Bangkok, Thailand – Less than 1% of the total world population is in Thailand and over 8 million of them live in the the city of Bangkok.
What I noticed most about Bangkok is, while crowded, the people are not pushy. Close quarters, yes, but I didn’t feel threatened or unsafe at anytime. Cars and scooters zipping around from all angles, but plenty of sidewalk space to get around. Unlike Vietnam, nary a horn was heard. It is also hot and humid – which was a big shock to the system coming from below freezing temperatures and 3 feet of snow! We also noticed very little begging (3 people in total over 4 days). Everyone we crossed paths with was warm, nice and friendly.
Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world’s longest-reigning monarch, has died after 70 years as head of state. The national pride and love for their ‘beloved King’ can be seen and felt everywhere. Buildings, businesses and billboards everywhere are adorned with pictures and words of remembrances. The people of Thailand wear black to honor their beloved King and will for the next year. Pictures all over the city of the King show him at all ages doing things ‘regular folk’ do, not your typical ‘war stance’ so common of heads of state. Murals of him sailing, taking photos and wood working to name a few.
We are approaching an interesting time in US history with the upcoming inauguration. It is an amazing juxtaposition to see such love and pride for their leader in Thailand.
We based camped in a high end area of town adjacent to the Central department store and Central Embassy Shopping Mall – which is similar to Harrods with an amazing grocery store, restaurants and everything you could possible need. Our 2 story AirBnB penthouse was an amazing retreat high above the city with great views from the comfortable deck. The perfect place to relax and perhaps set the bar a little too high for our adventures in this country!
Day 1 – Food, deck time and sleep.
Day 2 – Grand Palace – The opulent former royal residence was PACKED with tourists and mourners. The remains of the King Bhumibol are currently on the grounds and people come from all over to pay their respects. He will lie for 100 days and be cremated sometime after the 1 year morning period.
We enjoyed a beautiful riverside lunch across from Wat Arun and witnessed the James Bond boat traffic in the river firsthand. The boats race up and down the river transferring tourists all over the city.
Of course a rooftop beer bar was on tap to close out the day. Brewski at Radisson Blu Plaza Bangkok is the city’s only rooftop craft beer bar. The view over Sukhumvit from 30 floors up is impressive, as is the unique concept of this vintage-inspired venue offering western pub food, a dozen beers and ciders on tap, and an incredible 100 craft brews.
Day 3 – Kim arranged for a private river boat tour for the 4 of us. The highlight of our time in Bangkok. We passed through the locks into the canal system and witnessed first hand how the locals live. The river is a main transportation and source of life for many.
According to our guide it is good luck to feed the fish or other wildlife after going to a temple. So everyone worships and then comes out and feeds the fish or birds. We visited a small home temple and then fed the catfish.
We visited a beautiful orchid farm and learned a little bit about orchid farming. Everywhere you will find orchid flowers decorating homes and businesses. The orchid only flowers for 4 years. So a constant nursery of new orchids are growing. The orchids will not bloom for the first year. The orchids are suspended above standing water and the roots reach down through the pots (which can be anything from half a coconut shell to an actual plastic pot) to access the water.
Our next stop was the weekend local market and it was a food extravaganza! I want to go back and sample more of the goods. Small stalls everywhere with every kind of food imaginable. Most I didn’t recognize at all. I think all four of us had lunch for under 7 USD 🙂
Day 4 – Lumpini Park was about a mile from where we stayed. We passed several embassies, including the US embassy. All the fences are draped in black and white banners in honor of King Bhumibol. Inside the park are Komodo dragons just swimming and walking about. Not as dreamy as I had expected after watching a Game of Thrones!
Dinner and walking around the city. We ended up at the largest mall Central World to find dinner on a Sunday night. Over 400 stores and 4.6 million square feet!
Bangkok is an amazing city and we could definitely have kept ourselves busy with a few more days. Or gotten more done daily if we weren’t struggling with jet lag. A few things that I want to do next time;
1) Visit the Reclining Buddha https://www.renown-travel.com/temples/wat-pho.html
2) Spend an evening in Chinatown sampling street food http://www.bangkok.com/magazine/6-restaurants-chinatown.htm
3) Dine with locals http://www.bangkokfoodtours.com/eat-with-locals/
4) Visit Big Buddha http://www.atlasobscura.com/places/thailands-biggest-buddha
And now off to Chiang Mai…