I have just returned from a short trip to Bangkok, which is also known as Krung Thep Maha Nakhon in Thai, meaning “city of angels”. Bangkok is not only the capital of Thailand but also by far the most populated city in Thailand with 12 million people. It also carries the nickname “Venice of the East” due to its extensive network of canals that are still being used as a mode of transportation and to sell various goods on the floating markets.
First cultural experience
I spent three days in Bangkok and wanted to see and experience as much as possible. On my first night I went to the popular Patpong night market and encountered for the first time why the slogan “Same, same but different” stands for Bangkok and can be found imprinted on various T-shirts and other souvenirs. When entering the night market a young lady came out of her shop and showed me a beautiful red dress and added “Honey, this dress is good for you, make you beautiful and you fit in because is made of stretch”. I decided to ignore that she just insulted me and I entered her shop to take a closer look at the nice red dress. I decided to buy 2 dresses, one in red and one in black. The lady replied “Honey, no have black” and while saying that she simply put a blue dress instead of the black one in my bag and added “Same, same but different”.
What to do
Like most people I stopped in Bangkok for a few days before continuing my journey to one of the numerous beautiful islands. My personal highlights of Bangkok were the impressive temples, the palaces, the markets, the nightlife of the Thai capital and the fact that everything was so cheap. The best way to start a day in Bangkok is to get up early and explore the numerous sights the city has to offer such as the Grand Palace and the reclining Buddha Wat Pho before the midday heat makes sightseeing unbearable (the day temperature in March was around 35 degrees!). Don´t forget to watch out for monkeys- they´re everywhere!
The Grand Palace was built in 1782 and since then it has been the home of the Thai King, the Royal court and the administrative seat of government. It features several beautiful buildings including The Temple of the Emerald Buddha. Around the twentieth century the Thai Kings stopped living in the Palace but it is still being used for all kinds of ceremonial happenings and definitely worth seeing. When entering the Grand Palace, as well as all other temples it is important to be modestly dressed, meaning no see-through clothes, bare shoulders etc.Wat Pho or Wat Phra Chetuphon (the Temple of the Reclining Buddha) is located behind the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and it is the largest temple in Bangkok. I was really impressed by this 46 meters long and gold covered Buddha and his 3 meter long feet.
After having seen two of the most impressive cultural sights I decided to relax and enjoy the atmosphere on a guided boat tour of one of the several floating markets in Bangkok. My decision fell on the Bang Khu Wiang Floating market as this is in close proximity to Bangkok. This market was a truly Thai experience for me with all the small villages along the way, the chaotic and noisy canals filled with small flat boats paddled by elderly people. Here you can enjoy tropical fruit and vegetables, fresh coconut juice and even local food prepared from floating kitchens on the boat.
If you have never tried a traditional Thai massage before, Bangkok is a good place to start this truly Thai experience for only £2-£3 for one hour. However, this massage is different to most other massages as it incorporates yoga style postures and can sometimes be very painful but the outcome is amazing as it relieves stress and improves blood circulation. This Thai massage is mainly carried out by young girls or elderly housewives so don´t be surprised if they are wearing a cooking apron while massaging you.
Let the day end glamorously with a cocktail over the roofs of Bangkok in the Sky Bar at Sirocco. The Sky Bar is one of the world´s highest open air bars overlooking the Chao Phraya River on the 63rd floor of the Dome at State Tower. This spectacular bar was also one of the filming locations of “The Hangover 2”. The bar opens its doors at 6 pm and I would highly recommend being there in time to see the sunset and enjoy the best cocktails in town before it gets overcrowded.
Where to stay
The hotels in Bangkok reflect the character of the Thai capital, ranging from low- budget hotels such as Royal Benja , extravagant hotels such as Siam at Siam to city hotels as for example Holiday Inn Silom. There is a huge choice and a suitable accommodation for each vacation type. I decided in favour of the latter because the reviews for this hotel were fantastic and a central location was of importance to me as the time was short. I was impressed by the size and the comfort of the rooms and I spent some terrific time sunbathing by the pool on the 6th floor and I enjoyed the live music and fine cuisine in the Tandoor restaurant. The highlights of Bangkok are only a stone´s throw away and the local taxis or the auto rickshaws will bring you to all major sights for less than £5.
However, according to my tour guide “in Thailand each person is responsible for his own life” when he tried to explain why the traffic is so chaotic, why tuk-tuk drivers transport up to 5 people in their tiny rickshaws and why motorcyclists don´t wear a helmet- so please be careful while enjoying this same, same but different city!
Congratulations to Marion Thomson who has won a £25 alpharooms.com voucher for this week’s Where in the World Wednesday competition. Make sure you check back next Wednesday for your chance to win!