Posts Tagged With: Best things to do in Bangkok

Bangkok part 2: Wat´s up? Of temples and treasures

Have you ever watched the movie “Anna and the King” with Jodie Foster? Bangkok takes center stage in this charming film based on a true story, which tells the glorious tale of a very brave English woman in the 19th hundreds, Anna Leonowen, who takes the role of English teacher to Thai king Mongkut´s kids. In many aspects based on a true story, the movie is lovely, entertaining, and exotic – and you´ll get an idea of the real location´s magnetism when heading to Bangkok´s imposing and unbelievably majestic neighborhood Ko Ratanakosin, the former royal quarter. Some of Thailand´s oldest and holiest sights can be found here.

My first stop is the Bangkok National Museum (Th Na Phra That), truly a cultural heavyweight, and one of South East Asia´s biggest museums to date. In-between colorful masks, royal thrones and other alluring artefacts, I am getting a pretty good insight into the former Siamese kingdom´s history and culture, including intriguing insights into the history of the ancient royal cities of Sukhothai and Ayutthaya. When you think Bangkok National Museum, think glitz and glamour with a side dish of chaos, or at least that´s how it felt to me when I had the privilege to visit.

Stepping out of this culturally inspiring place, I am embraced by Bangkok´s hot, humid air and its usual soundscape consisting of a melange of persistent honking sounds and other unidentifiable noises. I gather my strength, greatly helped by a quick and delicious Pad Thai, a stir-fried rice noodle delight and a staple-dish of the world-famous Thai street food, and onward to the mighty Grand Palace I go!

I´ve barely got time to cover my shoulders and check that I´m wearing appropriate, respectful attire, aka long trousers/ a long skirt, when I hear the familiar sound of Spanish in its quickest pace and with its characteristic Andalusian accent. A warm, homely feeling floods my being- this is, after all, an accent I have come to know and love since I was a little kid eating delicious gambas, prawns, while sitting on my grandma´s lap! I locate the source of the roaring laughter that follows the Andalusian chatter, and decide to approach the group of kind-looking guys who are standing close by. The next hours are spent exploring the dazzling Grand palace with my new amigos. The palace is a spectacular sight to behold indeed and served as the home of the Thai king, the Royal court and the administrative seat of government for 150 years. It´s still considered the spiritual heart of the kingdom of Thailand!

The next day, it´s Wat Phra Kaew calling me. Also known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and officially named Wat Phra Si Rattana Satsadaram, it´s regarded as the most sacred Buddhist temple in Thailand. Bangkok´s old regal splendor is truly transporting me to a different world, a world in which peaceful vibes, equanimity and benevolent smiles from golden Buddha-statue-faces reign and in which a deep silence seems to unveil itself behind Bangkok´s unceasing noise background. An other-worldy seeming place in which the eternal stillness beyond the thoughts seems to call out to busy temple-visitors, ever so gently reminding them to come home to themselves, to go beyond the visible and to the invisible place of existence, to inner peace, acceptance and yes-to-all-that-is. Was I maybe a Thai monk in a past life? Maybe. I definitely love being in their presence and feel very much at home in their temples.

Be it as it may, monks dressed in orange-colored robes are definitely a big part of Bangkok´s and Thailand´s ethereal charm – monks that I am careful not to get too close too when travelling on the same ferry on the overflooding Chao Phraya river! Why? Well, my friend, the reason is that women are not allowed to touch a monk, not even by accident on an over-crowded water taxi! If you so much as brush against a monk, the Buddhist doctrine dictates that the monks return to the temple and perform rituals to cleanse themselves of your touch. Hello, people, women are truly not that bad! Maybe it´s time to revise a few of those old patriarchal mindsets? But I am getting off-topic.

Back to Thailand, its approximately 460.000 monks, and its fantastic temples! While carefully monitoring my distance to the monks on the ferry, I take a look at my phone and realize that it´s almost too late to pay a visit to Wat Po, Bangkok´s oldest temple! What can a culturally interested woman with a thirst for peaceful vibes do? She can certainly hurry up and go for a nice, sweaty run! My determination is rewarded – I manage to snap some quick pictures in front of the 44 meters (!!) long, reclining golden Buddha. Cheese and cheers to Thai selfies! I know, selfies are not cool anymore. But it was a 44 meters (!!) long reclining buddha! What can I say…

Inspired by the statue´s utterly relaxed demeanour, I decide to take it easy and hop onto a colourful Tuk-Tuk, whose driver convinces me to pay a visit to glittery Chinatown and its phenomenal eateries. Boy, that driver surely missed his true calling as a daredevil-race-car driver! I can barely hold on to my seat while I try to answer his slightly irritated question as to why I am out on town on my own. At long last we manage to arrive in mostly one piece, and I almost get a little dizzy while taking it all in: Chinatown´s neon-coloured-explosion of lights, its unceasing hustle and bustle, myriad food stalls and inviting restaurants…

Surrounded by crowds of Thais and tourists, I stroll through the busy streets and stop by a humble stall to taste a delicious, freshly pressed pomegranate-juice on the side of the road. No trip to South-Eastern-Asia is complete without at least a string of street-food-experiences, my friend! The taste of the sweet pomegranate-drink is so good that I zone out and almost get hit by a car. Lesson learned: You better remain alert when out and about in Bangkok town! I sooth myself from this shock by joining some locals at one of the much-sought after tables lining, well, basically the middle of the road, and indulging in some more typically Thai culinary delights. Laa kawn Bangkok – I´ll be back!

What about you, dear reader, have you ever been to a Buddhist temple? What were your impressions?

Categories: Posts in English, Reiselust- Hungry for travel, Reisen | Tags: , , , , , | 30 Comments

Sawadee Bangkok

Wild. Young. Inspiring. Pulsating. Passionately alive. Pure adrenaline. That´s Bangkok.

Incredibly loud. Pretty freaking dirty. Full of smog. Grey. Cruel. Slaying. That´s Bangkok. Which type of Bangkok do you choose?

I was unsure which one was gonna be my personal pick when I first arrived in Thailand´s capital a while back. Just starting out on my Asian adventure had its challenges – I had barely time to marvel at Bangkok´s huge Suvarnabhumi airport with its impressive colorful statues, when a rather harsh realization hit me: The famous Thai kindness does not necessarily extend to some slick taxi drivers! If a driver refuses to use a meter, as it was the case in my experience, just hop out and into a cab with a driver willing to use the meter! Anything else is not gonna help you keep those pennies, ahem excuse me, Bahts, together for a stunning Thai meal, or a donation to beings in need, or a crazy Muay Thay– event-attendance.

Bangkok City: Tradition meets fashion meets cozy guesthouses

Once you have avoided the pitfalls of unruly Taxi drivers, the seductive Thai juggernaut is finally awaiting you: a buzzing place of countless shopping malls and of intoxicatingly beautiful temples. A place where a myriad of new trends in fashion and music are being birthed and tradition and modern times melt into a tantalizing, sense-overwhelming pot of inspiration. Sawadee Bangkok, hello Bangkok, here we come!

If you are on the lookout for an affordable accommodation, look no further than Soi Kasern San 1 in the famous area “Siam Square”. You´ll find Wendy´s guest house here – a clean, comfy yet humble place smack in the middle of the city, where the staff charms visitors with their very warm and lovely demeanour. They definitely made me feel like family when I stayed over!

Thai tales, take one: Of Wai-greetings and wild dragonfruit

The Wendy guesthouse staff let me in on the traditional Thai “Wai”- greeting, where both hands are held in a prayer posture in front of one´s face and a slight bow with the upper body is made to demonstrate appreciation. For my fellow Yogi-lovers out there, you might feel reminded of the Indian Namaste – this is no weird coincidence at all, as both go back to the Indian Anjali Mudra! The Wai-greeting is usually accompanied by a, at least by European standards, very high pitched “Sawadee” greeting (meaning “How are you”, or “hello”) or, alternatively, a “Kop-Khun Ka” enunciation (meaning “Thank you”).

Once you turn the corner from Wendy House you are right on the main street, where countless mobile food stalls offer delicious tropical fruit such as stunningly pink dragonfruit or deliciously wobbly lychee-fruit. Buyer beware: Dragonfruit is absolutely fingerlicking good and addictive! While being bombarded by the notorious honking of the never-ending stream of cars and Tuk-Tuks and the sellers praising their produce, you are also likely to spot some bright orange- green signs advertising the 7-Eleven convenience stores. Here, you can purchase snacks, drinks and other lifesaving small essentials 24/7.

Thai tales, take two: Of fabulous lady boys and racing tuk-tuks

I remember feeling peckish and getting myself a lovingly prepared dragonfruit (of course), as well as a sandwich at 7/11, kindly warmed up for me by a beautiful lady with a very deep voice. Wandering on through Bangkoks bustling streets, it soon became clear to me that this wouldn´t be the only lady boy I would get to see in Thailands 8,2 million metropolis. One of the exciting facets that Bangkok has to offer is its vibrant Transgender, Gay and Lesbian community.

The huge amount of lady boys, meaning of women who, biologically speaking, used to be, or still are, men, are simply an integral and oh-so-delightfully-lively part of Bangkok´s city scape! They belong as much to the city as the oodles and oodles of cars and tuk-tuks that envelop the city every afternoon in a cloud of dense, slightly smelly smog. Or the elevated rapid transit train, also known as Skytrain. Or the overpowering grey of thousands upon thousands of buildings and skyscapers. Or the many petite and fashion-conscious Thai women. The ladies and the lady boys add dashes of gorgeous color to a partly pretty grey Bangkok and just make it into what it is and what it´s loved for: a cosmopolitan, mind-blowingly exciting and aspiring mega city.

A beautiful lady boy in Bangkok, livin´life the glamourous way

Thai tales, take three: Sniffing up some inspiration at BACC

After my stop at 7 Eleven , it was time to head to the thought-provoking BACC, the Bangkok Art+Culture Centre (corner of Th Phaya Thai and TH Phra Ram1), a contemporary arts hub located just around the corner from my guesthouse. I was greeted by two around four meter-tall men in uniforms: two giant puppets, dressed in sort of diving wet suits, displaying the numbers “1914” and “1939”, respectively, on their chests. This kinda modern memorial to WWI and WWII was just one of many outstanding features that caught my attention – even the facade of the arts center itself was quite a treat, an architectonic feast for the eyes reminiscent of the Guggenheim-museum in New York.

The inside of the building makes art lovers´metaphorical tail wag with the finest in modern Thai art. Alongside extravagant pieces created by aspiring new artists, there are also creative cafes and an arts library to be visited, artistically decorated craft shops to be inspected, and even a pantomime school to be marveled at. The icing on the cake? When I left the building, I just happened to come across a giant Thai rock-concert!

I decided to mingle for a while with the many relaxed and stylishly dressed Thai youngsters that had gathered in front of the stage and I enjoyed getting carried away by the unusual and melodious Thai language and musical sounds. In general, the Thai music-industry ventures far out of the mainstream, especially Indie-bands are setting the trends in Thai music-land. Keen on a taste of that yourself? Head to Brick bar (265 Khao San Road, downstairs at rear of Buddy Lodge complex), where fun house bands take to the stage every night, playing a lively mix of ska, bouncy pop covers and Thai-indie!


That´s all for today, my friends! Stay tuned for the next posts, in which we will discover why a visit to the fishmarket at 6 AM is the best way to end an incredible night out in Hamburg, and how it feels to hang out with a giant reclining Buddha that´s a humble 46 metres long in Bangkok!

Back to you, dear readers: Have you ever been to Bangkok, or Thailand for that matter? What surprised you most about its culture?


Categories: Posts in English, Reiselust- Hungry for travel, Reisen | Tags: , , , , , , | 31 Comments

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