Thailand Part 1 – Busy Bangkok

28 Feb

Canal tour - Bangkok

Canal tour - Bangkok

Many many months ago, at braai with friends, a casual conversation about scuba diving planted the seed for our long awaited and much anticipated holiday in Thailand this February.  Centred around six of us meeting up on a four day liveaboard dive boat (more about that later!), the rest of the holiday quickly stretched to two weeks as H and I tried to make the most of our precious leave.  Although coral reefs and pristine beaches were top of my mind, we would have missed out if we hadn’t included the buzz that is Bangkok in our itinerary.  So that is where we found ourselves at the start of our journey, at 9pm, offloaded by the taxi from the airport…

Our hotel, the “centrally located” Rikka Inn, turned out to be smack in the middle of the madness that is Khao San road which one can easily mistake for the hub of a festival , packed as it is with revellers, stalls, neon, hawkers, street food and general chaos.   In fact it is just the location for an every day all-night market.  After a quick shower to wash off the aeroplane fuzz, H and I and two of our friends hit the street and got an eyeful of this side of Bangkok culture.  Supper was a delicious Pad Thai (the first of many) and spring rolls from a street vendor (the fried crickets can wait for my next trip) and thirst was quenched with a Chang beer (the first of many) seated on kiddies plastic chairs at a makeshift “very strong cocktail” bar located on the steps of a bank.  Retail therapy was unavoidable with colourful summer dresses, t-shirts (some pretty dubious) and “genuine” brand name clothes at every turn as well as jewellery, cheap souvenirs and even some quality craft goods thrown into the mix.  Bargaining is expected.

The next day we sent off on a proper sightseeing mission to see a few other sides of Bangkok culture. The Grand Palace and temple of the Emerald Buddha, and Wat Pho (where the giant “Reclining Buddha” is) were must-do sites within easy walking distance of our hotel (despite what the tuk tuk drivers would have us believe).   The buildings in both places are magnificently decorated with colourful mosaics and gold adorning every rooftop and statue, elaborate murals highlighted with gold leaf in the temples and many a golden Buddha  gazing serenely at the tourist hordes .   I enjoyed the Wat Pho temple more though as it was less crowded and architecturally as beautiful as the Grand Palace.   Note that both sites require a modest dress code (no knees, midriffs or spaghetti straps) but tourists can borrow sarongs or long pants at the entrances to cover-up shorts.

We also took a canal tour in a longtail boat from the Tha Chan pier and saw another completely different side of life.  Although the skyscrapers of the modern city loom in the hazy distance, there is no tourist facade along the canal and the shacks on stilts that line the banks give a glimpse into a  harsher reality.  It was fascinating rather than depressing though and a beautiful glimpse of ordinary people’s lives.  Back at the pier we ventured into the bustling market for some more great street food, and bargains.  While in search of a flower market somewhere to the South, we stumbled upon a wholesale food market (no tourists here) and saw the most enormous piles of chillies, garlic, ginger, cabbages, and more and more challis! Oh to be able to shop here for your supper!

That evening we treated ourselves to meal at the Aquatini restaurant recommend by our hotel which was near to Khao San road.  The view of the canal is more city than pretty, but the green curry soup I ate there was possibly my favourite meal of the holiday.   A world away from the standard green curry back home there were several ingredients I actually had to Google.  Suffice to say it was delicious.  A banana and condensed milk pancake from a street vendor on our walk home drew our blitz Bangkok experience to a close as H and I had to catch a taxi to the airport at 4am for the next leg…

Coming next:

Paradise in Phi Phi

Phuket in a day

Diving the Similan Islands

3 Responses to “Thailand Part 1 – Busy Bangkok”

  1. Anne February 29, 2012 at 12:24 pm #

    You write in such a vivid style that you draw me into the trip from the word go! I’m looking forward to the next installments …

    • Pat February 29, 2012 at 1:14 pm #

      I really enjoyed reading your story, accompanied by such super photos. I think I would spend days in Bangkok just soaking up the culture.

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  1. Thailand Part 2 – Phi Phi Paradise | Have you been to...? - March 3, 2012

    […] our busy Bangkok trip it only took one hair-raising 4am taxi ride, a domestic flight, a bus shuttle, a dodgy bakkie ride, […]

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