On Wednesday 18th April 2018, we caught a midnight flight from Kolkata to Bangkok arriving at 4:30am Thailand time which is an hour and a half ahead of India. We had forgotten about the time difference so thought we’d be getting a four hour flight instead of a two and a half hour flight so didn’t get as much sleep as we’d hoped! Whilst we waited in the airport in Kolkata, an enormous storm blew through with lightning, heavy rain and powerful winds. The noise it made inside the airport was incredible and it made me really glad that we had got to the airport early so as not to have been caught up in it as it would have soaked you through in a second!
For our first night in Bangkok we had booked a room in a nice hotel called Trinity Silom. Months before we had made a complaint to Expedia about an inflight meal (I hadn’t been able to book a vegetarian meal on a flight and ended up having no food to eat) and they had given us a $50 voucher to spend as an apology. We decided to use this voucher on a night of luxury after our time in India and it was the best decision we could have made. After arriving at the hotel at 6:30am we checked in but had to wait for our room to be ready which we were told could be as late as 2pm! We went to sleep in their lobby and at 9am were woken up to be told someone had checked out early and they had the room ready for us! The room had an absolutely enormous bed in it which was very, very comfy and we slept for hours! We had purposely decided to do nothing that day to exploit the hotel room and the only thing we did that involved leaving the room was to get food and to use the rooftop pool they had. For most people this’ll seem like what everyone does on a holiday and they’d be right but for nearly the entire time we have been away we have stayed in hostel dorm rooms and so getting to have a nice hotel room was the best feeling.Silom, where the hotel was, is a popular area for lots of hotels and also seems to be Bangkok’s business district so I think there are a lot of apartments in the area too. For dinner we just went out into the local area which had some street vendors dotted around. We both got a large mango smoothie which was great to be able to do after having not been able to eat fruit whilst in India as you have to be careful of coming in contact with unclean water. We also went to McDonald’s because Niall ended up being vegetarian like me in India to avoid the meat making him ill and he really wanted a burger! It would have been the longest he had gone without eating any meat so I didn’t mind waiting one more day for Thai food. We had also walked around for a while looking for street food but couldn’t find anywhere as it was an area filled with expensive restaurants not cheap food.
Some of the things that were instantly noticeable about being back in Thailand were that it was a lot quieter what with the lack of constant horns and shouting and also no one cared we were white and blonde! We didn’t get a second look when walking down the street which we hadn’t had for two months and I’ve got to say, it was great! India was so good but that’s one thing I’ll not miss about the place – I don’t think I could live my life in the spotlight forever!Sadly, the next day our time in the hotel had to come to an end and at midday we checked out. There were a few things in the area to see so we stored our bags at the hotel and went out to start sightseeing. Although we had been to Bangkok before we flew to India a couple of months ago, it had only been for less than 24 hours and so we had given ourselves a few days in the capital city this time to see what Bangkok had to offer. This was a city that seems to split opinion with some people loving it and others hating it and wanting to leave as soon as possible. I had a feeling we were going to like it though.
Our first stop for the day was to Lumphini Park. This is one of the few green spaces in Bangkok and is a few hundred acres in size. Although it was quite humid so not the most comfortable to walk around and sit out in the sun we enjoyed the park which was quite empty and had a number of large ponds with water fountains in them. I enjoy any park that has some of the city’s skyscrapers visible from it and it would be a great place to have near to your house if you lived in Bangkok.
After cooling off with a drink we headed to Sri Mahamariamman Temple which was nearby and is a Hindu temple with an Indian design to it. The entire temple was covered in colourful statues which was really interesting. Although it wasn’t very big there was a steady stream of people coming in and out of the place and outside you could buy strings of flowers like you could when you are in India.In the late afternoon we moved to our hostel where we’d be spending the next few nights. The hostel was called Khaosan Lovers Hostel and was very near to Khaosan Road, had good WiFi, hot showers and included breakfast. It was where we had crashed at for a few hours the last time we had been in Bangkok so we knew it was a good hostel. That evening we went out to Khaosan Road for some Thai food and drinks. We went to a bar that looked pretty busy and got large bottles of Chang beer for 120 baht (£2.70). It was a good place to people watch and our favourite person to watch was one of the promo girls who stood on the street at the front of the bar with other girls (and ladyboys) to draw people in. This particular girl would ask people in the bar for some of their drink and got herself pretty drunk from it. This made her even more outrageous and funny to watch than was already the case and I even saw her fully grab the crotch of a passer by at one point!
We ended up befriending three people from China who were at the table next to ours after this lady had drank some of the girl’s drink. The girl then hadn’t touched her drink again and so I went and got her a new cup to use. Our friendship blossomed from there and progressed when they put two drinks on our table and invited us to play a drinking game with them. They also gave us some of their snacks too which was all so nice! We had been about to leave as we had finished our drinks so it meant we stayed out longer and it was a very nice gesture. We played a drinking game which was essentially just Rock, Paper, Scissors but the loser drank which was very effective and they were funny so we had a good time. When they left they left us some of their drinks and then we got invited by two South Koreans, a German and a Thai to join them in drinking and they also bought us some drinks with the South Koreans also buying ice cream for us all to share. I couldn’t believe the level of generosity we were receiving and have no idea why we were so lucky but, for whatever the reason, it led to a very fun night!The next day we went out to the Grand Palace and Temple of the Emerald Buddha which is located in the same complex. The ticket was 500 baht (£11.35) for entry to both places so was a lot more than we had been used to paying back in India! This palace has been the official residence of the Kings of Siam and Thailand (which it later became) since 1782. The King, his court and the royal government used to be based in the palace until 1925 and it’s still used for official royal events.
Within the palace grounds is Wat Phra Kaew, also known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, which is seen to be one of the most sacred temples in Thailand and is truly spectacular. In Thai, emerald means it’s colour not the stone which made more sense as I had expected a glittering jewel. This is regarded as one of the most sacred Buddhist statues in Thailand. The legend of the Buddha statue is that it comes from India and would bring “prosperity and pre-eminence to each country in which it resides” so it’s deeply revered throughout Thailand as the protector of the country. The Emerald Buddha is 66cm and made out of a single jade stone. The King changes the cloak around it three times a year to match the Thai seasons of summer, winter and the rainy season so as to provide good fortune for that coming season.
It was a bit hard to work out which bits were the palace and which bits were the temple but we think we worked it out by the end. What we think was the temple section was particularly impressive due to the number of jewels and pretty stupas and this was probably my favourite place we visited in Bangkok – it was so sparkly and extravagant!After seeing everything there was to see we headed to Wat Pho, also known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. This temple is one of the royal temples in Thailand and was built by King Rama I and some of his ashes are even enshrined there. The stupas surrounding the temples were covered in paintings of flowers which were really pretty and the stupas went really high so looked very grand in the open courtyard. The temple’s main attraction is a 46m long, gold plated statue of the Buddha. This statue has the Buddha lying on the floor, resting on one arm and smiling. The giant Buddha was in an enormous white building with large pillars. The Buddha was very impressive but was quite hard to see it all at once because the hallway it was in wasn’t very wide. We walked from one length of the hallway to the other so we were able to see the full Buddha that way. I particularly liked the feet which had swirls on the toes and loads of little Buddhas on the soles of its feet. When we were looking around we constantly heard the sound of clinking which turned out to be people putting one baht coins into twenty different metal pots along the other side of the wall. This noise was almost constant and created a kind of soundtrack to the place.On our final day in Bangkok we got a taxi to the Thalin Chan Floating Market. This was more of a riverside market but it did have a floating restaurant where all the seats were on a large barge and all the food was cooked on small row boats in the water and then passed up to the waiting staff who would then serve you the food. We didn’t try any food as we had just had our breakfast but all of the reviews for the markets raves about their food and everyone looked like they were enjoying it.After walking through the market we got tickets to go on a boat tour around the canals and the villages (called Khlongs) that were in the area. The boat tour only cost us 69 baht (£1.50) each for an hour and it took us through the canals which were laid out like roads with sign posts and speed limits and also took us to a riverside temple. It was interesting to see the houses and how different people had decorated their front gardens to make them stand out. We hadn’t even known Bangkok had canals like that so that in itself made the boat trip worth it just to see.In the river there were an enormous number of catfish which you could buy food to feed them. They obviously enjoyed the food as they would all swim on top of each other to fight to get the food first which caused a lot of splashing and looked really odd when you started to not be able to differentiate one catfish from the next! Whilst we were on the boat tour, people fed the big schools of fish but we were much nearer to the water that time as we were in a long boat and I ended up getting soaked so they really do flail about!The temple we were taken to was also very nice. It was small but still had a lot of detail in the entrance hall and whilst we were there we saw a shaving ceremony of a young man and a young boy beginning the process of becoming a monk. There was music playing and they prayed whilst monks shaved all the hair off their heads with a sharp razor and people watched. It was cool to see and the boys sat so still during the whole process even though the young man did look like it was hurting him a bit!I’m glad we went to this market even if it wasn’t on the full scale of floating as I’d imagined seeing. There is a much bigger market that is all on boats for every shop but it’s a lot further away, more expensive and takes up the entire day so that’ll have to be for another trip to Thailand when we have more time and money. For now, this market did the trick for me!
Our next stop for the day was to Wat Arun which is also known as the Temple of Dawn and we got a taxi here for 150 baht (£3.40). This was a really pretty temple which was mainly white and was covered in mosaic flowers. The main hall of the temple had large pillars covered in paintings of flowers as well as large golden, jewel encrusted designs along the doorways and windows. A large gold Buddha was inside the hall for people to worship.The main focus though was the giant stupa’s that were covered in carvings and statues with the main one being around 60m high. You were able to climb to a mid-level of this stupa which showed you a better view over the rest of the complex but it was the details of the stupa’s themselves that we enjoyed looking at more – it must have taken forever to build!This temple was next to the river so we got a boat across it as it was a bit more convenient (and fun) than walking over a bridge. The boat across the river only cost us 4 baht (9p) each so was a bargain really. Once we crossed the river we headed to Wat Saket (also called the Golden Mount) which was our last sightseeing stop of the day. The Golden Mount is a steep artificial hill inside a larger compound. The hill is artificial as they tried to make a stupa in the past but the soft ground in Bangkok wasn’t able to support it and so collapsed. After years of being abandoned, the structure turned into a hill which was then built on to create a spiral of steps with a bright golden stupa at the top. There are over three hundred stairs but they’re only half the height of normal stairs so it didn’t seem like that many at all. The views from the top were good over Bangkok and it was nice to get a bit of a breeze to cool us down from the walk. The stupa itself was dazzling in the sun and had two large gongs on either side which someone who worshipped at the site would bang before or after prayer. At the complex there were other statues and small shrines but we didn’t bother to go and see these as it was getting later in the day and we were very hot, so we headed back towards our hostel.Near to Khaosan Road there was a place that did really good fruit shakes for 40 baht (90p). We both got a passionfruit one which was so refreshing after a day out sightseeing in the sticky heat of Bangkok. We also were able to get a big bowl of pad thai on this road for our tea which was really tasty so, all in all, our last day in Bangkok was a good one.
Bangkok is a marmite city with people loving or hating it and I think I was right to think we’d like it. Silom, the business and hotel district, was modern and developed and staying in the hotel gave us a small glimpse of what it would be like to live in the city or visit for business (as well as a painful glimpse of the accommodation we were missing out on). Then khaosan road with its clothes stands, crazy bars and cheap food gave us a small taste of the party side of Bangkok that’s famous for backpackers. I think Bangkok has something for everyone with its sights and nightlife and it would be somewhere I’d be happy to return to for a day or two to keep exploring.
Next stop: Chiang Mai
Sending love x