Having arrived safely, but exhausted, in Bangkok after a 7 hour layover in Amsterdam I was met by the sister of my good friend from university, Jazlina. Ironically Jaz actually left the UK before me but after many delayed flights and missed connections ended up arriving in Bangkok hours after me. After being dropped off at her apartment I ended up sleeping all day waking up to messages from Jaz asking if I was still alive. We rode the BTS (Bangkok Transport System) – Bangkok’s so called “Sky Train” – to dinner. The train is really quick and is air-conditioned which is so necessary in the heat – even in the evening. We went to one of Bangkok’s many incredible malls, Terminal 21. Each floor is themed a particular country with departure lounges leading to some of the longest escalators I’ve ever been on. Just as we finished our meal some of our other friends from university arrived to eat. They are going to be volunteering in Cambodia in a few weeks time but are taking the opportunity to travel around Thailand before they do so. We all ended up in a Cuban bar for a few drinks. The others headed to Bangkok’s infamous Kao San Road but Jaz and I headed back to her apartment in need of a good night’s sleep.
Visiting a floating market
The next day I headed to one of Bangkok’s smaller floating markets – Khlong Lat Mayom Floating Market (ตลาดน้ำคลองลัดมะยม) on the outskirts of central Bangkok. I loved the market, despite a huge surprise downpour, as I only saw one other tourist in the 2 1/2 hours I was there. Once upon a time Thailand relied on canals and wooden canoes to transport people and goods. Where people congregated to exchange these goods, floating markets were established. Today many of the original canals have been filled in and now roads are used for the majority of transportation.
The market was filled with locals all vying to grab a table by the water’s edge to devour a selection of the huge variety of food on offer. I sat down to eat and watched as the boats passed by me as they headed up and down the canal. Nearby two young boys enthusiastically fed the fish which seemed to fill up the whole of the width of the canal – a sight I won’t forget for some time. One side of the bridge is filled with food stalls serving up fresh fish and other delicacies. I’m still not sure what I ate when I was there as all the signs were in Thai but I can tell you that everything I tasted was delicious!. Feeling very full I headed back across the bridge to the other side of the market which is filled with cafes and clothes stalls. I had been wondering around for about a minute when the heavens opened up. Within about two minutes there was an inch of water on the ground. I decided to take my chances and hail a taxi down to take me back to the BTS. In the 5 meters between the shelter and the taxi I got thoroughly soaked.
A visit to Khao San Road
In the evening, Jaz and I headed to the infamous Khao San Road with some of her friends from home. We ended up going out in ‘The Club’ and met up with our uni friends again too. The street was filled with stalls selling a variety of insects on sticks – I couldn’t bring myself to eat any. Music boomed out of each bar and club. Jaz and I went back again the next day and found a really chilled out bar to relax in with live music. We then decided to go to a ‘Ping Pong Show.’ We knew what this would involve (please look it up if you don’t – except you Nana and Auntie Chris) but I have never felt so uncomfortable in my whole life. I had expected a proper show and the girls to look like they were enjoying themselves. In reality it felt like we had somehow ended up in a strip club. The girls performing looked miserable and Jaz and I left as soon as we could – not quickly enough though as a drunk guy sat next to be ended up stubbing his cigarette out on my leg!
Time for some history and culture
On my penultimate day in Bangkok Jaz and I headed to Wat Pho – a compound of Buddhist temples dating back to the rule of Rama I in the 16th century. One of the temples houses the city’s largest reclining Buddha which is 46m long and 15m high and is incredibly beautiful as the gold leaf shimmers in the sunlight. I can never get my head around how such magnificent and huge structures were built. Unfortunately the jade and mother-of-pearl soles of the feet were being repaired when we visited but I managed to sneak a peek at the monks repairing them through the scaffolding. We finished off our tour around the complex with a full body Thai massage – every bit as painful as you would expect. The temple has taught Thai massage and herbal medicine since Rama III and is known as the birth place of the traditional Thai massage. The temple was also the earliest centre for public education in Thailand and still houses the school of Thai medicine.
On my final day in Bangkok, Jaz and I decided to pamper ourselves. We each had a manicure and pedicure and I think this is the best my nails have ever looked since I was born! We finished the day by going to see Now You See Me 2 at the cinema. Jaz wanted to take me to show how before the film starts a video about the King is shown and you have to stand up and salute to him and sing a song. We ended up completely mixing up our times and went to the VIP viewing. This has completely ruined the UK cinema experience for me. We had a sofa to ourselves with dividers on either side, blankets, cushions, complimentary wine and nibbles. The screen was huge and the cinema had only 10 sofas in it. I dread going to the cinema back in the UK.
I would like to extend a massive thank you to Jaz and her family for being so welcoming. They introduced me to some amazing food of many different nationalities (including a Korean BBQ) and allowed me to stay in their apartment with them. I hope they know that they have a place to stay should they ever end up in Edinburgh!
Bangkok seems to be a city of excess and poverty mixed together. The city centre is bustling with huge, incredibly beautiful shopping malls which are marvellous in their own right. The sky train is way ahead of anything we have in the UK! There were not as many beggars as I might have expected but out towards the outskirts of town by the floating market people were living a very different and much simpler life. I really enjoyed my visit but I’m looking forward to my next stop – Siem Reap in Cambodia (home to Angkor Wat).
I’ll write a new post once I have left Siem Reap. I hope you enjoyed this one and that I haven’t rambled too much!
Lots of love to all as always,