Bangkok, Venice of the East
Bangkok, Venice of the East.
From a seasoned traveler, I’d heard Bangkok is the ultimate getaway to the Southeast Asian world. I also learned that it’s the most visited city in the world at the time I’m writing this. I recently got to know Bangkok over 3 weeks, and I can safely say this about travel here. The Thai capital offers some great culture, beautiful architecture, stunning temples and yes, some really dodgy stuff going on in some back alleys too. Although Bangkok keeps pace with modernization, pieces of her ancient history can be seen in and around the city. For instance, there are tonnes of beautiful Buddhist temples (called Wat’s) all over the city. If you observe closely, you will notice passersby coming to pay respect. They bring with them incense, candles, Jasmine flowers and other offerings. Its a calming influence in a city of chaos. I suggest a visit to Wat Pho, the oldest and largest temple in Bangkok. It houses the Golden reclining Buddha and when you see him, he looks relaxed and at ease. He should though, his feet are made of mother of Pearl! Also, I would recommend seeing the Sri Maha Mariamman, Bangkok’s oldest Hindu temple located in Silom. It’s truly is an explosion of colour, smells, sounds and South Indian architecture.
Wat Pho Temple
Sri Mariamman Temple
As far as getting around, an intricate network of rail, buses, subway and boats make up Bangkok’s surprisingly comprehensive public transportation system. There are lots of ways to navigate Bangkok, but by far the most convenient and quickest way around we found, was by way of Tuk-Tuk. That’s only if you know how to bargain!
A handy tip here, if your driver offers to take you to a few stops before your destination for a cheaper price, turn that down. Chances are they’ll take you to a clothing or jewellery store, whose owners would pay them a commission if you purchase anything. The most cost-effective way to travel however, is by the metro and sky train systems that operate until midnight. Bangkok’s futuresque Sky-train runs high above the city. It’s thorough, efficient and covers Bangkok’s major hot spots quite extensively.
Whilst in Bangkok, I’d recommend visiting the areas of Silom (the city’s financial capital), Sukhumvit, Siam (the shopping hot spot), China Town and little India (situated close to each other) for some great food, cheap massages and sightseeing.
For an authentically Thai shopping experience, why not take a step back in time and visit a floating market. We coupled that with a visit to Chang Puak camp which is on the way.
Floating Market & Visit to Chang Puak Camp
I’m born in the year of the fire Tiger according to Chinese astrology and have naturally, always had an affiliation with Tigers. So whilst I would love for this to have been a photo of me casually cuddling a giant Tiger – I think the places I saw here in Bangkok were charging up to 5000THB (around $150) to do so – I was also told to beware as the animals are sedated and then enclosed in cages for tourists to cuddle and photograph at a fee. This here is not exactly a Tiger but a Liger. Obviously you know that Tigers and Lions don’t exist in the same geographic environment. Lions are African and Tigers Asian. So a Liger is a man-bred cross between a male Lion and a Tigress. The opposite is a Tigon; a man-bred cross between a Lioness and a Tiger. On our way to the floating market, we got to see a Liger at Chang Puak. I suppose even if they’re bred purely for aesthetic value (they’re not fertile as the chromosomes of the two species do not match), damn they’re straight up beautiful and really snugly.
As far as floating markets go, a two hour journey from central Bangkok gets you to a few. Handy tip here, make sure you research which floating market to visit. Some of them are quite touristy and the vendors are a little aggressive with their sales techniques. Trust me when I say the people of Bangkok can be proud, and the vendors surely like the smell of foreign money!
Another interesting thing I thought I’d point out while we’re on this note is the prevalence of older foreign men with Thai prostitutes. I’d once read an article which said ‘Thailand: a place where an older man can think he’s debonair’ – aka young and suave. This was a real awakening to that description. In Layman’s terms, the foreign men buy roses and lavish days out for their ladies. In exchange, the ladies offer ‘companionship’ for the duration of the trip. I must say though, I noticed this trend to be more prevalent in Pattaya, a sin-city and sea-side resort easily accessible from Bangkok where we spent a couple of nights.
Views from Holiday Inn Pattaya City
Pattaya has been getting a lot of bad press recently by the international media. The Daily Mirror tabloid proclaimed that Pattaya is the sex capital of the world. They also claimed that there are over 30,000 prostitutes here. I am not sure how they came to that conclusion. I will leave that to your discretion. However, I do want to say that I would definitely recommend spending a weekend here as there are other fun things to do. Compared to the South East Asian Islands I’ve been to, it has a similar vibe. Lined with resort hotels, high-rise condos, shopping malls, bars and 24-hour clubs, Pattaya is popular among Bangkok locals looking to relax at the weekends, as well as travelers from all over the globe.
Inverted <3 shaped sunset @ Pattaya I captured
When it comes to the biggest and best market in Bangkok, there can only be one winner. The Chatuchak weekend market. Located next to Mo-Chit metro station, it is the largest open-air market in the world. Selling anything from clothes, food, Thai souvenirs and even pets, it’s worth spending some time here. Definitely bring comfortable shoes and some patience.
Chatuchak/JJ Weekend Market
If you’re adventurous, Thai street food is a must. For a few dollars a day, you can get your fix of pad Thai noodles, papaya salad, fresh fruit like pineapple and mango sold all over the city. Coconut ice-cream, savoury pastries filled with corn and punnets of mango sticky rice.
I can’t think of many times we ate at proper restaurants during our time in Bangkok. Besides a few romantic rooftop dinners we had with beautiful nighttime views of Bangkok. The city of Angels is know for its rooftop dining so definitely give that a go. Expect an al-fresco dining experience set atop roof terraces overlooking the glittering cityscape. Grill-and-bar experiences that are among Asia’s finest. The most popular one is the Sky Bar @ Lebua. However do beware that some scenes of the movie Hangover II were shot here – and as a result the bar tends to get overcrowded and is a little pricey, which definitely dampens the experience.
When in Bangkok, a boat ride on the Chao Praya River is a great way to gain a different perspective into the city. After-all, Bangkok is known as the Venice of the East.
Hop on a boat with the locals and expect to see a mix of old and new. Enjoy a welcome respite of the breeze and take in traditional riverside houses, temples, modern skyscrapers and rainbow coloured long tail boats as you ride down the river.
Boat Cruise on the Chao Praya River
When I think of Bangkok, I think of the sounds of Tuk Tuks and weaving through traffic. My obsessive posing for photo’s at every shrine. I think of Thailand’s economic Tiger, with a thousand tales to tell. I think of the smell of meat being grilled in alleyways mixed with potent burning incense and then it all makes my head spin. In a good way..
Views @ Lebua.