Last stop, Bangkok.
After a week of travelling I was excited about seeing Bangkok, catching up with a friend and finally getting that Thai stamp in my passport.
I was infinitely spoilt staying at the Mandarin Oriental which straddles the Chao Praya river. The location was key, I had immediate access to travel along the city without sitting in traffic which is particularly bad in Bangkok. Tuk tuks would no doubt be part of my trip but they could wait. First up was seeing the river from a long tail boat. These narrow wooden boats are driven by long propellors and handled by bare foot locals which is a rather charming introduction to the city but not so advisable on rougher days. Several of the buildings sitting on the banks are propped up by stilts – and the murky brown water even invites fishing and scuba divers…
Thailand has been in mourning for just under a year since the King died and it was quite remarkable to see the display of respect for him as we tooted up to the Royal Palace. It was chaotic but the sights of the Big Buddha, the Queen’s Dresses museum and various temples were simply something not to be missed, even on such a hot day (36c).
Next were the flower markets; stunning displays of hand sewn flower garlands only a ten minute walk from the palace. After checking out the fruit and veg markets and ton and tons of onion stalls, it was time to kick back by the river in a hipster coffee shop with a Singha beer (check list). Returning back to the hotel, we took a water taxi. This was a completely contrasting experience to the relaxed journey I had just taken. The boat was full to the brim and as we stepped onto the jetty the heavens opened. The smell of hot, tropical rain hitting the pavement filled the air and the sudden chaos as people darted under shelters and boats sped past was all rather dramatic.
On my last day it was time to eat street food and see some of the traveller side of town. Kao San road obviously. First stop was heading to the TCDC, which is being converted to new art galleries for local artists and is an interesting project to watch out for. Then on to China Town, where naturally Shark Fin soup is a delicacy and there’s no hiding it. Each vendor specializes in something, do you want noodles or rice – the big question? Eventually it’s tuk tuk time.
As we chug past parliamentary monuments downtown we eventually meet with a whole bunch of tuk tuks, cue backpackers. The street is busy, filled with locals selling fried bugs – which I’m assured is some myth that’s become a tourist trade. This is not a local delicacy. This is some ploy that backpackers insist on ticking off when in Asia, no thank you. I will not be eating a scorpion. There are various stalls selling clothes and bags, lanterns dangle in the streets and there are several tattoo shops too. And of course there are the bars. In this part of town, and at this early hour – around 9ish – it’s pretty tame and very laid back. Everyone is just soaking up the atmosphere.
I was surprised how much I enjoyed Bangkok but I had been taken around by a local and as ever, that makes all the difference.