The ups and downs of Bangkok
19.09.2009 - 23.09.2009 33 °C
Touts and temples
Bangkok is a real city of contrast, it is a hectic, traffic clogged urban sprawl composed on innumerable shopping malls, hotels and skyscrapers, but in amongst all of this are fantastic buddhist temples, wandering monks, and ancient houses. It has friendly people, but it also people who pose as friendly people in order to entice you into a variety of different scams. It was one the Venice of the East with a large canal network, but they are now mostly too polluted and smelly to bear. It is oppresively hot and sunny, but every other day there is a huge thunderstorm and massive downpour lasting a couple of hours which cools things down.
We have been here for 6 days, which is quite a lot of time in one city, but there are so many aspects to this place that it feels as though we have barely scratched the surface. We have booked a bit of a treat hotel here, our room is nice and even has its own kitchen (as yet unused!), the hotel has a gym and a lovely rooftop pool and jacuzzi. The honeymoon welcome of towels folded in the shape of swans was much improved from the Sheraton in KL, although there was no champagne unfortunately!
Apart from shopping for bargain clothes etc we have been busy attending May Kaidee’s Thai cookery course, which was fantastic, we learnt how quick and simple it is to prepare Thai food, so now there will be no stopping us; assuming that we can find the right ingredients.
Our second day here was a bit of a disaster, we planned to see a load of the temples, but it was Buddha day so they were pretty much all closed to the public. We were subsequently approached by a friendly man who recommended a tuk tuk journey to us where we could visit quite a few of the attractions for less than a quid. If this seemed too good to be true, it was. After visiting the lucky buddha statue the driver insisted on taking us to a load of tailors and gem stores, insisting that we look around (apparently so he could get free petrol for doing so), after we got bored of this our tuk tuk driver disappeared after taking us to the second point of our journey, the golden mount; but at least we hadn’t paid him anything!
Of all of the places we have been looking forward to sampling the local food, Thailand was probably the place we have been looking forward to the most, however Bangkok has been pretty disappointing from that point of view. We have been to a couple of expensive-ish hotel restaurants which were recommended in our guidebook, but they were pretty tasteless, the only decent stuff has been what we have made on our cooking course and what we have bought from small streetside cafes, although we have may have picked up a bit of food poisoning from one of these joints! The biggest disappointment was a restaurant called Celadon, which our rough guide book (which up to now has proved infallible) recommended as a treat, it was a nice location but so expensive! We didn’t order wine as the cheapest was 20 quid a bottle, so embarrassingly we ended up ordering the cheapest drink on the menu, a bottle of evian costing 7 pound, the purchase of which still hurts even now!
Yesterday (Tuesday) I was ill all day so we didn’t do much apart from to have a look around a house owned by Jim Thompson, an American who came over to Thailand to revive a lot of the local handmade crafts; we had a look around his traditional house, which was really good, but I struggled to stand up for most of it. In the evening we went for a curry in a 26th floor restaurant where we had a fantastic view of a thunderstorm raging outside. Then last night Lisa was sick and isn’t feeling great so we are not doing much today, although we are both feeling a little better, good job as we need to be up at 4am for our flight to Singapore tomorrow.
Our highlight of our trip to Bangkok was probably our visit to the grand / golden? Palace and to see the reclining Buddha. The grand palace is incredible, it is a huge site covered in fantastic golden and jewelled buildings, and holding the most reverred statue in Thailand, a buddha carved out of Jade, known as the emerald Buddha. The reclining Buddha was immense and bigger and more amazing than we had expected. Not sure if our pictures do it justice…
In Singapore we will be going to watch the grand prix, so if you are watching on TV keep an eye out for us!