Trev and I have embarked on a two week journey across Southeast Asia; week one in Thailand and week two, Vietnam.
We began our journey with two days in hustling, bustling Bangkok. In one of Trev’s recent Facebook posts, he encapsulates my feelings perfectly, stating, “amazing streetfood, uncomfortable sanitary conditions, and lots of very interesting people.”
To make the most of our short time in Bangkok, we hired a tour guide to show us around the city. Pasaweet, or to us foreigners “Paul”, helped us to cover so much ground over two days, while teaching us all about the fundamentals of Buddhism and showing his some of his local favorite spots.
Our first night in Bangkok, we explored Chinatown and the Flower Market by Tuk Tuk. Chinatown in Bangkok is essentially streetfood heaven. Every bit of sidewalk and alleyway crevice is packed with a streetfood cart and/or small restaurant and loads of outdoor seating; the smell, a fusion of sweet, and spicey Thai cuisine, and a bit of Bangkok pollution. Paul first took us to T&K, a famous streetfood joint with a constant queue down the sidewalk. Here, we ordered crab and yellow curry, grilled prawns, morning glory, fried rice, and Thai beer. The crab was UNREAL!
We continued our stroll down the main road, learning about the interesting array of fruit and vegetables in Thailand, and eventually stopping for the second round of treats at one of Paul’s favorite spots, the sweet tent; serving up sweet, ginger and coconut milk soups with black sesame filled dumplings. Yummmm!
With full bellies, we headed off to our next stop, the Bangkok Flower Market. This is where things got a bit interesting…
In London, flower markets give an almost euphoric feeling… a complete sensory overload of fresh, beautiful smelling buds of all kinds. Any expectation that this might be near the same experience was quickly squashed. The Bangkok flower does have flowers of all kinds, which you can indeed purchase more cheaply than anywhere I’ve seen (for instance, a bouquet of roses for 2 quid (pounds)…or 3 USD); however, the smell of the market is largely overpowered by pollution, the ground covered in dirty, dank water, and water bugs are everywhere. 😫
Eager to end this part of the tour quickly, we ushered Paul along to our last stop of the evening, Khoa Sak Road.
Khoa Sak is the epicenter of nightlife for backpackers traveling through. Dance music pours into the street from a string of nightclubs, street vendors line the sidewalk with carts offering scorpion on a stick and any other bug you’d like to try, and in between it all lay dozens of lounge chairs, offering up foot massages on the spot. We grabbed a table, ordered an incredible Pad Thai, and ended the night with 45 minutes of some of the best people watching of all time.
Day 2, we woke early for a delicious breakfast, compliments of the Shangri La Bangkok Hotel, and headed out with Paul for a full day of city touring.
We took the river boat across the city, where Paul pointed out several iconic buildings on the way, such as the first modern hospital, the second Bangkok University (focusing on political science), and several temples and royal palaces.
From the boat, we walked through a food market on the river, where we learned how Thai curry is made, the variations of rice used in Thai cooking…and how all markets in Bangkok, whether flower or food related, are damp, wet and are home to loads of critters. 😝The highlight of the day was our visit to the Grand Palace and Royal Temple. The 9th King of Thailand passed last October, after his 70 year reign, and is currently laying in state at the Palace for visitors to come pay their respects. He will lay here for one full year, when his body will be cremated along with millions of flowers in October of this year. The Palace and Temple are the third most visited place in the world, with an estimated 30,000 visitors per day! The temple is brilliantly colored with intrinsic mosaic designs and LOADs of (pure) gold paint. Life/sized painted murals tell the full story of Buddhist belief/history.
Our last stop of the tour was to the Jim Thompson house. Jim Thompson was American born, and was sent to Thailand during WW2. He fell in love with the Thai people, and decided to stay in Bangkok after his time in the service was up. He is nearly solely responsible for the rebirth of the silk industry in Thailand, and for making it popular as an export. Jim built a beautiful home in Thailand, comprised of 6 buildings brought in from around the country. He mysteriously disappeared in the Malaysian jungle at the age of 61 and was never found. Jim was part of the CIA and there are several online theories to what may have happened. Today, his beautiful home is a museum – unfortunately, photos are not allowed on the tour.
For dinner, we had booked a couple of months back into the Blue Elephant, on the recommendation of Jenna and Brandon, from their trip to Thailand. The food here was incredible!! We ordered an array of starters, soups and mains and shared it all. My favorite part of the meal was my pina colada, served straight from a coconut shell. 😏
Bangkok is a unique experience, full of character and friendly people, eager to share their culture with you. The service industry overall is incredible. The pollution is extreme and apparent nearly everywhere you go. Overall, we felt that a couple of days was a good length of time to understand the city, and then move on to fresher air. 🙂 If we went back, we’d be eager to try more of the nightlife culture…some of the crazy shows and interesting clubs.
For now, we are off to the rainforest in the south of Thailand!