[Above image: an expansive view of Bangkok from atop Wat Saket, “the Golden Mount”]
After a 12-hour flight, a 3-hour layover, and another 4-hour flight, I finally arrived in Bangkok a few days ago. This post is a bit delayed, as at the time of writing I’ve actually just reached Chiang Mai (more on this in my next update). But there’s still plenty to share!
During my time in Thailand’s capital city , I stayed at a hostel near Khao San Road. This destination is a bit of a “backpacker ghetto” that – in spite of the intense crowds and general dirtiness in the area – remains popular with younger travelers, thanks to its proximity to many of Bangkok’s major sights.
Bangkok’s wats, or Buddhist temple complexes, are a huge part of the city’s soul. There are over 400 of them in the city proper. Some are small and relatively hidden from the average tourist, while a handful of others are so magnificent and conveniently-located that they’ve earned top billing in all the guidebooks.
Even today, these inner-city temples are home to many of the orange-clad monks that you’ll regularly see walking around Bangkok. They continue a tradition of rising early, devoted prayer, and collecting food and other necessities from the city’s residents. For Buddhists, giving alms in this fashion is considered the beginning of one’s journey towards Nirvana.
There are plenty of ways to get about in Bangkok, from the deluge of colorful cabs to the ubiquitous flow of the three-wheeled rickshaws known locally as tuk-tuks. For locals, motorbikes and water taxis seem a more popular option. Having taken one of these taxis down the canal towards the city center, I can say that it’s a fantastic value at only 8 baht – so long as you can keep the spray of horribly polluted and disgusting water off your face.
Of course, no explorative trip of Thailand’s capital would be complete without a visit or two to the nightlife hotspots. Following my first full day here, myself and a few others from the hostel headed out to the infamous Soi Cowboy – a short road in the Sukhumvit area that’s jam-packed with go-go bars and street walkers. The next day ended with a similar trip to the Patpong district, which combines the after-hours shows with a bustling night market.
I hesitated to bring out a camera (or anything else of value) on these excursions, not truly knowing the etiquette or the risk of pickpocketing, so I have no photos to show for it. But suffice to say that the only thing outnumbering the bright lights and provocative signs is the array of would-be scam artists, eager to attract the attention of any farang (foreigner) wandering past. This whole scene isn’t exactly my cup of tea, but I can’t say I regret having experienced it.
Overall, Bangkok has proven to be a truly impressive city, though unfortunately a quite dirty one as well. I’ve only scratched the surface here, and may well be back for more before my flight home.