oes it make a hard (wo)man humble? Artists can be such drama queens… We have to admit, we feel Bangkok is not the crazy place it is sometimes made out to be. It is a big city, much like other big cities, with a lot less ladyboys and crazy stuff than you would expect from all the tall stories.
If you travel in Southeast Asia for a longer period of time, you easily find yourself in Bangkok at least a few times. This way we ended up spending quite some time in BKK, and got the opportunity to take our time and to get to know the city better. While Bangkok did not become one of our favourite cities on earth, after a while it became a bit like a home base. A place that is fun and easy to return to, to get your bearings straight, to refuel and restock and put everything in order for your next destination. You have (almost) everything you could need, often at great prices. The big malls make it easy to buy all your supplies for the road in one go, you can eat well for next to nothing and you can even get your dental needs catered to cheaply (Maarten chipped a tooth and got to try out the latter).
We also take our time in Bangkok to work on our blog in the most perfect hostel imaginable Siamaze Hostel (www.siamaze.com) and to sift trough our thousands of photos. This isn’t always as easy as it seems as Bangkok has a lot of distractions. Food wise, but also surprisingly enough: its shopping malls. Even if you are not a mall rat, you still manage to go for one little item and stay for hours and hours, wandering through a maze of interconnected malls. Food courts, free tasters, fancy supermarkets stocking western goodies, all big brands stores often at attractive prices …. often hidden away in bewilderingly themed megastructures. We are pretty sure that they purposefully arrange their products and stores in the most confusing way possible, ever distracting you from your intended purpose. However, even if you know their game it is pretty hard not being suck(er)ed in.
During our mall wanders, we did run into some fun events, like a local film festival (only showing films -at least partially- shot in Thailand) and that way we managed to see two free movies (only one of which was actually part of the festival) in the most comfortable movie theaters imaginable. Another time we strolled straight into a local star’s concert, including screaming mega-fans, groupies, highly elaborate choreographies and the like.
Of course we didn’t restrict our wanderings to those terribly convenient (and mercifully airconditioned) shopping malls, we also strolled through the streets, as we like to do in ever city we visit (sadly, BKK is not the most walkable place). Chinatown, the markets, food stalls, boat in boat out, past squares where young guys seem to be bent on breaking their necks while playing takraw (=volleyball without using your hands), being whisked away by obviously intoxicated taxi men and soi-drivers. The famous but not as omnipresent saucy bars etc… A lot of people probably enjoy the affordable luxury hotels, fancy restaurants and amazing roof top bars, but we prefer to stretch our budget a little further.
We loved the way water is one of the main building blocks of Bangkok’s urban landscape. The Chao Phraya is the major waterway, where we often take a public ferry to float from temple to temple. On the many hidden canals we board khlong boats that race from stop to stop enclosed on all sides by Bangkok’s big buildings, graffiti covered walls and waterside urban villages. One of our BKK highlights.
Our favourite activity in Bangkok turns out to be the famous weekend only Chatuchak market. Consider yourself warned: this market is humongously large and you will get lost on your first wander around. Better check the map beforehand, get some points of recognition and set out a planned route. There are loads of sections filled with rather uninteresting nicknacks and the stereotypical tourist trinkets to avoid. We prefer focussing on sections 2, 3 and 4 just next to the MTR station Kamphaeng Phet. This is also the place where you’ll run into most hip and trendy thai. Cool little stalls, handmade goods, creative designers, etc… And of course, our favourite restaurants peppered in between (Prik Yuak/Green Chili, their ‘freshly squeezed OJ’ neighbour Louk Som and Din Pao.)
Of course, we do some of the real touristy stuff as well, and visit a whole lot of temples with red and golden roofs, figurative frescoes, and blinging buddha’s in all sizes, like Wat Arun and Wat Pho. We also visit the Royal Palace & Wat Phra Kaew which turns out to be as crowded as Disneyland on their busiest day of the year. We also shuffle (barefoot) through the Jim Thompson house. An amazing villa made out of several antique teak houses on stilts. With amazing Eastern furniture and art and a view on the water. We wouldn’t turn down a housesit here!
In short, Bangkok does not make a hard (wo)man humble, but it grows on you. If you feel like wandering through Bangkok. Have a look here at our photo’s.
For the local bites and munchies, have a look here to find out what we got between our chopsticks. Craving some Thai food closer to (our) home? Visit our favourite Thai in Brussels, Thai Talks (read all about it here).