Saturday, July 15, 2006

Bangkok - a go go (plus a few day trips thrown in)!!

July 15th. Arrived in Bangkok around midday. First impressions..hmmn, honestly, not that great! Maybe I'm biased about Vietnam. I know people talk about it being loud, dirty and crazy busy, but Bangkok is a whole, different kind of crazy.....For a start, the people in the airport were all really grumpy (or maybe it was just to me?)! I'll try not to make too many comparisons, but even if Vietnamese people want something from you, or don't understand you - they always do it with a smile - hhmnn definitely not the same here!

So a little about the city. With a population of 6 million, Bangkok is definitely a go-go kind of place! An intriguing mixture of ancient wats (temples) and giant, space age shopping malls, trendy cafes and tons of local people manning street stalls, the city is in constant flux. Oh yes, and did I mention the mad tuk-tuks! There are millions of them....the drivers always there with a smile..."you need tuk tuk, missy........where you go, i take you there". There is a mode of transportation to get you anywhere you want - tuk tuk, bus, taxi and of course the fabulous Skytrain that the city is so proud of! Quick historical aside folks - the name Bangkok, established in 1782, is really only the name for the smaller village within the city limits. Thai people call their capital "Krung Thep" or City of Angels a much shortened version of the very official and very long tongue twister of "Krungthep mahanakhon amonratanakosin mahintara ayuthaya mahadilok popnopparat ratchathani burirom udomratchaniwet mahasathan amonpiman avatansathit sakkathattiya witsanukamprasit" - wow! Don't try and say that if you have had a pina colada or two....ok, don't try and say it even if you are stone cold sober. Way too hard for us "farangs" - yup, slightly different name here for us tourists -"falangs" in Vietnam. "Farangs" in Thailand ....such scinitillating info eh!

I decided as I hadn't been here before I'd have to check out the famous "Khao San road". Definitely an experience, let me tell you. And quite wierd too. As well as lots of skinny young things looking to see and be seen around here (and tons of families with small children too strangely enough!), there are more 7/11's here than I have EVER seen in Boston. Boots too, and Tescos supermarkets - this isn't Asia, is it!!!

Anyway, later that night I met up with Kirrily and Laura (two Aussie pals from Hanoi) for some Bangkok fun! We had dinner a-la street cart, as you do here (not bad either!), a few drinkies in a "real" bar then headed over to where we were all staying - in Soi Rambutrri - and had a "bucket", yes, very ladylike but that's what you do when you have a drinkie from a "combi-van" that parks in the lane and sets up shop for the night. Deeelicious! Then we jumped in a tuk-tuk for a real Bangkok experience - Patpong night market! Pretty fab i have to say... got alot of good tips from the girls on how best to bargain here. We had some dry runs then they left me to it.. hmmn def getting better but still wimpy! Oh well. Patpong is also pretty well known for its "red light" district although things are now much more sanitized than in years past....

July 16th and 17th. Spent a day or two toodling around town. You can't go far without seeing people with yellow tops on! Everyone wears yellow on Mondays - it's the day the King was born and everyone really loves him (especially in this, his 60th year on the throne). Visited the Grand Palace and let me tell you, it was pretty Grand (almost Disneyesque to be honest! - and impossible to capture all of it in one shot in case you were wondering!). It's the former royal residence and today is only used for special ceremonial events such as Coronation Day. So over the top its ridiculous but also pretty impressive! There is even a miniature version of the famous temples of Ankor Wat there! Crazy stuff.

After that i popped into Wat Po, the oldest and largest temple in Bangkok, dating back to the 16th century. The BIG and i mean BIG attraction here is the reclining Buddha, stunning in size at 46m long and 15m high with over 108 different characters in its feet alone! (which you may have noticed i didn't manage to fit into the pic - oops!). Don't ya love statistics!!

June 18th. Today i visited the famous Damnoen Saduak Floating Market. Hmmn definitely a wee problem with truth in advertising here... at least with the pics you see beforehand...not quite as picturesque as you would like, in fact a complete tourist trap; the funniest thing being the constant traffic jams in the water....oh well, wouldn't know unless i visited right, but lets just say the floating markets on the Mekong Delta in Vietnam are WAY better (I know, comparing again,,, sorry!).

July 19th - 22nd. Headed off to Kanchanaburi today for a few days away from the madness of Bangkok. Met a lovely girl on the bus traveling with her school group through Thailand for a month and had a great chat with her about her World Challenge project - hi Vinisha, hope the budget wasn't maxed out too much at the end of your trip! And so to Kanchanaburi itself. Although this new locale is a really pretty place where people come to relax and chill out, one of the key reason tourists visit is to do with its tragic past as the site of a WWII prisoner of war camp and its also where you find the infamous Bridge over the River Kwai It's shocking to think that more than 100,000 men lost their lives here building the Death Railway. It was supposed to take 5 years; yet the POW's were forced to build it in less than 16 months. There are a number of museums and cemetaries here commemorating the loss of life, definitely lots of sad memories here, not at all trivialized by idiot tourists getting their photos taken across the tracks or sitting on the Death Railway train. I mean, come on!!! Pathetic!

Next day i visited the famous and quite beautiful Erawan National Park and hiked up through all seven tiered waterfalls to the top one - definitely ready for a swim after that! Hot, hot, hot today but met two lovely Dutch pals - Esther and Jorun - so had a great time with them; even saw monkeys, including a mum and baby - so cute! Ahh....good times, and then I had to head back to the big smoke. Oh well, just hanging around Bangkok long enough to get my visas processed for Cambodia, Laos and India then I'll be skedadaling off up north.

And so to another day out. How much can I pack in, I hear you say! Well, quite alot actually! Jumped on the local train to Ayuthaya, the former Thai capital and now a city filled to the brim with holy ruins. There are more wats here than you know what to do with - Wat Phra Si Sanphet, Wat Phra Ram, Wat Phra Mahathat and of course Wat Yai Chai Mongkon....ok I'm not entirely sure which one is which to be honest but they were all really impressive....and yet another scorching day folks. So much for the rainy season, the weather has been amazing in Thailand since i got here! Quick aside - Lonely Planet had mentioned there are a ton of ways to get around town and see the sights - from bike, tuk-tuk, taxi and then there would be the elephant ride. Now I didn't really think i'd see it but check it out.. big dumb tourists lolling around town on these majestic creatures (really!)...Anyway, apart from this blip on the landscape, thoroughly enjoyed my time here. Back to Bangkok to pick up my passport then I'm off to Chiang cooking classes, helping elephants, shopping in more night markets.....and so much more, I'm sure!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi Stefanie!
just spent some time reading about what you did in vietnam and thailand, your blog is amazing! keep up the good work! budget went fine, we had some to spare by the end so we stayed in a really nice hotel in ko chang. hope you have a great time travelling some more.
love Vanisha xxx

7:20 AM  

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