One common knock against Bangkok is that it is a big city that could be anywhere. While you can’t call a city of over 10 Million people anything but big, Bangkok could hardly be anywhere else. Mouth-watering smells and tastes, magnificent temples, fantastic shopping and a vibrant sex trade — Bangkok truly does have something for everyone. We visited Bangkok March 10-16, 2010. Below we describe ten great highlights. We had to put them in some kin dof order, but, really, how accurately can you rank fun?
10. Walking Around Bangkok
Bangkok is an easy-to-navigate city, with numerous and distinctive neighborhoods. Below, left to right: Laura inspects the seafood stalls along along Yaowarat Road, Bangkok’s Cinatown district; Laura stands in the middle of Khaosan Road, the backpacker neighborhood cramped with pubs, shops and Internet cafes; me enjoying a cool one on Pat Pong, Bangkok’s infamous sex district.
8. Wats and Buddahs
Bangkok is full of wats (temples) and Buddhas, and we visited many of them. Below, from left to right: we visit Wat Pho, which is home over 1,000 Buddhas but none more impressive than the Reclining Buddha; me standing under the Reclining Buddha; me at Phra Buddha Chinnarat at the Ubosoth of Wat Benchamabophit (the Marble Temple); Laura in the gallery of the cloister at the rear of Wat Ubosoth; and, Laura meditating at Wat Traimit, home to the world’s largest solid gold Buddha – The Golden Buddha.
7. Calypso Ladyboy Cabaret
Calypso’s cabaret show starts the stagelights flaring and a voice announcing: “Tonight we present for you, the most beautiful ladies in all of Thailand…” A bold claim in a land renowned for its strikingly exotic women. Ladyboys, or “katoeys” as they are known in Thailand, are a strange, rarely understood breed. With their overt gestures, extravagant clothing and often impetuous behaviour, they typically inspire admiration and revulsion in equal measure. The Calypso celebrates these curious divas in a manner that is tasteful, if not exactly wholesome.
5. Temple of the Dawn
Wat Arun, a 260-foot prang, is easily recognizable across the Chao Phraya River from the Grand Palace. It is one of Bangkok’s few temples that pre-date the move of Thai power from the capital in Ayutthaya down to Bangkok. Wat Arun is a Khemer-style Buddhist wat in the Bangkok Yai district. The temples name comes from Aruna, the Indian god of the dawn. As you can see, the temple is quite a steep climb (below).
It’s like the song says: ”One night in Bangkok and the world’s your oyster… The bars are temples but the pearls ain’t free.” Below from left to right: a polite gentlemen tries to usher Laura into one of the bars with a menu pricing out the various shows involving ping pongs, darts and balloons; I stand outside Super Pussy on Pat Pong, perhaps the most famous sex district in Bangkok; Laura entering the Night Bazzar, a night market with food and shopping; me with the maître d’ at the Bangkok Trader Vic’s; and, me outside the Pussy Collection.
4. Grand Palace
The Grand Palace (or Phra Borom Maha Ratcha Wang) is a complex of buildings in Bangkok, Thailand. It served as the official residence of the Kings of Thailand from the 18th century onwards. Construction of the Palace began in 1782, during the reign of King Rama I, when he moved the capital across the river from Thonburi to Bangkok. The Palace has been constantly expanded and many additional structures were added over time.
There are a lot of scammers around here who’ll tell you that the Palace is closed for a few hours or the whole day. They’re trying to get you to take a Tuk Tuk ride to pass the time until the Palace opens. You can bet the Tuk Tuk ride will ride will tour all the shops that pay the highest commissions.
3. Thai Massages
What’s there not to like about $5/hr deep tissue massages? And how about having some Garra Rufa fish eat the dead skin off your feet …why the hell not? Below, left to right: Laura awaits her massage at Health Land; Laura gets a pedicure/reflexology treatment at Spa Land; and, about 100 fish suck on Laura’s toes.
2. Eating Thai Food
Not much to comment on here: the thai people know how to cook and, if you eat where they do, it’s tough to spend more than $3.00. From left to right, below: I slurp some noodles at the weekend market ($1.00); some street noodles ($0.80); fish noodle soup chopped full of shrimp, oysters, squid and fish, across the street for our hotel ($2.00); prawns at the floating market ($3.00).
1. Cooking Thai Food
Canvassing the hawkers and street vendors is a sure way to eat well, but the only way to ensure that you can take home the flavors of Bangkok is to learn how to re-create them yourself. At the Silom Thai Cooking School off of the Tha Silom in Bangkok’s notorious go-go bar and kathoey (see Calypso ladyboy show below) district, instructor Sanusi “Nusi” Mareh gave us an immersive class in Thailand’s culinary arts. First, Nusi took us to a local market where we learned about the ingredients central to Thai cooking, such as galangal ginger, lemongrass and kaffir lime. The market radiated a kaleidoscope of brilliant colors, compelling me to interrupt Nusi repeatedly to identify a vibrant herb or curious root. To which, Nusi would answer while swaying his hands in mild frustration, always adding “interesting, but not important.” “Interesting, but not important” is one of Nusi’s much loved sayings, but his most important and oft-repeated platitude is: “Thai food is very forgiving.” This he’d say, for instance, when Laura fretted about how much chilies to add to her curry, or, to name another time, when I started to bleed all over his coconut grater.