So, where were we. Ah yes, Bangkok.
During our short say, we had a taste of the many faces of the city and its endless juxtapositions. We experienced its elegant side, as well as its seedy side, it’s extreme wealth and its poverty. We observed minimal living in contrast with excessive consumerism and we saw age old tradition against a backdrop of high-rise buildings and glowing advertisement screens.
We ended up staying in Bangkok for 5 days. We had planned to stay for less time, but had trouble getting a train out. During our extended stay, we travelled around all over the place. The city is so well connected that it’s a breeze to get anywhere. The metro and the amazing skytrain were both convenient and fun. Getting into those air conditioned carriages and being genuinely freezing was a joy every single time.
In spite of the heat and the temptation of the fridge-like trains, we spent a lot of time wandering about enjoying the sights of Bangkok. The central and more touristic centre of Bangkok was bursting with sounds, colour, smells and stenches. Beautiful girls in crazy kooky outfits, huge cat statues, giant LED screens everywhere and huge imposing skyscrapers all made it feel like we’d stepped into the future.
As usual,we thoroughly enjoyed the street art on display.
There are more than 150 malls across Bangkok. Some resemble indoor markets with haggle-able prices, while others could be likened to 5 star hotels. There are markets all over the place and by night, many streets are lined with stalls, many of them selling the same thing. “Same same but different” is the common phrase. We found the sheer level of consumerism truly shocking and quite suffocating at times. In many ways it was just a bit disturbing.
Over to Tom: I love all the things Bangkok has. It’s a smart city and I love smartphones, the internet, architecture, smart transport, once you embrace it, who doesn’t. It all appeals to me, it’s fascinating. So Bangkok should be right up my street. Problem is, I just felt a little uncomfortable. As someone who recently threw out most of my possessions I found myself surrounded by so much STUFF to buy it was a little sad.”
We did however, venture into a couple of malls to see what all the fuss was about. MBK Mall is probably Bangkok’s most legendary mall. A tourist attraction in itself, MBK is HUGE. With eight floors and around 2000 shops, the place is absolutely rammed full of goods. There are massive areas where the shops aren’t shops at all, they’re market stalls and pretty much all prices are negotiable. We genuinely hated this place.
Although there was no chance of us spending money in the super fancy Siam Square One mall, we did have more fun there, looking at pretty designer toys.
While we weren’t out not enjoying the shopping malls, we took a trip to Wat Pho, famous for it’s huge reclining gold Buddha. To get there we hopped on Bangkok’s handy ferry.
There were an incredible amount of tourists, which was to be expected. Fact alert: Almost 30 million tourists visited Thailand last year! To get a nice shot, you often had to angle the camera upwards.
The temple complex was beautiful and we spent quite a while wandering around admiring all of the intricate patterns and carvings.
The giant reclining Buddha, was indeed immense in size and quite breathtaking in its beauty. The room was covered in gorgeous paintings.
This was our first taste of traditional Thai Buddhist architecture and it was a delight.
Here are a few more miscellaneous shots of life in action across Bangkok.
We spent a lot of our time eating, as you do. Bangkok is big on food. Much of this comes in the form of barbecued carcasses on the side of the street, however there is an amazing selection of vegan food on offer too. We’ve saved most of the mouth-watering photos we took for a separate blog about food, but let’s just leave this one in shall we:
Walking back to the hostel (trying to burn off like 1% of this pud) through the park, we passed endless fitness enthusiasts jogging, cycling, weightlifting (lunatics – it’s SO HOT). However, when the clock struck 6, everybody stopped and observed the national anthem which was playing over a loud speaker. Every day at 8am and 6pm, be it in a park, the station, or a cinema (we also experienced it there), the Thai national anthem is played in every public place as well as on every radio station and TV channel. As soon as the music starts, everyone stops what they’re doing and stands to attention.
We left Bangkok to head to Chiang Mai. Despite what this picture suggests, we were looking forward to it.