Number 2 – Visit Thailand (Two of Clubs) – Friday 20th January 2017
Part 1 – Bangkok
This is going to end up being at least two parts long, as there is just so much to write about!
I’m currently sat on the night bus on my way to Chiang Mai, after a crazy few days in Bangkok. I have very mixed feelings about Thailand’s capital city; on the one hand there are some amazing sights, and some incredible temples that can incite spiritual moments, but on the other hand I was extremely surprised by how westernised and touristy it was. I guess that was be expected, being the capital city and the beginning of so many trips, owing to the large airport here, but I think with this being my first time to Asia, I was expecting something slightly different. Not necessarily a bad thing, but something to bear in mind. I also didn’t do everything in the three days here, but I did do most of the things on my list.
Day one – Wednesday 18th January
We actually arrived on Tuesday evening, but it was late and after a quick bite to eat and drink it was straight to bed. On the first morning we got up and had a wander around our local area, which was just north of Khao San Road. For those in the know, you’ll already know about Khao San Road, for those who have never been, it’s basically the Bangkok version of something like Malaga or another party venue. But more on that later…
After a hearty breakfast and awful coffee (apparently I’m going to struggle to find a good coffee anywhere here), we headed south towards the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew. This is where the king resides, and the Wat Phra Kaew houses the temple of the emerald Buddha. En route, we were accosted by a good few people trying the infamous scams that the temple was closed today, and that we should take their friend’s tuk tuk to the tailor and gem shop. Managing to resist, we finally got to the palace. Thailand is currently in mourning the death of their king, so the palace was super busy, with hundreds of Thai people showing their respect. Because of this, areas of the temple and palace were off limits to foreigners, which wasn’t great. Anyway, we got inside, saw the emerald Buddha and managed to take in our first slice of Thai culture. There is a huge sense of respect with regards to their culture and religion, which I found really refreshing; I think in Britain we have lost that sense of respect in our own culture. I know I’m not religious, but it was nice to see that pride present in the local community. The emerald Buddha and the story of Rama and Sita that adorned the walls was beautiful and the attention to detail was incredible. You can’t help but feel moved by things like that. However, based on the other temples I have seen, I wouldn’t say that Wat Phra Kaew was worth the entrance fee. Perhaps if more had been open to foreigners then it would have been different, but as it was it was slightly overpriced.
From the grand palace, we made our way to the amulet market. This again was quite cool, there were lots of mystical and spiritual items on sale, and the locals were there with their magnifying glasses inspecting the authenticity of potential purchases.
After here we headed back to the hostel to chill for a few hours before heading out to explore the Thai nightlife. It all started so innocently, a nice meal and a few drinks. Then we got talking to a few people from the hostel, and before we knew it we were on Khao San Road drinking a bucket of vodka red bull and dancing in the streets! For those of who know me, you know the party scene isn’t really my scene, but it was a really good night, even if my head was super heavy the next morning!
Day 2 – Thursday 19th January
Funnily enough, day two didn’t start as early as the first day…! My friend Sally was not feeling well at all so I headed out on my own, this time deciding to travel north. I had a few ideas of things I wanted to see but I just wanted to wander as well. My first stop ended up being the standing Buddha, which was incredible, and free. Always a bonus for a tight Yorkshire man! From there I carried on wandering north, through a few local neighbourhoods, which offered a completely different side to Bangkok, poor and simple, but one thing was obvious: the families all seemed so happy. I understand that I only had a brief snapshot into their lives, but their smiles were extremely infectious. I even ended up at a local market, with fresh fruit and vegetables, and even fresher fish and eels – they were still alive! From there I made my way to the nearest pier; it was time to experience the chao river express boat. I actually really enjoyed this and because I got the local boat, it was another chance for me to experience local life.
I got off the boat at Wat Arun (temple of the dawn) and made my way into another temple. This one was again incredible, but the best part was the monk that I met. He was sat in one of the temple buildings and as I walked in he beckoned me over. Before I knew it he was spraying water on me and then giving me a blessing. Quite a surreal experience, but pretty great. I bowed, gave my thanks and made my way out. On my way back to the hostel I wandered into a local café and had some amazing Massaman curry. Seriously, once you get out of the tourist restaurants, the price quarters, and the quality improves tenfold.
We were meant to be travelling south to the Thai islands after Bangkok, but the weather at the moment is pretty awful there, so the evening was spent changing our plans to head north to Chiang Mai instead. Then an early night.
Day 3 – Friday 20th January
We began today by heading to the travel agents to arrange the transport to Chiang Mai. We wanted to get the night train, but it was full so we ended up booking the cheaper night bus. It’s something I wanted to experience so I wasn’t too bothered. From there, I managed to accomplish another goal – take a ride in a tuk tuk. Wow, that was an experience; I honestly have no idea how roads work in Thailand, it seems as if all drivers have right of way all the time! Red lights don’t seem to mean anything, and neither do speed limits, and as for pedestrians, they might as well be invisible! Somehow, we got to Wat Pho, the temple of the reclining Buddha. If you only do one temple whilst in Bangkok, make it this one. A fifth of the price of Wat Phra Kaew, and so much better. The reclining Buddha itself is awe inspiring, but the entire grounds are so peaceful. It’s a lot less busy than the other temples, much more space and the gardens are beautiful. I spent most of the afternoon just soaking up the sunshine, sitting in the grounds and being at one. And believe me, when in Bangkok, that is hard to do! There’s also a lot more information at this temple, so you can actually understand what it is your looking at and why. After a lovely afternoon I headed back towards the hostel to collect the bags, and ate some great green curry. I can’t stress enough how much you need to step off the tourist streets and get some street food.
From there we jumped in a taxi to the north terminal bus station to catch the night bus to Chiang Mai. So that’s where I am now, sat on a bus at 11pm, arriving in Chiang Mai at 7am. I had heard very mixed things about the night buses, and I know that in Vietnam they can be quite dangerous, but so far it actually seems pretty good on this one. It’s quiet, it’s dark and the air conditioning works. I hope I haven’t jinxed it by writing that!
Overall, Bangkok was a crazy few days, but I suppose it’s like any capital city; non-stop. I did want to experience the floating markets and weekend market, but unfortunately there wasn’t time in this trip. I probably could have fit it in, but there has been quite a lot of adjusting over the past few days. I’m at the start of a pretty massive few months, being away from family and friends is really hard, but they have been awesome at keeping in touch.
I’m looking forward to getting somewhere a little less “Bangkok” and chilling for a few days, learning to cook and seeing some elephants! Check back in a few days to hear more about northern Thailand
Carpe that Diem!
You and me, against the world 😉