Buzzing Around Bangkok
Down but not out after a bout of food poisoning,
I attempt to take in as much of Bangkok as possible
After flying through both of Bangkok's airports on the way to other towns, we ended our month in Thailand by actually exiting the terminal and settling into the city for a few days. Our flight came in past midnight and we flew through the empty expressways towards our hotel. The sheer number of tall buildings are reminiscent of Manhattan but the city is spaced out like LA and surrounds you in every direction. So many people warned us that we'd hate Bangkok- it's dirty, there's nothing worth doing, it's just another city. By the time we woke up the next day, walked through Chinatown, meandered through a small market in a craggy alley and sat down for brunch in a chic boho restaurant, Dain had already booked us a high-rise Airbnb and extended our stay.
We took the subway to Lumphini Park, sat on the grass under some trees, and looked out onto part of the skyline beyond one of the lakes.
Little did I know, I was in the beginning stages of food poisoning and although I felt terrible, I pushed on to Khlong Toei Market. This market is unlike any of the many markets I've seen in Thailand. It's not watered down, at all. There are no signs in English, all of the innards and meat of every kind of animal is on display in huge piles on each stall's table, there are consumable bugs and fish so fresh they're still wriggling in the ice chest. It's not a place to come and sample food, it's clear that the locals come here to get food to bring home and cook. We were the only tourists there, which is saying something for Bangkok! As cool as it is, it was probably the worst place for someone with food poisoning!
Unfortunately, Dain got food poisoning from his dinner and we both spent a few days sleeping it off. We were so distrustful of any food, we only ate at 7-11 and the mall when we finally felt better, which is such a shame in a food mecca like Bangkok. Having lost most of our time in the city, when we were finally feeling up to it, we packed all of our sight-seeing into one busy day.
After avoiding a scam from a Tuk Tuk driver (spoiler alert: most tuk tuks are part of rings to scam tourists and they're overpriced, use a metered taxi instead), we hopped on a quick ferry down the very dirty Chao Phraya River. Getting to the Royal Palace is easiest by boat, as it's situated right near the river and there's a ton of traffic around the area since it's such a popular attraction. It was an interesting time to visit the royal residence because the beloved king of Thailand recently passed away and the entire country is in a year-long mourning period. There's evidence of this all over the country in the way of posters, billboards, memorials, and advertisements on TV and in airports. In addition to the throngs of tourists coming to see the palace, there was an equally large number of Thais from all over the country, dressed in black, waiting for hours in the sun to pay their respects to his magesty's remains.
Before we could go into the grounds, a guard spotted the towel around Dain's waist and the scarf around my shoulders and sent us along with the other immodestly dressed to the communal clothes bin. Although it was ninety-five degrees, I put on a button-down shirt and long wool skirt in order to get in. The scarves and towels usually work in the temples we've visited but we learned that when the royal family is involved, the rules are even stricter.
The palace grounds were a dizzyingly ostentatious array of structures and temples covered in gold, jewels, and ornaments and flanked on all sides by tourists competing for the best selfie. It's clearly an important place for the Thai people as both a place that houses the royal family and displays their national wealth and prosperity.
Right across the street but without all the crowds sits Wat Pho, a site with historical significance dating back hundreds of years and has been restored again and again, most recently in the 1980's. It was one of the first sites established when King Rama moved the Thai capital to Bangkok.
Wat Pho is best known for its massive reclining Buddha statue (it's rare to see Buddha reclining, he is usually cross-legged) that's so large it barely fits inside its temple. The large pillars supporting the temple block a complete view of Buddha in its entirety, and painters working with a small canvas and brush can be seen touching up those same pillars.
Naturally we had to visit Khao San Road, a notorious walking street lined with bars, shops, tattoo parlors, and hawkers selling fried bugs. We decided to get a foot massage at a salon on the main drag and scope things out. Touted as a must-see, you can definitely skip this spot. It's nothing special- I mean this literally, because I've seen those exact clothes for sale in markets all over Thailand and the bars are unimaginative. It's just a place for tourists to go and is exactly like Bangala Road in Phuket which Dain and I both dislike. We walked home and got to see the city by night, oddly silent because most people were in temple celebrating with family on the eve of Chinese New Year.
Bangkok is immense, and there's an unknowability to it especially for a traveler passing through. Because of the sheer abundance of Bangkok, each visit is like swiping a fingerful of frosting from a seven-layer cake. That's what's so great about big cities though- no matter how much you see, there's always so much more and that's what draws you back again and again. For a place we thought we might want to leave immediately, I can say with certainty that this won't be my last visit to Bangkok.