I didn’t even unpack my Phuket suitcase that I returned to Thailand, this time to visit Bangkok, a place I dreamed about for a few years, ready to explore the local pulse, culture, food and landmarks. I am heading to the airport with the destination Bangkok, Thailand. But where am I? I am in a spiritual journey and ask myself questions. Many. I feel grateful for everything that was offered to me. I’m currently taking care of the soul because we were created to be grateful for the life we have and love it. Because we have it. As I am thinking about this, I had a revelation. How can some people believe that God does not exist. We appeared on Earth just like that or what? But this is a different story…
In the airport I notice the purple airplanes of Thai Airways. I am excited and I ask my colleagues what is to see around (I already have the research, but I’m hoping the come with insider tips since most of them have been here many times and one is actually originally from here). Everyone wants to go shopping.
Ok, without me please! On the way to the hotel I notice the bright colored taxis, the same protective Buddhist miniature temples and some burned corn fields, ponds with dirty water and palm trees by it (short ones with leaned leaves), canals with dark grey water and lilies which I notice from the bus riding on a suspended highway. From up above, you see the greater picture. The pedestrian crossing on top of the highway are decorated in small temples. Bangkok looks really different from Phuket.
Phuket was the Paradise, but this is a city. There is more vegetation than in most of the capitals I have seen, but the industry traces are visible. By the road there are many improvised stalls from poles and cellophane and some thin wood boards. The taxis are pink, orange, light green, half green half yellow. From the suspended highway I only see the peaks of some trees and the upper floors of buildings, some having beautiful gardens on top. The humidity is intense and it is bothering, but it feels better than Phuket.
Under the highway there is a gathering of many happy taxis and a bar is organised at the side of the road with just one row of tables parallel to the street. Mountains of garbage are by the highway, between the trees by the streets. Next to a pond there is a wood shed with a terrace leading to the water. We pass another canal (Bangkok was called the Venice of the East) and the lines of Bangkok skyscrapers start appearing. Everyone is already sleeping. Some pillars of the highway are decorated with vertical gardens. Motorbikes in Phuket here sometimes become Harley Davidsons – capital life.
A driver pees by the street next to his pink taxi. 5 headed gold elephant statue stands in front of an office building as we enter under the highway to hide from the sun. In a van with the opened backside men sit between the barrels and I remember many parties in a certain company, so far from here, so long ago. Almost every car has a god/goddess sticker. At every corner there are vitrines on bicycles or tricycles. So, we arrived in this hotel in Bangkok, the view from may almost all glass room wall is half green half skyscrapers.
It’s afternoon and I’ve booked a tour of the city which I have missed from reasons not worth mentioning. So, I decided to walk off the beaten path (like always), so I took the hotel shuttle to downtown. In the hotel shuttle the Russian ladies examine me, especially my hands. Indeed, I write by hand when I travel and I am left-handed and that attracts attention sometimes. They are pretty and young. Then I realized my pen read World Trade Centre Moscow and that made them confused, because I was in Bangkok, obviously not Russian, with a Moscow pen in a bus with three Russians.
There are tens of motorbikes. There is so much kitsch that even the garbage is colorful. A lonely dog crosses the street calmly without caring about the hectic traffic in the city. Modified motorcycles, women with colorful little sun umbrellas and taxis in bright colors – blue, pink with white, that’s the first impression of Bangkok.
Wonderful, I thought, right on time, to the center of Thailand’s culture, but what I did not know that the destination was a mall. It was hot, but I insisted not to go inside. Anyway, the boulevards were wide and the buildings tall and I could see nothing around to get a direction. And the sun was so hot! I decided to enter the mall to ask …what an adventure. In The Body Shop I asked for temple and they smiled and said sample and tried to hand me some. Most could not speak English. Other had no clue what’s to visit in Bangkok. And I kept repeating tourist-visit-temple-museum. Nothing! I was deeply sad and frustrated and I felt like crying, besides my almost 20 hours of not sleeping, waking up at 10 pm and operating a 7 hours flight topped up. Finally an English speaking shop owner who, answered to my cries So there is nothing to visit in Bangkok, recommended Asiatique and a rooftop bar. I thought that if I am not to see the culture (which could not happen to me when visiting a new city) at least I see these two and I can say I was not for nothing in Bangkok. A witty shop assistant wrote on my mobile the route to Asiatique – first the MRT (subway), then the BTS (skytrain), then walk, then take a free boat. Great! But do I have choice? I am stuck in a mall, the most horrific place on earth. The subway was two floors under the mall and I stopped to have a freshly made banana caramel shake and an (what I thought to order was an espresso but it was also and espresso) frappe. They no English, me no Thai! Then I bought some totally weird Japanese sweets called Daifuku (literally great luck) which taste good, not too sweet and are jello type consistency (weird to fell, very soft, weird to eat, apparently made of rice, good).
…it’s getting late and I enter the subway and complete the first part of the trip and now I am struggling to ask somebody how to change means of transportation. I ask a young lady. Nope! But this guy from the back answers in a perfect English, I tell him where I’m going and we start talking. I tell him (finally someone to talk to about my only normal wish) all I want is to visit like a tourist Bangkok. He suggests the Grand Palace and Wat Arun. Exactly what I researched for and suggests I use a taxi. Of course, this is what I waited for! Then he offers to find me one and completely goes back from his way to take me to one. Unfortunately, the traffic is hectic and we find none. Then he mentions about the motorbikes The motorbikes are taxis? Not all, only the ones with orange vest drivers. Awesome! It is dangerous! Great, let’s go! I will negotiate for you the price!
Riding a motorbike in Bangkok is one of those 100 things you have to try before you die. It is so much fun and adrenaline provider and you see the city at a not too fast, not too slow pace, with the wind in the air, keeping your legs close to the motorbike and far from the cars just a few centimeters away.
The picture taken by my subway station made hospitable new friend who bargained the price in Thai for the ride with the motorbike
The ride was almost 40 minutes and enjoyed every minute, the stops and starts at the traffic lights, the other motorbikes roaming around us and the cars, the irrespirable sensation when a car drove fast by us (in Thailand they drive on the left side, so being used to it happening the other way around, at each intersection I thought that would be my last trip and then the motorbike started rooaring and I started laughing and leaning my head backwards, then suddenly getting it upright to save the helmet the driver provided). Such a childish, innocent slightly dangerous, so fun ride! If you plan on visiting any palaces/temples/museums in Bangkok do it before 3 pm. When I got there it was closed, so I took a look and then got charmed by a guy offering me a discounted canal ride of one hour. He also prepared a tuk-tuk for me for only 10 bahts to take me to the docks. VIP one 🙂
Back to the story, I arrived at the docks and they offered me a huge boat just for me. I was not absolutely sure, but I agreed and realized I needed more cash. On the way, I was thinking about this horseteeth man following me with a cigarett in his mouth and the trip. So I saw myself with the money in my hand, I wanted to use the restroom. Lucky me, this was in Siam Museum, which I decided to visit and it was a pleasure.
The man was waiting outside while I visited the galleries and the shop to ask if it is safe. They said yes. Back at the docks, I asked to be joined by other people, but due to bargaining prices and hiding the prices one from another they did not agree and I don’t know if I left or they kicked me out. I was only two streets away from the Grand Palace, so I walked back stopping at the Tourist Information point from where I stacked my purse with leaflets about Bangkok, its history, landmarks, culture, events.
After walking up and down and admiring the temples and shrines and ministries in the area and also a small local market with food and small crap from telephone items to small used leather goods, admiring some Bangkok street art,
I took another motorbike to Chinatown, another must visit place. This driver was pretty wild and drove fast in the night, but he gave me a matching pink helmet. I knew it was not safe and a few times we almost hit the mirrors of other cars, but, of course, I loved it.
Bangkok in motion.
An ordinary night, an ordinary street.
Trying the famous fish manicure.
Grilled prawns with Thai mango sauce.
Intense activity in front of my eyes on a side Chinatown, Bangkok street.
This picture captures the exact atmosphere in Chinatown