Friday 2 March 2012

Bustling Bangkok

If I lived in Bangkok, I would have a heart attack before I was 30. I don’t know what it is, but when we go out, my heart rate shoots up, my adrenalin flows and I want to get off the streets. I find myself in survival mode, focusing all my senses extremely hard on potential dangers all around me; motorbikes, cars, tuk-tuks and buses seem to come at you from all directions, and pick-pocketing is a known problem so I watched everyone, eyeing anything that bumped into me suspiciously. I was overwhelmed by the intensity, so much simulation, the vehicles, the people, and the sheer volume of commerce. Surprisingly, I ended up enjoying our three days in Bangkok.

First of all, for those who know me, I am the worst person to take along to a shopping centre. I would happily do the dishes and the laundry if it means I don't have to go clothes shopping or get the groceries. But the shopping centres in Bangkok are a completely different kettle-of-fish. These arrays of gargantuan complexes are just so stupidly big that they actually became quite fun, provided you only visit them once. High on my priority list was a decent pair of sunglasses, and with hundreds of optical stores around, I had too many to choose from. The photography shops here also had it all; I have never been into a shop where every Canon lens was on display, right up to the big 600mm. They even had Canon display stores where you couldn't buy anything, just look and play.

Secondly, the food was exceptional, especially in the Chinatown area where we stayed. After eating one bowl of Wan Tan Mee with roast duck and roast pork, I was compelled to order a second bowl, and then we ate there again the next day. There were numerous small street carts dotted all around the place selling freshly squeezed juices (we loved the juice of pomegranates that seemed to be in season), and we salivated over all manner of small and delicious snacks to be had.

Our best meal in Bangkok, I ate two bowls the first time I tried it and returned the next night for more. - China Town, Bangkok

Thirdly, the traffic. One cannot go to Bangkok and not notice. Although we travelled mostly on foot, train or boat, it made me tense just watching. Crossing a four lane street was an experience on its own.

Traffic in Bangkok

China Town in Bangkok

Four, the opulence of Wat Pho and Wat Phra Kaew temple complexes, and the Grand Palace. It was a packed ferry ride to this very touristy area, but Tia insisted we needed to see this. I can't say that I was thrilled to be wandering about giant glittering gold temples, taking a history lesson with twenty other people, at midday on a scorcher of a day, but I guess it was somewhat important to appreciate the centre of influence of the reigning monarch and the nation's religion.

Buddhas in Bangkok

Mother-of-Pearl inlays on the foot of the Reclining Buddha - Wat Pho, Bangkok

Five, the prestigious rooftop bars. We packed lightly, and so didn't bring with us many (ok, make that any) fashionable evening wear. I had a collared t-shirt that I wore with my travel pants and hiking shoes, and Tia fretted over only having Keen sandals to match a t-shirt and casual skirt. At the Lebua building, we strode confidently through the lobby to the ground floor elevator, where we were soon surrounded by business shirts, designer dresses and high heels. Our confidence diminished a little after seeing several tourists, dressed very similarly to us, being denied entry. We were convinced we would be next on the chopping block, but in their preoccupation, the dress inspectors didn't notice us slip into the elevator. I don’t know how we did it, but we actually managed to pull this one off, passing the 63rd floor dress inspectors in sweaty sandals and baggy long pants, and the view was incredible. We spent more on two drinks than a week in Chiang Mai, but the photography was rewarding and cocktails weren't too bad either.

Panoramic of Bangkok seen from the Sky Bar at sunset.

The setting sun seen from the Sky Bar in Bangkok

And finally Muay Thai, an incredible sport where the men in the ring are tough and lean. It surprised me as it wasn't nearly as violent as I envisaged it would be. In fact, the boxers were all good sports, laughing at and taunting each other, but congratulating the other when he landed a good hit, even though they were both keen on winning. It was professional, not a ruthless beat-up.

Taking a hit - Muay Thai in Bangkok

Muay Thai Fighter - Bangkok

We have spent five weeks in Thailand, but we are reluctant to leave as there is still more we want to see. Hopefully we will be back.

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