Thursday, May 29, 2008

48 Hours in Bangkok

Historic Bangkok is a visually overwhelming place; intriguing glimpses of everyday life mingle with the ostentation of the temples, whose spires are visible from miles away. The profusion of color, the detail of the mosaics, the exotic architecture, and the friendliness of the Thais we met there (not to mention the delicious food) left an indelible impression on us - and that was in just a short trip, 48 hours from start to finish!

We stayed in a fantastic renovated residence down a local alley along the river, so we could spend some time where local families live as well as tour the historic temples and canals.

The temples we saw were Buddhist - appropriately enough, I guess, for a trip during the Vesak Day weekend. Thai etiquette requires “respectful dress” for visitors to these sites, and thus arose our major packing problem: finding shoes that weren’t flip-flops. (After living in Singapore for a year and a half, we’d gone from having one pair of flip-flops apiece to having nothing but flip-flops in our wardrobes.)

But, dress code aside, we marveled at the detailed and gleaming mosaics on every inch of each temple building, the intricate carvings in gold, and the beautiful stonework. (We marveled at the massive Asian tour groups, too, but mostly we managed to stay one step ahead of them so as to view the temples in the peaceful atmosphere they’re meant to evoke.)

A highlight was our trip through the local canals on a long-tail boat, watching local life and lunching at a floating market along the water. We saw homes built on stilts over the water and some pretty sizeable monitor lizards - “Godzilla!” said our boat operator gleefully - along the way.

Long-tails are essentially slim boats fitted with whatever motor is at hand, so it’s not a quiet experience, but they are the usual method of transport in the area. Local merchants have smaller dugouts that can be paddled by one person - even when loaded with vegetables or goods to be sold down the canal at the floating market.

We were lucky not to be taken to the main (read: very touristy) floating market, which sounded like a floating souvenir shop. Instead, we visited a floating market where Thais often go for meals - in fact, it felt very much like an outdoor hawker center along the water. We were right at home, and some of our most enjoyable interactions in Bangkok were with the wonderful vendors - from the shyly smiling papaya-salad lady to the elderly man at the wok who handed me a tasty bite of prawn cake, fresh from the pan, to sample as we waited for our order.

Best of all were the evenings at the hotel, where from the loft in our room or the deck of the restaurant, we could look straight across the river at our favorite architectural icon of Bangkok: the stunning Wat Arun, temple of the dawn.


Anonymous said...

Wonderful description ... makes us feel like we're there!

yvrgrl said...

Can you share the name of the gem of a place you stayed in Bangkok. It sounds wonderful and if possible worthy of a stay when I am there also for 48 hours in Feb/09.


Jenn said...

Sure! We stayed at Arun Residence and would highly recommend it.

Bangkok Hotels said...

Very Very Fantastic picture. Very Very nice Story that you sharing on traveling blog. By the if you have a chance, don't forget to going to Kaosarn Road where is not far from Grand Palace....