I also dislike the smell on the streets. It’s a habit here to cook and eat in the street. It’s not hygienic at all. There are some mobile kitchens, a table, some shelves and a stove put together. They’re boiling, frying, grilling. If you like this smell and if you don’t bother the way of cooking, the food is actually good. I tried it once because I anticipated the question I would get at home “have you tried traditional cooking?”. Now I can say “yes”. I had noodles with prawns, all cooked in front of me. It was good, but once was more than enough. It’s a thing with this kind of food. You like it or not. I don’t think there’s something in between.
When you say Bangkok, many instantly think of shopping. In my opinion there’s not too much to buy. Well, this can depend, of course, on your goal. I saw people shopping, shopping and again shopping till they managed to have extra luggage. But shopping for what? Clothes? If you choose the street markets, then the quality of the goods is poor and most of the items are fake. If you go to big malls, then the prices are as high or even higher than back home. Electronics? Maybe. You might get the taxes back at the airport. I tried to find a music store, but the attempt was unsuccessful. I didn’t have too much time though. I dream of a certain HMV in Hong Kong I visited last year, with a separate classical music section. I’ll pay a visit soon.
The tour of the city has several stops. The highlight in Bangkok is the Royal Palace. Not it only has tourist and protocol purposes. The King lives elsewhere. It’s a beautiful complex of buildings. I liked it so much maybe because it’s a mixture of European and Thai architecture. Meaning that the architecture of the walls reminds of European style and after that they added the traditional Thai roof. You’ll see the photos. You can’t get inside. There’s only one room open for visit, the Coronation Hall. Inside there’s the throne for the King and an altar for Buddha behind it. That’s all. It’s used in different ceremonies.
Next to the palace, there the Emerald Buddha temple. This Emerald Buddha (actually made of jade) is Thailand’s most precious and worshipped figure of Buddha. It’s only 66 cm tall and it’s placed on top of a huge pyramid, in a large room. People go inside on bare feet, kneel, prey, and bring flowers and money. They consider that this bring them good luck. Besides this building there are several others included in the temple. But they can’t be visited. There’s also a library, a pantheon and several stupas. A “stupa” is a sort of tower. I don’t really know how to call it. It’s that tall, yellow, shiny building that appears in several photos below. The bigger the sin, the taller the stupa :) People here stongly believe in reincarnation, in sacred monkeys fighting demons, sacred birds and sacred snakes. So by building huge stupas and altars, by bringing money and flowers to the temple the higher the chances are to be reincarnated in something better than in the previous life.
The next stop is the Reclining Buddha temple, located close by. This is the biggest representation of Buddha in reclining position in the world. It’s 46m long and 15m tall. Oh, well… Temple, checked.
Next stop, guess what.. another temple, named Wat Arun, or the Temple of Dawn. Again many stupas, but of Cambodian influence. The shape is different but the meaning is the same. The thing I liked here was that you can climb some stairs up on the temple, on the outside. From up there there’s a beautiful view on Chao Praya River and the surroundings of the temple. Third temple, checked.
Next stop is a short cruise in a weird and pretty unsafe boat on some canals of Chao Praya. I could call poverty what I saw there. They call it traditional way of living and they show it to tourists. Checked.
Next stop, the flower market. The biggest in the city, the guide said. There are also fresh fruit and vegetables. So we took pictures. Needless to say, the street was extremely crowded.
Now the tour is complete. It took us more than 4 hours to see all these, and more than one hour to get back to the hotel. The biggest problem in Bangkok is the traffic. Here everybody can buy a car on leasing. It’s a matter of showing your welfare. You own a car, you’re somebody. There are millions of cars and if you need to be in a place at a certain time (let’s say, the airport), then leave the hotel 2 hours before. Or use the train, which is way faster.
Another tourist attraction is the floating market, located 110km outside Bangkok. The goods (the same as on the streets of the city) are sold from those traditional long boats. That’s the only difference. It is said that this is where the locals come to shop. May I doubt that? The prices are higher than in the city. It’s only for tourists. Two more hints.. on the way to the floating market the buses stop at a coconut farm and at the elephant village. On the way back, another stop to another temple. This one has the highest stupa in Thailand, 120m high. Imagine the sins of the builder… The guide said “this is the highlight of the X city (sorry, I can’t remember the name and even if I could, it would be impossible to pronounce it)”. Biggest stupa on earth, checked.
The last attraction during my stay in Bangkok was Patpong night market. You get there by tuk tuks. A tuk tuk is a 3 wheel motorbike. I’m not good at describing things so you’ll see the photos. The name doesn’t mean anything. It comes from the noise of the engine. Patpong is another street market and it’s open till after midnight. Nothing new here regarding the products sold. Cheap, fake bags, wallets, watches, clothes. No price tags. Weird people asking you to buy from them. I experienced this kind of market in Hong Kong. Here in Bagkok they added some local flavor. The erotic shows in bars on the left and right side of the market. Pole dancing and who knows what else. There are some people (PRs :)) in front of each bar, trying to get customers in. Their target are the gentlemen. First they show the price list of beverages the bar serves. On the other side of that paper there are the photos of the girls they have. Looking is for free but drinking is expensive. One hour is enough to see everything there.
That was Bangkok. I’m glad I saw it, but that’s all. Now, off to the island of Koh Samui. Judging on how much I wrote, you must have figured out I’m in the airport waiting for the flight. Some of my longest posts were born in airports. Writing makes time fly. Oh, oh, listen “passenges for Bangkok Airways flight to Koh Samui are invited to gate A4”. That’s meeee. See ya!
The stupa (the yellow one - that is not gold. It's painted glass, millions of small squares put toghether by hand. They change them every 15 years. Contrary to the European idea of preserving the buildings, here they renew them in order to be always shiny and strikingly colored)
It's not allowed getting in these buildings. Only the King and some priests are allowed. The rest of us just admire them from the outside. The only building you can get in is the one that houses the Emerald Buddha. But.. no photo/no video permited.
Second temple, Wat Pho, aka Temple of the Reclining Buddha. 46m long, 15m tall.
People coming to the temple put coins in these pots. In the evening the monks take them and go by food.
Temple number 3, Wat Arun, aka Temple of the Dawn, on the left bank of Chao Praya
View of Chao Praya
And now, the Royal Palace. See? European architecture
...and traditional Thai roof. Isn't this strage?
End of part I. Soon, part II, the flower market.