Recently I was fortunate enough to have had the chance to take a month off and travel to Thailand. Escaping Edmonton on a snowy morning we hopped on a plane for the long flight to Thailand’s capital, Bangkok.
–– Bangkok, or “What’s that smell?” ––
We landed late at night and grabbed a taxi into the city. The majority of people visiting Thailand find themselves passing through Bangkok at some point and a large majority of those people end up on Khao San Road. It’s a common destination for backpackers because of cheap accommodations and no shortage of restaurants and bars along the short street. It’s a jarring experience when you first get dropped off there at night. Khao San Road is busy during the day but it really begins to pick up around 11pm with makeshift bars and clubs appearing on the sidewalks, music blasting through the night, and locals trying to sell you anything and everything from trinkets to fried insects.
Edmonton is a fairly large city but it’s spread out with a smaller population. Bangkok is a whole different story. Modern towers mixed with run down buildings and metal shacks. Street vendors and roadside restaurants dot the city so there’s never a shortage of food to eat. I can honestly say that some of the best food I had came from street vendors.
We were going to find ourselves in Bangkok twice during the trip – once at the beginning and once before we leave. With this in mind we kept our first stay there short.
Day one stops: Wat Pho, Grand Palace, MBK Center, travel agent
Wat Pho: Covering 8 hectares, this temple complex is an impressive sight that should not be missed. You can easily spend several hours wandering the grounds of this complex with its ornate halls and large number of Buddhas. The highlight of this particular temple has to be the Reclining Buddha, a large golden figure that completely fills the space in which it resides. You feel absolutely tiny when you walk around this Buddha.
Grand Palace: The former royal residence, today it is swarmed by tourist groups from all over the world. Like many other parts of Bangkok it’s organized chaos. Swarms of people filter through the ticket stands, the clothing rental (shorts and tank tops are forbidden, but clothes are available on site!), and through each building of the complex that are publically accessible. The palace is an interesting mix of traditional Thai and Western architecture, you can easily lose several hours here as well even when doing the “short” tour.
MBK Center: We opted to travel light and buy most of what we needed once we arrived and this is the place to do it. The mall has no shortage of shops where you can buy anything from cheap t-shirts and flip flops to trinkets and iPhones. The mall, like everywhere else, is packed and generally sees 100,000 visitors per day. Shops are split up by floors: 1-3 clothes: 4 electronics; 5 furniture, photography, food; 6 souvenirs and food court.
T-shirts – $4
Sandals – $8
Board shorts – $12
Sunglasses – $4
Once done shopping for the day we made our way back to Khao San Road and a travel agent so we could book our bus up north to Chiang Mai. The nice thing about backpacking through this beautiful country is that there are travel agents EVERYWHERE who can book you transportation, tours, and accommodations. Don’t like the price? Wander a few doors down and haggle the next guy down a bit.
Once the day was done we hopped our overnight bus to Chiang Mai.
(part II coming soon…)
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