Bangkok, the city of angels is a place of contrasts. This bustling metropolis is a crazy blend of the old and the new. These stark contrasts give this city, its distinct character and personality. The cities roads are congested with traffic and its rivers are bedecked with ornate cruise boats. Monstrous mega malls sit besides ancient flea markets that sell anything under the sun! Gold embellished Buddhist temples with meditating monks lie a stone’s throw away from sleazy neon light bars catering to every fetish that exists out there! Bangkok surely is a city full of surprises!
I decided to spend one day in this city savouring the plethora of options that it has to offer. I was sure that this day was going to be a treat both visually, emotionally and gastronomically!
I woke up to a hot and humid morning in Bangkok with the usual hum drum of a bustling metropolis around me. After a quick breakfast on the go of yummy bread, butter ham and cheese sandwiches at my favourite super market chain, 7-Eleven, I was ready to hit the road and begin exploring this rambunctious city.
I had my plan for the day chalked out. My day was going to begin with soaking in the rich cultural heritage of this ancient kingdom followed by experiencing the sights and the sounds of the world’s largest flea market. My evening would begin with a relaxing dinner cruise along the Cho Phraya river where I would feast my eyes and taste buds and I would end my day with the noise, clamour and excitement of Khao San road.
Wat Pho: Temple of the reclining Buddha
My first stop was the ancient temple of Wat Pho, popularly called as the Temple of the reclining Buddha. The colossal 8 acre campus hosts the largest collection of paintings of the Buddha and the largest statue of the reclining Buddha. It also has a magnificient view of the Grand Palace to its north.
As I entered the temple complex, I was greeted by two large imposing Chinese statues guarding the gate. These statues stand stoic and imposing as they guard the hidden ancient treasures that lie within.
Once I stepped inside this holy shrine, I was spell bound by the sheer beauty and grandeur of this structure. Intricate architecture on the roof tops painted in emerald green which was offset by the dazzling gold that adorned this magnificient temple.
The main shrine has the imposing 46m long statue of the reclining Buddha covered in gold. The sheer grandeur of this statue takes your breath away and one stands dwarfed bathing under the azure glow of the divine. The intricate inlay work on the soles of the lord as well as the gold detailing on the crown are truly worth seeing.
Chatuchak market: one of its kind and the largest in the world!
Once the rain abated, I made my way to my next stop which was truly a one of its kind experience. Chatuchak market is the world’s largest flea market sprawling over a massive 27 acres! This market is only a weekend market and has over 15,000 stalls selling goods and artefacts from all over Thailand.
I got to the market to be greeted by a bustling crowd. Many were tourists like me who were exploring the sights and the sounds of this place and some were serious shoppers who went about their business of haggling aggressively.
The information kiosk handed me a map of the market place and after glancing through its sections, I dove right into my favourite zone, the food section! My stomach was craving for some delicious Thai cuisine and the aroma of the freshly cooked food was making my mouth water. I settled for a Thai coconut soup with fish balls followed by some meat on skewers laced with a spicy mint sauce. To satisfy my sweet tooth, I indulged in my ever favourite pancakes with mango and syrup!
I was greeted by wafts of aromas and scents noxious enough to give you a headache at the Chinese medicine section. Cute Thai souvenirs ranging from aroma oils, candles, incense sticks to lamp shades and painting of the Buddha bedecked these stores. I had a fun time browsing through the clothes section of the market followed by the exotic pets section.
The grand cruise on the Cho-Phraya river
The Cho Phraya river is a major river of Thailand that flows through Bangkok before draining into the Gulf of Thailand. The river serves as a source of livelihood for many local vendors who sell their wares and food on the famous floating markets on Bangkok by day. The banks of the river have the eclectic mix of the fanciest of hotels and bars along with river side walkways and promenades and the arresting architecture of the temples of the Rama dynasty. Come evening and this myriad display is illuminated with beaming lights, throwing about a radiant lustre on the dark waters of the river.
I embarked on to my river cruise boat from one of the docks on the river all excited for the beautiful sights that lay in front of me. Little did I know that apart from a visual treat, a gastronomical treat also lay in store for me.
As the river cruise went along, I went on to the top deck of the boat to enjoy the sights that this cruise was treating me to. The water was set ablaze with the glistening reflection of the grand structures that lay on the banks of the river while the lights of the Bangkok city skyline added to the glitz and glitter.
We sailed past Wat Arun also called as the Temple of Dawn, glistening in all its golden glory. The Grand Palace, all lit up on the banks of the river was our next breathtaking view followed by the Rama bridge.
Backpacker’s paradise: Khao San Road
Khao San is popularly referred to as the centre of the backpacking universe. Judging by the scores of Backpackers converging here and the hordes of stores that you find catering to every travellers need, the name pretty much sums it all up.
Packed into a 1km long strip, teeming with guest houses, bars, massage parlours and street carts selling every conceivable artefact, this place was a lot more than I had expected.
Sauntering along the streets, I was greeted by a street hawker selling all sorts of deep fried arachnids!
The bars were overflowing with raging football fans and blaring music coming from every little alcove. The entire atmosphere is electric and if that much stimulation isn’t enough, you have fire dancers entertaining you on the street, or the occasional rap artist along with their troupe who break into dance out of no where!
My action packed day in Bangkok drew to an end with every sense of my body being excited and stimulated. This city will never fail to surprise you and there is something hidden out there for everyone, the adventurous and the conventional alike.
Come travel with Offbeat Tracks over a long weekend to Bangkok and treat your senses to memories that would last you a lifetime!