Before I left Ireland for Thailand, people would ask about my trip. “Oh you will hate Bangkok” they’ed assume, “It’s so noisy and crazy, you will want to leave straight away!”. I thought this was a crazy thing to say to someone about the place they were leaving for. I mean, I would never think to say to someone, “Oh you’re going to Spain? Oh you’re definitely going to hate it!” and push my opinions onto them. Whatevs.
On arriving in Bangkok, I knew the only thing I could do is take it at its own pace. Which is fast! The city is big, noisy, hot and mental! We arrived on the Khaosan road which is like the Temple Bar of Bangkok.. if Temple Bar was on acid or MDMA that is!
We checked into our hotel, the D&D – a pretty notorious backpacker hotel on the Khaosan Road as it’s the only place with a rooftop pool, an absolute must for any newbie to the Bangkok heat.
Over the next few days in Bangkok, we acclimatised to the heat as best we could, explored our surroundings, lounged around the pool and ate some local grub. We discussed at length how people seem to have a bad view of Bangkok and how if you take it as it is, its a pretty great place!
6 Great Things About Bangkok
1. The People. This one is a no-brainer and everyone knows it. The Thai people are the sweetest, most un-assuming people ever. They are so super helpful and they love to chat with foreigners about where they are from and what they think of Thailand.
Example, on day two of our adventure we decided to visit the Wat Pho Temple. We’re not the best with maps or anything and tend to just wander about completely in our own world of chatting, cracking jokes and falling about laughing. So we are wandering around when this man comes up to us stating he thought we ‘looked lost’ and assumes (correctly!) that we are trying to find the temple. So in his broken English he proceeds to chat with us for about 15 minutes! Not only that but instead of walking straight there, he sends us on this little known river boat adventure around the old city to get there – WIN! He even took out a pen and paper from his briefcase and draws us a map. A MAP. We instantly fall for this guy.
2. The Pad Thai. Paula is a huge Pad Thai fan when she’s at home in Ireland so she was dying to get her paws on some in Thailand! For those of you who don’t know, Pad Thai is a stir-fried rice noodle dish commonly served as a street food in Thailand. It is made with soaked dried rice noodles, which are stir-fried with eggs and flavoured with fish sauce, dried shrimp, garlic or shallots, red chili pepper and sugar. We literally lived on this dish for four days in Bangkok. We had restaurant food one evening, which was good but not a patch on the street vendors delicious offerings!
We have since eaten Pad Thai in restaurants here and nothing compares to the street food made right in front of you in Bangkok. Yum!
3. The Temples. We finally got to the Wat Pho Temple via our Thai man’s lovely little map and boat adventure. Wat Pho is a Buddhist temple which houses the largest collection of Buddha images in Thailand, including a 46m long Reclining Buddha. Its a huge complex which full of the most amazing temples, alters, gardens and statues all adorned with mosaics of colourful glass and mirror tile squares. There are pools of beautiful coloured Koy fish too!
The Reclining Buddha is 15m high and 46m long represents Buddha during his last illness, about to enter the parinirvana or Nirvana-after-death. He is lying on his side with his head resting on a cushion, supporting his head with his hand.
Personally, I share my home with some Buddhas and I find it hard to pass one by without photographing him or rubbing his belly (for luck). So, being here and seeing this amazing, huge ancient structures in all their golden and gem covered glory is quite moving.
4. Rooftop Pool. Yeah so we were SO HOT in Bangkok. Having just landed from the cold rainy, summer weather of Ireland, this was a predicted shock to the system. Our digs, the D&D hotel is the only one on the Khaosan Road with a pool so this was where you could find us during the day.
Techno, long island iced tea, sunshine and the rooftop pool – heaven. Tacky? Maybe but when you’re this hot, you need the pool! We also found a nice gazebo also cos ya know, proper pale white girl skin situation over here!
5. Old Bangkok by Boat. Our newly made Thai friend who gave us directions to the temple sent us to the pier to get a longboat ride around the city. We went down, hopped on a boat and off we went. This did not disappoint. We were treated to a forty minute gorgeous boat ride through winding canals of Bangkok. We literally were in peoples back yard. The houses are so lovely all perched high above us on stilts and decorated with wind chimes and colourful art.
Our lovely driver also gave us chunks of white bread and gestured to trow it in the water to feed the Catfish! Hundreds of Catfish all going completely Catfish crazy, fighting for the bread. Mental! We also saw a alot of Monitor Lizards. Our resident reptile expert was keeping a close eye and educating us all the way. These giant dinosaurs were very used to boats and people and really didn’t mind our intrusion.
All in all we were pleasantly surprised by Bangkok. Sure, its overwhelming, its loud, busy and colourful but isn’t that what travel is all about? Seeing new things and experiencing new cultures. If I were on a two week trip to Thailand, I would probably spend little time here but I would never rule it out or try to tell anyone it wasn’t worth it. Bangkok is an amazing city with beauty and grace, you just have to look for it.