Oh Bangkok – Oh my… They call it the ‘City of Angels’ but I think it’s more like the ‘City of Tourists’. With nearly 16 million visitors this year alone, it is astounding how many foreigners I have seen in my short stay here. At times and in some key locations, there were definitely more tourists than locals around.
Bangkok is one of the largest cities in the world, not to mention one of the top tourist destinations. As such, I suppose it’s fitting that Bangkok also boasts the Guinness World Record for the world’s longest place name.
Krungthepmahanakhon Amonrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharatratchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amonphimanawatansathit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit
Boy, that’s a mouthful. The name, composed of Pali and Sanskrit root words, translates as:
City of angels, great city of immortals, magnificent city of the nine gems, seat of the king, city of royal palaces, home of gods incarnate, erected by Visvakarman at Indra’s behest.
Thai school children learn it in song version, much like the ABC’s or the alphabetical states song that we all learned in grade school.
After my 10 hour flight to Japan and 7 hour flight to Bangkok, I arrived at 1am and spent a further hour waiting in line at immigration. I finally got to my hotel at 3am and snuggled in for a nice long snooze. The next morning (technically the same morning) I took the Sky Train into the city to begin my adventure.
I didn’t quite know what to expect of Bangkok. This is my first trip to South East Asia and my first time traveling solo in quite awhile. My views of Bangkok may have been a bit biased by my recent viewing of “The Hangover Part 2” on the plane ride over, and by that strange song “One Night in Bangkok”.
Khao San Road – The Backpacker Ghetto
It’s the place to be as a tourist, so I thought it would be a good starting out point. “Khaosan” translates as “milled rice”, a reminder that in former times the street was a major Bangkok rice market. In the last 20 years, however, Khaosan Road has developed into a world famous “backpacker ghetto”. It offers cheap accommodation; tons of street food stands, restaurants, and bars; kiosks and shops galore; and is in close proximity to some of the top sites.
There was even a bit of Christmas way over here on the other side of the world. This was right next to a Starbucks that had higher prices than their western counterparts – needless to say, I skipped that one.
One of the great things about staying near Khao San road was that it’s just a short walk, ferry ride, or tuk tuk trip away to some great sites.
Wat Pho – Temple of the Reclining Buddha
Wat Pho is one of the largest and oldest temples in Bangkok and is home to more than one thousand Buddha images, including world famous Reclining Buddha.
The temple is considered the first public university of Thailand, teaching students in the fields of religion, science and literature through murals and sculptures.
The reclining Buddha is housed in it’s own building where hoards of tourists wander around it, snapping photos and dropping coins. The feet were the most interesting part.
The 9 foot high and 15 foot long feet of Buddha are inlaid with mother-of-pearl. They are divided into 108 arranged panels, displaying the auspicious symbols by which Buddha can be identified like flowers, dancers, white elephants, tigers and altar accessories.
There are 108 bronze bowls in the corridor indicating the 108 auspicious characters of Buddha. People drop coins in these bowls as it is believed to bring good fortune, and to help the monks maintain the wat.
Chai Pria River – Me Nam.
Just across the river is another famous temple Wat Arun, but you have to get across the river first. The Chai Pria River, otherwise known as Me Nam (Me signifying “mother” and Nam “water”) is the chief river in Thailand. It was historically the life blood of the city and continues to be of great use and value today. There are many ferries that cross the river, as well as travel up and down the river. I crossed the river a couple of times (only 3 baht) and went up and down the river 1 time (15 baht). It was a beautiful and very cheap way to cool off and see the city. Keep in mind that 32 baht = 1 USD.
Wat Arun – Temple of Dawn
The temple derives its name from the Hindu god Aruna, often personified as the radiations of the rising sun. Known as the ‘Temple of Dawn’, Wat Arun is apparently very beautiful as the first light of the morning reflects off the surface of the temple with pearly iridescence (I wasn’t up early enough to witness this though).
The main feature of Wat Arun is its central prang (Khmer-style tower) which is encrusted with colourful porcelain. The height is around 250 ft and visitors are able to access the first and second tiers via a series of incredibly steep steps. The views from the top are outstanding both up and down the river.
After a full day of walking and wandering it was time to head back to backpacker central to try out some more delicious street food and get a 3 dollar 30 minute foot massage or two. My bangkok experience wasn’t anything like the Hangover – happily. No missing fingers, no monkeys, no tattoos. But it was interesting, exhausting, and delicious. Next stop – Chatuchak Market!
Thanks for reading!