Bangkok. What’s all about? What makes this city so mysterious? What Bangkok offers that Paris, Rome, London and New York lack?! It’s a city with a twist at every corner, a tropical paradise with an edgy reputation, with a hint of danger and excitement (paraphrasing from Frommer’s Bangkok Guide).
After Nepal and India, Thailand is a blessing. No more honking, no more hassles, no more begging, no more garbage. And the most important, the Thais are the friendliest people in the world! 94% of Thai people are Buddhists. Thai expressions such as (in translation): “Everything’s good”, “Keep Cool”, “Don’t Worry” – “reflect a deeper spiritual concept – the practice of tolerance, humility and patience that is at the heart of Buddhism.” (Frommer’s Bangkok Guide)
Bangkok. Population: 11 millions. Hundreds of temples. It is a pleasure to revisit Bangkok after eight years. The Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) is a masterpiece. Covered in ceramics, the spires of Wat Arun continue to impress me. The Grand Palace is a must. And, if you are looking for tranquility, the Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha) – the largest and oldest surviving temple, this is the place to go.
Very interesting is the “Amulet Market”. There is something to protect you from every problem you may have: small Buddhas, monks pictures, old king photos, wood phalusses with seeds inside, crocodile heads, leopard skin.
Wake up very early in the morning and you will find all the streets of Bangkok filled with bare-feet monks in orange robes. Poor or rich, the people kneel in front of the monks offering them rice or money in exchange for prayers.
Do you want to feel you are on the top of the world? Go to the 63rd floor, at the Sky Bar, Lebua Hotel and see the Bangkok! The entry is majestic. You have to go down on a very wide, lightened staircase to the open air bar. The border between you and the city is just a glass fence. It is like stepping in the city from the sky. Excellent idea!
The “Damnoen Saduak” Floating Market. more touristy now, but you can still see how the trade was done in the past from boats. Food or goods, the exchange can take place between boats or between boat and shore through a long stick where the vendor hangs the product at the end of the stick and the customer put the money in.
“Loi” means “to float” and a “krathong” is traditionally made from a section of banana tree trunk with flowers and candles. The Thais pay respect to the spirit of the waters. Hundreds of floats are thrown into the rivers and others float into the air. The floats have lights inside, so the floats in the air looks like stars. This year the festival took place on the evening of November 21st (full moon). With this occasion you can see traditional dances and taste local food.
“One night in Bangkok and the world’s your oyster.
The bars are temples but the pearls ain’t free.
You’ll find a god in every golden cloister.
And if you’re lucky then the god’s a she.
I can feel an angel sliding up to me.”
Do you remember the Murray Head’s 1984 song? If you have only one day in Bangkok, besides the Wat Arun temple and the Grand Palace, visit the Patpong area. This is one of the “Red Light” areas of Bangkok.
Once you are on the street, on the sidewalks is a market selling everything. Some guys show me in their fist a note with the words “Sex DVD”. Other guys try to sell “faked” tattoos (kind of gloves you wear on your arms and mimic the tattoos). The area I am looking for is called Patpong. My first encounter is with two girls with whips (S/M). No, thanks! Second encounter is with a “massage” club promoter. “Sir, you can see the girls through the window”. The strangest thing is to be on a street where all the clubs are for “Japanese men” only! And be aware of the ladyboys! You cannot make the difference!
A more relaxed, quiet city, Chiang Mai is a city of temples and a gateway to the mountains.
The hill tribes visit is a highlight, especially the “long-neck” women from the Karen village. Nowadays they make a leaving by selling souvenirs. The girls are very beautiful! The brass-coils are added to their neck starting from childhood. One has 26 coils and quite a long neck. Many are around 12 years old.
Date: November 2010