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Al's epic odyssey "A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving." - Lao Tzu

Bangkok - first impressions

THAILAND | Monday, 24 August 2009 | Views [739]

Bangkok is mostly hustle and bustle, yet with areas of peace and tranquility; some parts decadent and yet generally conservative. I love it, but I suspect that it’s best served in small doses.

The flight to Bangkok via Kuala Lumpur was a real drag. Leaving Jo’burg at lunch time and arriving around midnight Jo’burg time (but dawn Kuala Lumpur time). I couldn’t sleep on the plane because it was too early and then when I arrived I couldn’t sleep in the airport. It was an agonizing 9 hour stayover.

I checked into the Sawasdee House near the Khao San Road on the recommendation of my niece, who’d stayed there before. It’s slap bang in the middle of the vibrant backpacker district.  I’d initially booked a single room for the princely sum of 250 Baht per night which works out at about four pounds fifty.  Was intrigued to see what you might get for that, unfortunately there were none of the dirt cheap rooms available so I had to settle for a standard double with air con at 700 Baht or around 12 pounds per night.. It was rudimentary, yet perfectly adequate. The location is spot on. No sense wasting money on overpriced hotel rooms, there’s plenty else to waste money on.

I had a brief wander around the street market that night and decided to sample one of the many of massages on offer. I went for the less rigorous oil massage and caught myself snoring once or twice and decided that after about 30 hours without sleep it was probably time to call it quits.

The next day I was wandering aimlessly around the area around the hotel and stumbled across an open area of ground where some form of Buddhist ceremony was taking place. The public were queuing up to have an audience with the monks and they were also writing on, and draping flowers over, large bronze sculptures I felt like a bit of an intruder so didn’t ask what it was about, but it was fascinating to watch. There are several small Buddhist Temples dotted around the area and again by shear chance I stumbled across the biggest if the lot, the Grand Palace. It has magnificent decorative detail. I’m not a big one for religion and know little of the Buddhist principles, but I did feel a definite peace about sitting inside the Temple. The National Museum near the Grand Palace is also well worth a visit.

I admit, I did frequent some of the less salubrious areas of town. The area around Soi Cowboy and Nana Entertainment Centre in particular, however in my defense, I did spend quite a bit of my time watching England beat Australia at cricket and win the Ashes. The pubs in those areas tend to cater well for British needs… funny that.

I had various massages while in Bangkok, leaving the Thai Massage for last. It’s a bit like selecting shows to watch at the Edinburgh Fringe. The overall result is generally quite pleasurable, but there can be some painful experiences on the way.

The one thing that I wont miss about Bangkok is the constant harassment you get from Taxi drivers, Tuk Tuk drivers, Touts, Pimps and whatever - all trying to lure you  into parting with your cash. It’s constant, incessant and annoying. Westerners seem to be regarded as walking cash point machines.

After 3 nights in Bangkok it’s time for a change of scenery. I’m heading south for the islands for a bit of tranquility. Koh Tao – the scuba diving centre of Thailand. I’ll definitely be returning to Bangkok before I leave Thailand.

Tags: bangkok, grand palace, thai massage


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