Buzzing Bangkok!

Trip Start Nov 06, 2012
Trip End Feb 01, 2013

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Saturday, November 24, 2012

We were sad to leave Krabi but excited to reach Bangkok. The smells, sights, and sounds were immense……….traffic EVERYWHERE and people carrying all sorts on their mopeds. Pavements in Thailand are not for pedestrians to amble along but are for street vendors to set up their stalls selling food, fresh fruit and vegetable juices, soft drinks, clothing……this seems to be common to Thailand - and how many people can you fit on a bus, bike, boat and how much (and what variety of wares?!?) can you carry on them? You have to admire their ingenuity. In Bangkok we've seen men in orange jackets on mopeds - a form of cheaper taxi service - carrying all sorts of passengers away from the main roads into the residential areas. All these passengers seem to have a skill for clutching a bag with one hand and texting with the other and balancing while the moped whips through the Bangkok traffic…….we wouldn't fancy our chances!

In Bangkok, we stayed in a residential area popular with Japanese and Europeans and, as we discovered to our delight, the best night market in Bangkok for food (our gastronomic tour of SE Asia continues!). We spent a couple of our four nights enjoying the food the market on Sukhumvit Soi 38 had to offer - pad thai and, on our last night in Bangkok, our favourite, roast duck with egg noodles in broth followed by sticky rice with coconut milk and mango - sublime :-)) A had a pineapple smoothie to finish it off (V had already had a pineapple and ginger smoothie to kick start that day!).
We managed to fend off the touts and get ourselves on an Orange flag boat (fewer tourists and a lot cheaper!) along the river to the Grand Palace and Wat Pho - Wat Pho being one of the prettiest temple complexes we have ever seen. We rounded this off with watching some Thai boxing at a weekly fight night run by a local shopping centre (which, we have to confess, we happened on by chance). This was pretty brutal and we've made a mental note to look up the rules as it seems anything goes.

We escaped the Bangkok traffic and spent an evening at the Banyan Tree rooftop bar. Slightly south of the centre, it afforded an incredible view of the skyline at dusk and, with the sea of red lights flickering on the tops of the various buildings, reminded of us of the view from the Grand Hyatt in Tokyo (which, for the record, does an awesome Amarena Cherry Cocktail). To give you an idea of just how hot it is here (A complains about this daily - what did he expect?), when we were trying to find this bar, an American guy in a suit walked up, told us he lived here and asked if we needed help - dripping with sweat and nursing an ice cold Singha beer to his head. Think we are coping better than he is….
If we were to move to Thailand, we would want a house like Jim Thompson's house - gorgeous. We weren't sure what to expect from this, the house of an American entrepreneur who rejuvenated the Thai cottage industry in silk by introducing Thai silk to the Western markets. He had a deep love of Thailand and, it seems, the Thais are very fond of him. His collection of antiques from not just Thailand, but the rest of the Asian world, are superb. A especially liked the Chinese mouse house ("what people did for entertainment before TV"). We followed this with a visit to Wat Bemchamabophit, a temple of white Carrara marble containing the ashes of Rama V (not only a famous Thai King, but V's favourite restaurant in Frankfurt!). When we arrived, we were thrown by the tens of police vans and hundreds of police personnel camped out in the grounds of this temple. Some were sleeping underneath buddha images, others snapping away as if on holiday…….While the temple complex was stunning, the number of police officers, stores of riot gear, tents etc left us a bit wary! As we later discovered from a tuk tuk driver, this was all in apparent preparation for a demonstration by the Yellow Shirts against the current Thai government. 
We decided to leave Bangkok for a day trip to Kanchanaburi, braving a local bus to get there. This little town was the location of a WWII PoW camp and was made famous by the film "The Bridge over the River Kwai". We visited the Allied War Cemetery, where nearly 6,000 British PoWs are buried. They were a fraction of the 100,000 people that died building the Burma-Siam railway (the "death railway"). It was very emotive walking around the cemetery - a great number of those with marked graves were just boys in their early twenties and the inscriptions from their loved ones incredibly moving. The nearby Thailand Burma Railway Centre was an excellent museum on the subject and certainly one of the most informative museums we have been to.  We then walked north through the town to the actual bridge. Such a beautiful setting with such a horrific history. It was a day of few words between us but a lot of emotion. 
Arrived in Ayutthaya a few hours ago. Stories of an interesting train journey and A's jungle curry to follow............




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Mike H on

The demonstration in Bangkok was in the news here yesterday - Good decision to move on !

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