Bangkok is massive. We were in Bangkok for six days and to say we even scratched the surface would be an overstatement. We were able to stay in two different areas of Bangkok, first in a more financial district and second near Khao San Road, the “backpacking haven”. Both places gave us a different perspective of the city.
I’ll mention some of our highlights:
Walking through Lumphini Park was a refreshing change of pace from the busy city streets. We purchased metro passes but quickly realized they were only for the underground subway and not the Sky trans. There are far more sky trans and the underground system was limited, so on our way to one of the Shrines we had a longer walk than anticipated which brought us to this beautiful park. We leisurely strolled through. There’s multiple lakes/ponds and picnic areas and great spots for hanging out. We saw multiple monitor lizards also strolling around! They’re so prehistoric looking and some of them were massive.
We saw/visited many shrines and temples located throughout the city. One day while we were at Wat Pathum Wanaram, (a Wat in the middle of the city between two massive malls) we found ourselves on quite the adventure to visit Wat Arun, the Temple of Dawn. This began with a tuk tuk ride (a three-wheeled rickshaw) through the busy street of Bangkok weaving in and out of traffic and squeezing through tiny openings between cars.
We got to “the restaurant” and our driver led us along a narrow path with sections consisting of a wood plank bridge to the man sitting at the back of the restaurant. We talked about the itinerary for the day: a boat ride up the river, a tour through the canals where we will see a “floating market”, “school boys swimming”, a lucky carp feeding spot, a stop at the Wat and a stop at a famous market. All good, we go down to the colorful river boat. It’s just us and three Italian guys and we headed out. We went up the river. It was very choppy and we watched many other boats going by. Some had HUGE engines on the back going super fast, some were jam-packed with people. I was glad we had a more relaxed ride with ample space.
Going through the canals was very eye opening. The water was super polluted, there was garbage everywhere. We witnessed how people live in this area; most houses are on stilts and dilapidated with uneven floors and wide gaps in the walls. I didn’t feel comfortable taking lots of pictures during this part, considering those are people’s homes.
We came to the “floating market” which was a couple women in boats. One came over to our boat. It wasn’t full of fruit and food like we were told, instead it was touristy knic-knac merchandise. One of the Italian guys bought a soda and she kept insisting he also buy a beer. Next we came to the “school boys swimming”…I don’t know if this was a part of the tour or not, it seemed set up, it was just three boys, two on a dock and one standing in the water looking cold and miserable. The water looked really unpleasant and I can’t imagine any one actually swimming in it. We got to the carp feeding spot. There were people throwing bread in the water and the carp were going crazy. We were told that feeding the carp brings you good luck, and there was even a sign stating this.
We got out of the canals and headed to Wat Arun. We got dropped off on the dock and were made to pay a docking fee (unexpected). Wat Arun is in a really big area; there are multiple structures and a large garden. It was all very beautiful and despite the masses of people, there was a time or two where I could find a moment of serenity. The main spire was being restored, so there was a lot of scaffolding around it, but it was still easy to appreciate its beauty.
After some confusion about tickets/lines, we got back on the boat and headed toward the market.
The market had a large dock and when we were dropped off, we had to pay another docking fee (again, unexpected). The dock was busy, with multiple boat tours going out. There were lots of people and lots of boats. We walked through the market which had the strong smell of durian. Durian is a tropical fruit, that looks like a big spikey mango. I haven’t tried durian yet because I haven’t been able to get over the smell. It is foil smelling and it lingers in your nostrils. In many places, like Singapore and Malaysia, it is banned in public places for this reason. The market is close to the Grand Palace and the area is packed with Thai people dressed in black, mourning the late King. The Thai people will be in mourning for a year following his death in October. (This was very evident throughout our whole stay in Bangkok.) When we figured it was time to get back to the boat, we waited and waited. Long story short, the tour must have ended here because our boat was gone (we were under the impression that we would be taken back to where we started). In this area of Bangkok there are no metros and no buses so we hailed a taxi and made our way to the closest metro station and eventually back to our hotel. It was dark by this time and we were pretty exhausted.
We also had the chance to explore some shopping centers. There is a lot of shopping in Bangkok and I’ll mention the one that stood out to me because I like how it was themed like an airport. The 12 different levels were themed as different areas/cities from around the world i.e. Caribbean, Rome, London, San Fransisco, ect.
We decided to stay in the Khoa San area because it is easy walking to many sights (temples, Grand Palace, Democracy Monument, The National Museum, ect.) and like I mentioned above, there’s not any easy public transportation to or in this area.
Khoa San Road itself is a very vibrant, crazy area. Vendor and food stalls take up the sidewalks, so the roads are shared by people, motorbikes, tuk tucks and taxis. There are numerous restaurants and bars, usually with European/Westerner/Aussie cuisine. And an infinite number of hostels, some super cheap. (199 baht = $6 usd)
We visited Wat Bowonniwet Vihara which has a stunning golden chedi that holds the remains and ashes of Thai royals. The buildings around the temple are so beautiful and have such amazing details.
We walked by the Democracy Monument on our way to the National Museum where we spent an afternoon. It is the largest museum in SouthEast Asia and there was a lot to see. The admission to the museum is free for the next year to honor the late King. It had a lot of art and history (obviously) but my favorite exhibit was the funeral chariots hall; sounds kind of morbid. The chariots are huge and ornate and great examples of Thai architecture. It was really cool.
We had planned to go to the Grand Palace. We prepared by wearing black, and even had black ribbons to show respect. However, with the events going on, there was a lot of confusion on the proper time to go as to not disturb the mourning and praying and we did not want to offend or intrude. Each day the area was packed with masses of people. We thought it best to pass.
We also enjoyed some delicious food you can read about here!
Bangkok kept us busy and although we got around, I know there is so much more! We did have to be careful for scammers and sometimes had to flat out ignore people trying to get our map to tell us what we needed to do or where we needed to go. And don’t believe someone when they tell you that “today is a special holiday”!
Thanks for Keeping Up 😉