Bangkok: Temples, food and lots of friendliness
January 1, 1970
by Sigrid Segers
Almost everyone who travels to south east Asia starts in Bangkok. Most flights go there, so, probably you’ll be there for at least a day (because after a 16 hour flight or more, you just want a bed where you can stretch your legs). This time is perfect to make a citytrip and explore this world famous city.
For me, and most people I met, bangkok is an overwhelming overload of Asian chaos. The first day we where there, the traffic, noise, smells and chaos were just too much to actually ‘see’ the city. After the second day, I started seeing trough all these things and I could actually enjoy it a lot more. Therefore, if you go there, it is important to choose a right amount of time to spend there. If you stay too short, you probably won’t adapt to all this chaos and leave with a feeling that Bangkok is no more than noise and smells. If you stay too long, you ll probably get tired of it and need some time so chill. Anyway, when you walk around, don’t worry too much too see everything. Just take your time to walk around and look around.
Due to the overload of information on internet, I think everyone knows pretty well what to expect when traveling. But I was kind of shocked about the waste production here. With every single thing you buy, doesn’t matter how big or small, a plastic bag, plastic spoons and forks come with it. If you don’t need it, you have to tell explicitly. I cannot imagine how much waste a city like Bangkok must produce in only one day.
The first thing that made me see the city in an other daylight was the friendliness of the people. I never saw so many smiles together. I expected people to be friendly as they probably see you as walking cash. But people are genuinly friendly, whether they sell something or not. As I asked about this to a nice man I met in a temple, he explained that most Thai people know that thailands economy goes together with tourism. Even it’s not to sell something directly to you, most people are graceful that people all over the world come to visit their country. And indeed, several people already welcomed us in Thailand. But, Thai people do expect respect and understanding in return, he explained. In a temple, you are supposed to wear clothes that cover your shoulders and knees. And at the moment, they also expect foreigners to be respectful of the mourning of the king.
Before I left, a lot of people were warning me because of the mourning in Thailand. There would not be any parties, you can only were black, you have to take care what you say about the king, … . For me, it was actually a very unique experience. I was expecting a population that could not say anything bad about the king (or his dog, because yes, you can get in trouble when you speak bad about the kings dog) because of a kind of repression. But nothing is more true. I never saw a whole population that loved their king so much. I wasn’t even aware this was possible. Everyone I talked to, told me that they cried when they heard the king died. Although I did not really get one and the same answer from everyone, I managend to get some kind of view on why he was so much loved: during his legislation period of 70 years, he prevented the country from 12 coups d’etat in a peaceful way. He made sure that buddhism was the main religion in Thailand, which in turn kept peace in the country.
Except of that, I heard that the king was kind and living a simple life. He lived like and among the people of his country and made sure that there wasn’t any hunger.
The mourning was beautiful to experience. We were at the grand palace the moment the population could greet the king for the last time. A mass of people came by already from 4 in the morning. Trough gifts, free food was given to everyone on the streets. At first we wondered if it would be appropriate if we would join, but Thai people were even thankful that we joined them in the tradition. For more information about the king: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhumibol_Adulyadej
What to visit:
there are a lot of temples to visit, but there were 2 in bangkok that I won’t forget. One of them is wat pho. It is so big it is almost a village. We walked around there for almost 3 hours. There is a reclining Buddha, as big as one of the temples itself. Also, the other buildings like the 3 giants are very impressive.
It was the first university of Bangkok because a king decided to write the most important knowledge and the ways of living back then on stones. Nowadays, it still is an international school of alternative medicine, and you can get a (believe me, painful) massage for only 100 bath. Furthermore, there is a little marked with homeopathic herbs, oils and other stuff.
The other temple which I really enjoyed was wat saket or golden mount. The temple itself is not very special, but it is located on a hill from where you have a panoramic view of 360 degrees over Bangkok. I don’t think this needs more explanation to convince you why you should go there.
The region of Khao san road is a very cozy area in Bangkok. It is totally worth passing by, but don’t expect something authentic. It is known as backpackersparaise so it’s nice to have some cocktails, do some shopping in the little stores full of colorful clothes, bags and jewelery or to have a massage. For us it was too touristic, but if you like parties and a good backpackeratmosphere, you should totally look for a guesthouse in this area. Khao san road itself is the place to be for parties. The one bar next to an other, and all selling buckets of cocktails (and even laughing gas!).
Visit a mall
Even though you can’t buy anything like us, because you will have to take it with you in your backpack, it is worth just taking a look. The malls are so big that you can find almost everything there. The craziest section was one with cars. Ferrari after Lamborghini after rolls roys and so much more. It wasn’t our scene, but it was impressive enough to make a little stop there.
Two hours by train from Hua Lompong (15 bath) you can find Ayutthaya, a beautiful little city with lots of old ruins of ancient temples. If you need a break from the busy city of Bangkok, you can stay a night there, but it if you want to go back to Bangkok, it is absolutely possible to visit in one day. For 50 bath you can hire a bike or a scooter for 250 bath. You will need one of those because you can find the ruins all over this former capital of Thailand that was destroyed by the Burmese.
In Bangkok, there are several was for transport. If money is no issue, you can always take a taxi. Otherwise, there is a metro, a sky train and a taxi boat. And off course, not to forget, the tuk tuks. Originally they are cheaper then taxis, but because now it’s a touristic attraction, as a foreigner, you’ll probably pay more. Even though, I have to admit, it’s really fun, so try to bargain and at least enjoy a ride with a tuktuk once.
So, my advice in short: Don’t try to see the city in one day but take the time to adapt, don’t skip Thailand because of the mourning of the king, it is a unique experience, and enjoy this famous, beautiful city with it’s friendly population, endless temples and so much more.
Top 10 attractions: http://www.bangkok.com/top10-attractions.htm