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Bangkok! Also known as..

INDIA | Tuesday, 16 June 2009 | Views [871]

Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Ayuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit

Well we went from being often times the only Westerners in a room to being surrounded by tourists on Khao San Road. If you have read The Beach by Alex Garland he aptly describes Khao San as the main stop over hub for travellers to the southern islands of Thailand who stay in Bangkok before heading South. It is spring break 24/7- I felt like I was in Mexico circa my freshman year of college. We ended up staying in Bangkok just over a week and really loved the city. During that time we became savvy with the public bus and discovered all the different facets of Bangkok- there is much more beyond Khao San.
 
First night we head out to Chinatown which is land of the food vendors. I thought at first Khao San had a ton and I was mistaken. Foods you never even thought existed (dried shredded pork on top of shrimp crisps) could be found on the main Chinatown strip. I learned within 24 hours in Thailand how much the Thais love their meat. All types of meat products in different forms are constantly being grilled and skewered. The variety of fruit also blew my mind- each kind more beautiful to the eye than the next. Hot pinks, greens, and lychees the size of plums!
 
On Saturday we went to the Chatachuk market (only open on Saturdays) and for anyone who loves to shop this is a MUST. The shopping options were crazy, you name it they had it. I thought to myself this would be perfect to have in the states when shopping for gifts. It would be impossible not to find an item here that someone would want. All sorts of odds and ends as well as one little boutique clothing vendor after another. This is where I caught my first glimpse of how great the Thai girls pull themselves together. Everything from small accessories adorning their hair to high heels perfectly coordinating with the hair accessories. The guys and girls have edgy haircuts that look stellar with their intricately assembled clothing and shoe ensembles.
 
Everyone knows that Thailand is notorious for the sex tourists and we had read you must go to the two main locations, Nana Plaza and Silom, for no other reason than to gawk at the awkward old white guys. We walked into a couple bars and the scene was a bunch of pathetic looking guys sipping on beers as the young Thai women and ladyboys ( Thai boys who dress like women or undergo sex operation) flirted with them. Needless to say, we beelined out of their pretty quickly.
 
Jim Thompson's home right in the center of the city was gorgeous. Thompson dealt silk fabrics during the 1900s until he mysteriously disappeared in Malaysia. Most believe he vanished due to foul play. His house was built the way Thai houses used to be constructed in Teak fashion and it sat right on the canal. The wood of the exterior of the house was painted a deep red and was enveloped with lush palm trees and tropical plants. He also had a small but gorgeous art collection, some beautiful Buddha sculptures which had been collected from other parts of Southeast Asia. All of the doorways had high lips you needed to step over in order to enter each room. Our guide told me the Thais believe this keeps out the evil spirits and it is considered bad luck to step directly on the lip. The house was really breezy because of huge windows which were cut out of the wood. In classic teak constructions doors and windows are always wider at the bottom and narrower at the top.
 
Near the end of the week we visited the Royal Palace which is now only used for meetings and ceremonies. Occasionally when diplomats and foreign dignitaries are in town they stay there but the King and Queen live north of Bangkok . The perimeter of the palace is delineated with a surrounding wall which encapsulates several different buildings. The palace is lavishly decorated inside and out which vibrant colors. The decor includes rich colors of gold, royal blue, deep reds, and silver- a variety of jewel tones making the palace look like one massive piece of jewelry. In the main temple, which houses the Emerald Buddha, visitors are permitted to sit down but you must not point your feet towards the Buddha. This is considered incredibly disrespectful. Outside of the temple there is holy water and large peonies are used to drip the water on the top of your head as a blessing. Afterward we took a boat ride along the canal and this was how I had envisioned Thailand. Houses were teetering over the murky canal water and nestled in long grasses and palms. We were excited to have spotted a monitor lizard and a massive snake. It was really nice getting a feel for the "old" Thailand after spending so much time in the fast paced and globalized center of Bangkok. I was happy that while in Bangkok I simultaneously had a taste of the booming modernity which was pushed right in your face with the massive shopping centers (Siam and Paragon shopping malls are 10+ floors) but I also got a feel for the classic ideals and culture (like the Big Buddha covered in gold and Teak houses on the canal).

 

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