Saturday, February 26, 2011

One Night in Bangkok

Well, actually it's been three nights... It took about a day and a half to feel like I understood the lay of the land here. My hotel is in a great spot - adjacent to the SkyTrain in Sukhumvit, an upscale neighborhood. Traffic here is terrible at all hours of the day, so the few miles the train travels east and west is an easy way to traverse the city (or at least parts of it.)

My first day, I took the train a few stops to the Paragon Center, an enormous shopping mall. After walking around the neighborhood, I wandered into the mall. Like Singapore, this is a mecca for designer everything. In the market for a Maserati? Third floor. I walked back along the main drag, filled with street hawkers and food vendors. Every stall had trinkets, t-shirts with awkward English phrases (Do It Just, Malibu - Big City California) and fake Viagra and Cialis. Notably different from the hawkers in Africa, Thais do not accost potential customers - they just stand quietly and rarely make eye contact, even if you do express interest in their wares. It's a pleasant change from being manhandled.

It's very hazy, hot and humid here, and although this isn't yet the rainy season, it has been raining during the night into mid-morning. You can tell the Farang (westerners) because they are sweating up a storm while the locals look cool, calm and collected. The air conditioning in the Skytrain is a welcome respite from the heat. I've been trying to time my adventures to morning/early afternoon before the heat becomes too stifling, and then spending the rest of the afternoon relaxing by the pool.
The following day I went to three temples - Wat Pho (the Reclining Buddha), Wat Phra Kaew (the Marble Temple) and Wat Traimit (the Golden Buddha). They are all a bit touristy, but still beautiful. Saturday was a holy day, so we encountered Buddhist monks performing ceremonies at each one. I also had the chance to explore some of the various ethnic neighborhoods and attractions (Chinatown, the flower market, the Grand Palace) and see where the Red Shirt and Yellow Shirt factions have set up their respective camps.

On Sunday, I went to the Chatuchak Weekend Market - over 5,000 stalls winding over 35 acres selling everything from clothing to furniture to souvenirs to food to fighting cocks (I don't think Farang are supposed to wander over to that area - the vendors were not particularly welcoming.) It's overwhelming and I was glad I got there early before it got too crowded.

From there, I went to the Jim Thompson House. He was a former OSS expat who is known for revitalizing the silk industry in Thailand, and mysteriously disappeared in the late 60's. Conspiracy theories abound, but his legacy of high-end retail shops remain.
The food here has been great. Anything you can put on a stick and grill is available on the street, and I've been alternating between nice Thai restaurants and local soup shops and vendors.

Next stop - Warsaw!


Denise said...

Keep on blogging!!

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