Bangkok - Taste of Thailand

Trip Start Feb 17, 2012
Trip End Aug 25, 2012

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Immediately upon arrival at Bangkok airport it hit us that we were in a completely different world from India. Bangkok is extremely modern with its skyscrapers, metro and skytrain all blending in with pockets of magnificent temples and pagodas. It appeared closer to what I expect Hong Kong to look like than I had expected and there was none of the dirt or poverty that had been so visible in India.  What was instantly visible however was how touristy Thailand is with dozens of tourists all over the city and signs reading 'tourist information' everywhere which we were soon to find out are not actually information rather offices selling tours/ tickets at extortionate prices. We settled into our hotel Imm Fusion on Sukhumvit Road, a very nice boutique hotel which compared to what we had become accustomed to in India was 5 star luxury for us.

We wandered out for an evening stroll and exploration and immediately found the famous stalls of Thai street food right outside our doorstep and a great local market right opposite our hotel next to On Nut skytrain station. The market was probably the best we visited in Thailand as far as food goes and we had some delicious Pad Thai and popular Thai sweets from there over our 3 nights stay at Imm Fusion. We proceeded on to Silom and the infamous and seedy Patpong area of Bangkok where naturally we were met by hordes of Thai men offering us pussy shows every few meters. No matter how many times we declined and however unimpressed I looked they continued undeterred to offer us the many different types of pussy shows you can imagine. We also passed by quite a few ladyboys and eventually ended up in a seedy club for a Thai kickboxing show. Not a bad way to start our tour of Thailand!

The next morning we took the skytrain and metro to the pier where we took the ferry (covering all forms of Bangkok public transport) along the Chao Phraya river towards the Grand Palace. We were met by an overly friendly Thai man at the Palace entrance who told us that the ticket office was shut for lunch and that we could take a government tuk tuk for the very cheap price of 50 baht to 3 Buddha temples in the vicinity until the office reopened.  In between the 3 temples we were taken to a tailor who wanted to sell us tailored suits whilst standing there in our t-shirts and worn out pants, we politely declined, and then on to a tour office who tried to sell us an extortionately priced package for the Islands in the south, again we politely declined.

 By this point we obviously realised we had been taken in for a scam and regretted being so gullible however we had grown to trust people in India and were quite shocked at this experience given that we had only ever heard how amazing Thailand is and how easy it was. To top it all off the last temple we were taken to was a beautiful golden Buddha upon a luscious green hill but was a nightmare to reach the top in the midday heat and by the time we reached the bottom our tuk tuk driver had abandoned us, he had obviously made enough commission from the shops. We tried to find another driver but they all wanted 200 baht just to take us the 10 min drive back to the palace and taxis with a meter refuse to put the meter on for tourists!  We eventually found someone for 100 baht but were quite appalled with Thai people by this point to say the least, needless to say when we reached the palace we found out the ticket office had been open all day.  We soon found out this is a very common trick in Bangkok and we regretted neglecting to do any reading before arriving here.  

The Grand Palace was spectacular, the most colourful and wondrous display of opulence and grandeur we have ever seen. It is a mix of Hindu and Buddhist cosmology and mythology but the Hindu depictions we saw far surpassed anything we had seen in India as far as scale and extravagance goes.

The next day we visited the Wat Pho or temple of the reclining Buddha which was also extremely impressive. Afterwards we wandered around towards the Chinatown area of the city passing by a tranquil city park where residents were preparing to attend an outdoor aerobics class. By the time we reached Chinatown we were starving however we didn’t find the famous street food stalls to be as welcoming as the Thai ones we had experienced so far. People couldn’t explain to us what the food was and there was too much meat for our liking so we ended up at a nice restaurant which specialised in Chinese delicacies such as birds nest soup and shark fin although we were very happy to have some dim sum and ginger gingko nuts for desert.

Our last day in Bangkok we opted to visit the Taling Chan floating market which is a smaller and more local floating market. We decided against visiting the famous Damnoen Saduak floating market as it is a 2 hour journey from Bangkok and has basically become a tourist trap. We took the public bus to Taling Chan which was a nice experience going along on a local route and reached Taling Chan in the early afternoon in time for a late lunch. There was a great variety of street food here including delicious roasted tiger prawns and crab all really cheap. The floating market was small with only a few boats however there were many food stalls and clearly a local vibe with traditional Thai music playing and lots of Thai families out for a Saturday lunch and stroll. We also did a canal tour along the Bangkok backwaters which was a great experience and a rainstorm added to the atmosphere. The Backwaters were lush and beautiful with orchids flowering and quaint stilt houses lining the canals, we even spotted some komodo dragon like reptiles and a horde of frenzied catfish feeding like piranhas on the bread we threw at them.
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