After some relaxing beach days in Bali, Cruise and I were ready to pick up the pace again and head to the busy city of Bangkok, Thailand! I really didn’t know what to expect in Bangkok. I knew almost nothing about it before I arrived, but now I can easily say that I fell in love with it probably from the moment I stepped out of the airport!
We landed in the early evening, and though we were both pretty tired from a long flight we were still eager to explore the city. Naturally, we simply set off on foot in a random direction!
One thing I can say about Bangkok is how I was instantly impressed at the friendliness of the people. Cruise and I were walking around with a map we got from the airport, and multiple times we were approached by friendly passerby’s asking if we needed directions. These weren’t merchants trying to sell us something, they were just normal every day people walking on the side walk. I remember one elderly lady who came up to us and was so happy to help. She genuinely welcomed us to the country (as did everyone we spoke to) and went above and beyond to help us figure out where we wanted to go. She helped us find a travel agency we were looking for so that we could book our transportation to Khao Sok National Park once we got to southern Thailand. She even walked with us until we got there!
After booking our transportation to Khao Sok we continued exploring the city at our leisure. Above is a picture of me in front of a sign for “Siam Square.” Siam is apparently a big shopping district in Bangkok, but I really wanted a picture on front of the sign because there is a Thai restaurant Cody and some friends of ours love to go to in Atlanta – the restaurant is called “Siam Square” (and there I was standing in the actual place!).
As I walked I was amazed at how lively the whole city felt. For starters, there was street food EVERYWHERE. Every 5 feet there would be a new street food vendor selling something delicious like fresh fruit, fried rice, pad thai noodles, spring rolls, fried potatoes, you name it! There were people everywhere too, and vendors selling colorful scarfs, pants, and so many other types of goods. At one point we decided to stop at a cluster of street food carts and get some fried rice before finally finding a hotel to stay at for the night. A quick note on the hotel, it was the nicest place we had stayed at so far on the trip and it cost $13 USD/night. As in, $6.50 per person!
The next day we were excited to get an early start on seeing various temples and shrines throughout the city. The first one we picked was a Buddhist Temple called “The Temple Of The Golden Mount” or Wat Saket.
It literally was a giant gold temple on top of a giant hilltop that you had to climb over ~300 steps to get all the way to the top! There were a lot of cool statues, alcoves, and gardens to see on your way up though.
We eventually came to a very pretty landing with a long row of big bells you could ring (very pretty!) and then I saw my FAVORITE thing ever…A GIANT GONG!
For those who don’t know, I’ve been planing drums/percussion almost my whole life and in concert band the gong is my FAVORITE thing to whack! So getting to this landing and seeing a massive gong with a massive wind-up beater on a chain was super awesome. 🙂
When we did finally get to the top the view of the city was breathtaking. All of the statues and shrines at the top were equally as beautiful.
And what did we find once we started our climb down on the other side? AN EVEN BIGGER GONG! Needless to say I loved this place, and the sound that those gongs produced had the most low, deep and satisfying goooooooooooooonnnnnnnnnggggg ring to them ever!
Next on our list was a visit to Bangkok’s most famous temple – Wat Pho. Before I continue I want to say a quick warning to those who may one day visit the city. Beware of scams! Before I came to SE Asia I did some research online for what to expect and learned about a popular scam that is used on tourists. The scammer will stand on a street corner near a very popular tourist attraction (like Wat Pho) and when they see tourists walk by (like myself and Cruise) they will pretend to be locals, start talking to you, and let you know that:
The scam is that the temple you were about to visit isn’t really closed at all, and they were just trying to get you to pay for a taxi ride to some other location. Well, on our way to Wat Pho this EXACT THING HAPPENED TO US. We were stopped and told that Wat Pho was closed for lunch (as it always closes at this time of day) and that they could taxi us to a different temple. Luckily Cruise and I both saw right through his trick, and we declined politely saying “we would like to look at it from outside the wall.” Low and behold, as soon as we turned a few corners and got to our destination the temple was open and we had no problems getting in! So beware of this possible scam!
Back to the story now! Once we got there we first stocked up on some fresh mango slices from a street vendor ($0.20 for a large bag) and then headed inside!
As it turns out, Wat Pho isn’t really one temple, but a series of temples all within a walled compound. Each building in the compound lead to a different temple/shrine and each was more intricate and ornate than the last. Even the statues and gardens in the outside courtyards were breathtaking!
After exploring a few buildings we came upon one of the most famous statues at Wat Pho – “The Reclining Buddha.” It’s a GIANT golden statue of Buddha laying on its side, and it spans the entire length of a very large building! Supposedly on the toes of the Buddha there are ancient scriptures written, but unfortunately we didn’t get to see the bottom of the feet while we were there, as they were under restoration renovations. It was still very cool to see!
We continued exploring the various buildings and courtyards throughout Wat Pho. I said it before, but every new section we came to seriously looked even more ornate and unreal than the last. I was especially amazed at the detail of the jewel-work and stone-work on everything I saw.
The outside architecture was really interesting to me as well. The horns on the peaks of the mosaic roofs were really unique!
The long rows of golden Buddha statues were really cool to see as well! It was all so exotic looking, it was hard to remember that everything I was seeing was all real. I was actually here, in this beautiful place!
I have many photos of this place. Part of the reason was that everything looked so cool to me, but another reason is that this place was huge! I read that there were over 99 different buildings/shrines throughout the Wat Pho complex. Each building had its own dazzling display of paintings, tapestries, statues, mosaics, alters, and other intricate pieces of art. It was an amazing place to see.
I did remember to take at least one close-up photo of the jewel-work on the outside of the buildings – here it is below! Now imagine an entire complex of buildings covered in that…
One funny story I do remember, is when we tried entering one building (you had to take your shoes off in all of them before entering, btw) I was handed a large scarf and skirt and told to cover myself. I was wearing a tank top and shorts, but apparently women entering were not allowed to show that much skin, so many women were being handed temporary skirts and scarves to wrap themselves with before they could get let in! I thought it was hilarious that my “western garb” was deemed too scandalous. 😀
After a few hours of exploring Wat Pho Cruise and I decided it was time to head to our next temple!
We took a ferry across the river to get to a different section of the city where another famous temple supposedly awaited. Unfortunately, when we got to the temple we found out that this one was indeed closed for the summer, as it was under renovations. We knew that wasn’t a lie because the outside of it was completely covered in construction scaffolding. We did get to see a smaller, but pretty one right next to it though.
After that we decided we were satisfied with our temple/shrine sight-seeing for the day, and decided to just explore random street markets for snacks. It was not hard to find them! Like I said, street food and food markets were everywhere!
Being a vegan in Bangkok was SUPER easy as well. For starters, fresh fruit and vegetables were sold literally everywhere, every few feet. On top of that, I saw many carts with pure vegan/vegetarian options. For example, in the photo above there was a woman selling fried sweet potato balls (which were freaking delicious, like little donuts on a stick!), seasoned fried tofu, vegetable spring rolls, fried bananas, and fried potatoes. I got the sweet potato balls and veggie spring rolls!
Also, now that we were in Thailand the currency was Baht. 35 Baht = $1 USD, so all of these snacks were super cheap!
One very cool place we stumbled upon as we wandered, was the famous Pak Khlong Market, or Bangkok Flower Market. Imagine walking on the sidewalk and both sides are lined with stands selling fresh flowers, flower wreaths, lays, and all sorts of beautiful flower arrangements. It was HUGE, and very cool to walk through!
Cruise and I eventually found ourselves wandering into Bangkok’s Chinatown – another crazy busy area with huge markets and lots of things to see.
I wasn’t aware of this before planning the trip, but apparently that day was the last day of the Chinese New Year. There I was in Bangkok’s Chinatown on the last day of the Chinese New Year – how cool! We imagined that at night there would be lots of fun street festivals going on, but there was more of the city we wanted to see, and so we kept on wandering.
I’m glad we did keep walking, because we eventually stumbled upon a very cool little festival – The “2016 Thai-Indian Fun Fair!”……Huh?
Apparently we just happened to be in Bangkok when this Thai-Indian “fun fair” was having its second annual festival! That’s what I love about aimlessly wandering around in foreign cities. You stumble across so many interesting things that maybe you never would have if you had your day/route meticulously planned out. Before Cruise and I found the Thai-Indian “fun fair” we stumbled across another little festival in the city that had food stands and live music. That’s what I remember most about Bangkok, how lively it was, and how much there was going on!
Now, back to this Thai-Indian “fun fair” (yes I keep using quotes for a reason!) that we found. Admission was free – awesome – so we just wandered in and started exploring the different booths that were set up. It had been awhile since my sweet potato/veggie spring roll snack so I decided to get some food. I love Indian food, and I love Thai food, so this place was heaven! Also, vegetarianism is very popular in Indian culture/cuisine so almost every stand I saw had vegetarian options, or was completely vegetarian-only (with tons of vegan options as well).
I ended up getting these veggie balls over a bed of carrot noodles that had this sauce and mmmmmm, it was one of the most delicious things ever!
Now, there’s a reason I keep calling this festival a “fun fair.” After Cruise and I walked around for awhile we heard an announcement that the opening ceremony was about to start, and that people should find a seat in front of the stage. Cool! We went and got great seats and were excited to see some cool dance shows, and other fun entertaining acts on this big stage.
So a guy gets up and starts talking (in English, thankfully!) about the cultural union between India and Thailand, and what this festival is all about, etc. etc. He talks for awhile, and then someone else got up and talked for a long time… about some of the exact same stuff. Then these kids got up on stage to sing the Thailand national anthem, ok that was cute. Then a different school of kids gets on stage to sing the India national anthem, ok… Then more people get up, and apparently there’s some important politician from India in the crowd that they kept mentioning and honoring. Then a bunch of people who organized this thing got up to take group photos on stage… Then oh! Let’s get that politician guy up on stage too, hand him this plaque and get pictures with him, cool…on and on and on and ON. These opening ceremonies had been going on for 45 MINUTES all the while I’m just sitting there waiting for the “fun” part of this “fun fair” to start! Cruise and I were like, “get on with the dancing already!” haha. Finally, after it had already gotten DARK the entertainment started.
I love traditional Indian dancing and music, so I was really excited to see some performances! At this point, Cruise and I had been at this “fun fair” for over an hour though. We waited and waited for the “fun” to start, but all of the long ceremonious speeches kinda left us cranky, and so we decided to keep on wandering! I am glad we stumbled upon this place though, after all it was cool seeing so many people walking around in traditional Indian/Thai garb and trying delicious food. As we left there was an “Indian fashion show” happening on the main stage. I’ll never forget how the song that was playing “…dun dun dun.. fashion… FOREVER…DUN DUN…” got stuck in me and Cruise’s head for DAYS. DAAAAAAYYYYYSSSS!
Anyways, we eventually found ourselves back in the shopping district of Siam (near our hotel) and so we did some souvenir shopping in the night markets and this one giant mall then called it a night. The next day we were flying out to Phuket, Thailand.
Though we only had 2 short days in Bangkok, it was an awesome time. We kept a busy pace, making sure we saw as much of the city as we could in our time, and I’m glad we did! We stumbled across so many cool districts, got to see some amazing Buddhist temples, and got to experience a lot of cool Thai culture.
For both of us, one of our “must do” things while in Thailand was to gorge ourselves on Pad-thai. That day for lunch we heard of a restaurant where the “best Pad-Thai in Bangkok” could be found. It was a bit of an adventure trying to track down its location, but we finally found it!… Only to find out that it opened for the day at 2pm! We got there around noon, and instead of waiting 2 hours for it to open (therefore sacrificing 2 hours of our exploring time) we ate at the noodle shop next door that also served Pad Thai, and at a cheaper price. 🙂
Overall I think Cruise and I definitely maximized our time in Bangkok, and without a doubt both of us knew we wanted to visit the city again one day!
Closing thoughts about Bangkok:
- The city was so alive – buzzing with energy because of the street vendors, the markets, the different personalities of the various districts, etc. There was so much to do and see!
- Native people were INCREDIBLY friendly! Some of the nicest people I think I’ve ever met were from here. I felt welcome everywhere I went.
- Everything is insanely cheap, I can’t stress this enough! Cruise and I could both get a huge plate of Pad-Thai with fruit, fruit smoothies, some beers, and all for like $5. Delicious, fresh street snacks usually cost less than $0.50. It was insane!
- It was one of the most colorful cities I’ve ever seen. This might be due to all the street markets, or colorful Buddhist temples everywhere, but I remember thinking over and over how much color the city had. Every building was interesting to look at!
- The water is not safe to drink in the city, so we had to buy bottled water everywhere we went and carry it with us. It wasn’t really a big deal, because I was used to doing this in Bali and in some cities in Europe I had been to. We had our backpacks with as well, so carrying them was not an issue. I remember when we first got into the airport in Bangkok I decided to casually look up online whether the tap water was safe in Bangkok or not. After 5 seconds of searching…. “Cruise, do NOT drink the water!…” The internet practically screamed at me not to!
- I recommend carrying hand sanitizer with you, as the bathrooms often did not have soap in them. This proved to be true throughout most of SE Asia.
- Speaking of bathrooms, at this point on the trip I was so used to using squat pots I didn’t even think twice about it anymore!
- Honestly, I felt very safe in Bangkok. As I mentioned before, the city was so alive. I think you could probably walk out at 3am and see a street busy with people, so I never felt alone or unsafe. It probably also helps that I thought the people were very friendly, so I never got bad vibes from anyone.
- I probably mentioned this 100 times already, but Bangkok’s street food game was ON POINT. Every few feet there was a new stand with someone selling something new and delicious (for like, $1 USD). I tried so many amazing things, it felt like I was eating like a king, but for very cheap!
- I would 100% recommend that you visit this city. I had an incredible time, and I honestly can’t think of one negative thing to say about my time there! 10/10, would definitely recommend, and I can’t wait to go back!