and out of enormous shopping malls and shopped not out of neccessity but luxury. Advertisements for Listerine (what would have been unfathomable in Myanmar) were plastered on the walls of the sky train and “massage parlors” could be found every 50 feet. Although we had a good time in Bangkok, it didn’t live up to it’s hype. I’ve listed some of our highlights below:
The Grand Palace & Emerald Buddha – Although quite expensive and touristed, Nick and I spent an afternoon touring the Royal Palace and Emerald Buddha. The temples inside of the complex were intricate, regal and lavish (but not gaudy). The number of tourists were overwhelming and we soon learned that the thousands of Thai tourists dressed in black were there, waiting in queues to pay respects to the king. 3 months after Bhumibol Adulyadej’s death, it still hung in the air. The Thai people were in a year of mourning. The king’s face was on t-shirts, billboards, banners, posters and statues all reminding the people of his good deeds.
Later, we took a boat across the river, saw the Hindu Temple of Dawn and a more quaint Bangkok. We roamed the old town and stumbled upon another amazing market. My favorite things in Bangkok included getting lost, the delicious food and the transgender community.
Khaosan Road – Young drunk western tourists. This 3 block strip consisted of bars, live music and street food. It looked the same as a college bar street. 5 friends sat around a table drinking overpriced beers taking in the scene, however the scene was a little different. The difference, locals walked down the street selling balloons full of laughing gas, scorpions on sticks, and tickets to “ping-pong” shows. Transgendered females wore short skirts and were grinding to dub step. Dreadlocks, cornrows, henna, ice cream and ” I love Khaosan Road” t-shirts were all sold. The scene reminded me a bit of the New Jersey shore.
Chinatown – Nick and I wandered through Chinatown and watched as the locals prepared for Chinese New Year. Special clothing, decorations, firecrackers and foods were being sold. We passed vendors selling dumplings, teas, spices, and indulged in homemade popcicles. Some of the flavors included: Black bean in sticky rice, taro, sticky rice and mango, durian, Thai tea, banana in coconut milk, coconut custard, mung bean, Thai muskmelon in coconut milk, longan in sticky rice, tamarind, pumpkin in coconut milk, pink milk, grass jelly, corn, and Thai custard.
On the way back to our guesthouse we decided to take a ferry down Bangkoks’s canal, known as the “Venice of Asia”. The cool water misted our faces until the locals abruptly pulled a lever that raised a plastic curtain. Ahhh, the canal was Bangkok’s sewer. We began to smell it and see the holes from the cement walls feeding into the river. There was garbage and street art and although not the most romantic, we were pleased to have had the experience.
Food- Bangkok came alive at night. As soon as the sun set, countless night markets opened selling pad thai, mango sticky rice, fresh fruit, fresh fruit juice, fresh fruit smoothies, fried chicken, processed meat on sticks, bao, corn on the cob, and waffles. Some of the markets, especially the weekend farmers market, had a hipster vibe. Thais sure know how to eat.