khao san road...the backpacker area of bangkok
Did you know, it's illegal to step on money in Thailand because the King's image is on all coins and notes. Don't every say anything but praises for the King: he is loved by all and looks upon us all via hundreds of random portraits throughout the country. His Majesty (Bhumibol Adulyadej) has been on the throne for more than 60 years, making him the longest-reigning current monarch.
Thailand may get the current blockbusters well after the States, but the country is actually 543 years ahead of the western world. The Thai calendar starts in 543BC - the beginning of the Buddhist Era.
So far the most friendly country, Thai's are eager to please, love to chat (and are quite good at English), and always have tha famous Thai smile plastered on their faces. Sawasdee kai
(hello) is heard loud and energetically as you step into any shop or up to a market vendors table.
a lovely condom ad on khao san
It's easy to see why some westerners never leave! The handshake is out of style (or never was in style), it's all about the wai
. There's specifics of how to wai
determined by your rank/age, but the most traditional way is to place your hands, palms together, prayer-like with your fingers about nose-level and slightly bow your head. If someone wais
you, you better do it back (which can sometimes be difficult when you're shoving your baht
back into your wallet)!
Boiling hot and fantastically frantic (and catering specifically to backpackers), the Banglamphu area of Bangkok
(of where famed Khao San Road is stationed) is wall to wall with toned down "farang friendly" restaurants, fruit skae stands, cotton clothing, DVDs, money changers, and cheap jewelry.
Taxis and tuk-tuks anxiously await
tourists, constantly asking "where you from? where you go?" The famed "Grand Palace," Bangkok's main tourist draw is walking distance form Khao San Rd, so there's little reason to venture too far past the crazy maze of streets surrounding Khao San.
Images of Buddha are everywhere, and Bangkok is home to over 300 temples.Wat Banchanabophit
: more simply known as the Marble Temple. It's sandwiched between some ramshackle buildings and a bit off the tourist track...thus peaceful. It was built under the reign of Rama V in 1899 and is made of white Carrare marble.Wat Phra Kaew
: a shrine to the Emerald Buddha, in the same compound as the Grand Palace.
The temple is made primarily of mosaic and marble. The encased Emerald Buddha is in a shrine inside the temple and camera shy. His name may be a bit deceiving...the Emerald Buddha is actually made of jasper. He made the journey to his final resting place via hidden in a layer of stucco from northern Thailand.
The near by Grand Palace
used to be the royal residence, although today the King only uses it for special ceremonies. The inside is closed off to visitors. The whole compound was chock-a-block full of gilded stupas and glass mosaic temples. For the life of me I couldn't tell you what is what anymore. They are all miraculously beautiful but after a while...a temple is a temple man...
Leaving the backpacker ghetto of Banglampho for the Bangkok flee markets is worth figuring out the frantic public bus system.
Saturday brought me to Chatuchak Weekend Market
, one of the worlds largest, at 28 acres of handicrafts, food, and clothes. There's more than 10,000 booths and a maze of limitless alleys spilling over with local and visiting shoppers. Bargaining is the name of the game and one has to quickly overcome any claustrophobia as it's a frantic experience around every corner.
More laid back, the Taling Chan Floating Market
made for a far more peaceful Sunday morning. Boats pull up along the channels (Bangkok was once dubbed the Venice of Asia) and cooks donning straw hats start grilling up fish and veggies and noddles. Makeshift tables are placed on a crowded pier. You order your food on the boat, where it's cooked, and grab a low lying seat wherever you can find one.
the giant buddha at 43 meters
..a trip to Bangkok isn't complete without a stop on Soi Patpong
...the home of the famed pingpong shows. I'm not going to lie...i was a tad disappointed. Before the show started, the 4 or 5 girls (of varying attractiveness) swayed off beat to the music. Their clothes were already off (some left socks on) so there was no stripping involved. Some women came over asking us to buy them "lady drinks," which are nothing more than colored water. There's a lot less interacting than in the strip clubs back home, where the girls at least feign interest. A few girls remain uninterestedly swaying on stage while in the middle one girl at a time comes up and performs her "talent." Birthday candles were blown out, trumpets were played, soda bottles were openned, firecrackers lit, and ping pong balls shot out of various vaginas. And then about 20 minutes later it's over and you're handed an outrageous bill and shuttled back outside. The main difference between Patpong and other market streets is instead of being handed a menu, you're given a laminated list of what's on offer at each club.
While fast and frantic, Bangkok is only good for a few days...unless your pockets are deep.
The computer I'm on at the moment won't upload photos, but I'll try to get some up soon of Bangkok and update about the north!