As I write this, by hand, we are on a flight from Yangon to Mandalay in a little propjet. Use of all electronic devices is forbidden at all times.
December 24-31, 2012. After two weeks on the beach at Koh Samui we once again took a taxi to the ferry, the ferry to the bus, the bus to the overnight train, and finally a taxi to our hotel in Bangkok. A week in Bangkok. What’s to discover?
On the surface Bangkok is a big cosmopolitan city, much like any big city in the west, with a thin Thai flavour to it. Hint we’re in Thailand – there are small altars with food and flower offerings at most businesses. Hint we’re in Thailand – some of the boats on the river are long-tail boats and have flower offerings for good fortune hanging off the bow. Hint we’re in Thailand – there are some exquisitely beautiful temples, and the Royal Palace, in traditional Thai style. Hint we’re in Thailand – from time to time we see Buddhist monks and nuns. Hint we’re in Thailand – Everyone around us is speaking Thai! Astonishing! Because everything else about this city is much the same as any other developed city in the world – the high rises, the roads, the traffic, the shops, the malls, the clothing.
Girl on the train
Altar outside a store
Monks buying cell phones
But dig a little deeper and some of that unique Thai flavor can be found in great big chunks – mainly in the street markets, and in the floating markets on the few khlongs (canals) that remain.
We began with the obvious – a hop-on/hop-off boat ride along the Chao Phraya River,
getting off at various temples and monasteries, and the Royal Palace. There’s a truly spectacular forty-six metre long gold reclining Buddha in the Ordination Hall of the Royal Monastery
We also went to the Royal Palace, Wat Arun and Wat Phra Kaeo. I have them all mixed up now, but here’s my favourite photos of their gorgeous beauty.
Royal Palace Guard
On further exploration of the city we found the dried fish market
some other neighborhood markets
and water buses screaming up and down one of the few remaining khlongs.
We passed her almost every evening as we walked along the street looking for somewhere to have dinner. There she was at the edge of the sidewalk on busy Sukhumvit Road. She had just a table and chair and the few things she needed for her craft. Sitting there she’d carefully string together flowers to sell as altar offerings.
Bangkok was also the time to get our visas for Myanmar, make some plans for Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos, book hotels, and do a lot of research into various means of transportation. On arrival in Bangkok only our flight to Phnom Penh had been booked. We enjoyed being back in “civilization” again, and with the supermarkets and malls we could buy anything we needed for our on-going journey such as copious amounts of DEET, and Don’s favourite Pears soap. We also went to two movies – The Life of Pi and The Hobbit. I loved both, Don enjoyed both but liked The Hobbit better. We also had lunch one day with some dear friends from Vancouver who just happened to be in Bangkok at the same time we were. It was so lovely to see them again, and to catch up.
We didn’t fall in love with Bangkok, though we had a good time there and saw some beautiful things which filled our hearts, and we certainly appreciated being able to get all the things we needed for the next phase of our journey.
We had one fabulous day at a couple of out-of-town floating markets, and another equally fabulous day on the khlongs of Thonburi, the only area of Bangkok where the khlongs remain much as they have always been. I’ll write about all that in the next post.
All words and images by Alison Louise Armstrong unless otherwise noted.
© Alison Louise Armstrong and Adventures in Wonderland – a pilgrimage of the heart, 2010-2015.