We apologize for the lengthy hiatus, folks! We’re finally back and settling in to the U.S.A. Next week we move into our new house in Columbus, Ohio. Never fear, though, we have many upcoming adventures (outside of the Midwest) and many more to share from this month in Southeast Asia.
Which brings me to Bangkok, Thailand!
Bangkok is a city that breathes and pulses with life. From the second we arrived at our first location, we knew we were in for a drastically different experience from our time in China. The capital city of Thailand is at the heart of an incredibly diverse international region and a prime destination for tourists. We were thrilled to meet speakers of English from all over the world. The region is quickly becoming a worldwide hub for the arts, fashion and entertainment- and it’s easy to see why. The genuine openness and accepting nature of the people is astonishing. Despite the tumultuous political upheaval that has occurred during recent months (Thailand went through a peaceful revolution and deposed the Prime Minister. The government is currently under military control per their constitution), we did not witness a single protest, demonstration, or overactive military presence of any kind. There was no feeling of cautiousness or unease in the streets.
First and foremost, the city is stunning. It sits on the Chao Phraya River Delta, and the waterways weave through the city proper like veins. Until the late 19th century, many of the modern-day roads were actually canals and waterways. Bangkok was referred to as the “Venice of the East” until these were filled and paved over. However, many people still have their homes sitting at or below sea level today, and the quickest and most convenient form of travel is by ferry. Many of the prominent tourist attractions including Wat Phra Kaeo and the Royal Palace sit river adjacent. Their opulent Thai architecture with colorful towers, golden elephants, and outstretched hands can be seen reaching into the sky. Though the city currently teems with skyscrapers, a number of these historical masterpieces sit side-by-side. Despite its numerous Western influences, Bangkok manages to maintain a playful character that can be seen even in the most mundane of buildings. Even the way the text is scripted flows beautifully- each sign an artwork. We found ourselves wanting to take photos of everything from street graffiti to storefronts to silk looms to street food.
Commerce is Bangkok is incredible. Because of the watery history, Bangkok is famous for its floating markets. Today, these are largely tourist attractions, vendors pleading desperately to sell everything from mangosteens to shoes to snakes. But, they are still impressive and innovative and serve as reminders of the old Siam. We floated through one of the few remaining ones in T’aling Chan. We also visited a train market, set up directly next to the tracks for easy delivery of cargo. Many of these stands also sit on wheels, so they can disperse easily when the train roars through 6 times a day.
Along with the Royal Palace- a complex that could take an entire day to navigate- we visited both Wat Pho and Wat Arum temples. These structures have both existed since the 17th century. Wat Pho contains over 1,000 representations of the Buddha, including the largest Buddha in Thailand (check out the photo above). The “Recling Buddha,” as it is called, is 160 ft. in length and is housed in it’s own building. People come from all over the world to give offerings and pay respects. A visit to Wat Arum and its distinctive spires includes a difficult and steep climb up its hundreds of steps. We also visited the “backpackers paradise”- the notorious Khao San Road with it’s cheap shops and budget accommodation. This seedy street is a fast-paced with vendors selling everything handcrafts, paintings, clothes, local fruits, pirated CDs, DVDs, and second-hand books. Late at night, music is played loudly and eating on the street is an experience, to say the least. Many exotic snacks are paraded around for tourists. K even set his vegetarianism aside for a moment to sample a scorpion! Of course, there are also locals flogging tuk tuks, tailored suits, and ping pong shows. We also visited the sprawling Chatuchak Weekend Market for even more variety and much less hassle.
Check out all the colorful photos and experience some of this city’s beauty for yourself!
Needless to say, it was the perfect way to begin our adventure. We met amazing people, ate too much Pad Thai (especially at the incredible raw vegetarian restaurant down the street from our hostel- they even had cooking classes!), drank too much raw coconut juice, and rediscovered our passionate love for travel.
Stay tuned for our next post about Phuket and the Thai sea coast.
<3, V (&K)