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mistybleu Bangkok - A travel report by Amanda
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Bangkok,  Thailand - flag Thailand -  Krung Thep Mahanakhon
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mistybleu's travel reports

Red or Dead

  10 votes
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Nervous excitement greeted me as I arrived; I meet barricades and soldiers on the highway which served as a reminder that whilst this was my holiday, the political situation was dire and a state of emergency could be called at any minute.

Bangkok travelogue picture
Thailand markets itself as the land of smiles, but while I was in Bangkok, there wasn’t a lot of smiling going on. The news had been rife with stories of ‘why the red shirts were demonstrating’, ‘what did the yellow shirts have to do with the red shirts’, ‘why the present government was at fault’ and ‘how a peaceful end to demonstration could occur’.

Even though I was trying to empathise with the red shirts struggle, as a traveller I thought it was imported not to get mixed up in the political situation; however it was hard to ignore, when my first images of the country were skewed by the demonstrations.

Fearing for my safety, I decided not to stay too long in Bangkok; so instead of having a wonderful journey I would have to cram the highlights of the city into 2 days. But to be fair, I had always been told not to spend too much time there - ‘get in and get out’. My list of ‘have to’s’ was therefore short:

1. Visit the Grand Palace

2. Cruise along the Chao Phraya River

3. Sit inside Temple of the Emerald Buddha

4. Have a traditional Thai massage

5. Sample some delicious Thai food

6. Visit a night market

7. And get some souvenirs

After a 15 hour journey, the cold days of London were far behind me and my the first day there was taken up getting acclimatised. From the airport building to an underground taxi stand, to an air condition taxi, into the lobby of my hotel, it was hard to gage the temperature. I couldn’t quite fathom out what it actually felt like, so after a nice sleep I ventured out. But to say that 39 degrees is hot is an underestimation as it was so humid as well. The kind of heat that even in the shade just standing still leaves you sweating; with streams of sweat from parts of your body that you barely remember have sweat glands.

One of the first thing that struck me was the amount of kerbside food stalls, and how quickly people was rushing around - even in that heat, but definitely a place I would want to explore more.

Favourite spots:
Bangkok travelogue picture
The first 3 things on my list were easy to complete. I mean the cruise down the river was brilliant. Whilst the public boats were available at a fraction of the cost the tourist one continues on to the floating markets and traverses the canals.

But by far the Grand Palace complex was truly amazing and shouldn’t be missed on any visit to Bangkok. Built in 1782 it was the home of the Thai king, royal court and the administrative seat of government for many years; even though it isn’t possible to enter the palace it is still amazing!

The Wat had a lot of mythological characters that were larger than life; and each building was elaborately decorated with gold leaf, mirrors and wonderful colours

But beware of tuk-tuk drivers wanting to show you the 'Lucky Buddha'; it is advised not to go, as they take you all over town and then drop you off at the Palace where you are then ‘lucky’ to see the Emerald Buddha.

What's really great:
Wat Arun - Temple of the Dawn
Wat Arun - Temple of the Dawn
My concierge recommended that I should not go to the Palace as it was near the area where the red shirts were demonstrating. But they suggested that I join an organised tour; I felt this was a little strange, as it shouldn’t have been safe for any of us. I know they were thinking of my best interest, but I decided to brave it and take public transport, which included using the Skytrain and then a long boat (for a small contribution the conductor gave us all a guided tour of the main buildings along the river; and with a good command of English he also helped me sort out my day).

There are only two lines on the BST Skytrain system and it is easy to navigate because each station is also known alpha/numerically. I needed to get from E5 (Prhom Phong) to S6 (Saphan Taksin) by changing at Cen (Siam). Siam Square is the only anomaly as it is where the two line intersect. It was so easy and fun to use.

Top five attractions:

The Grand Palace complex, with the Abhorn Phimok Prasad Pavilion, Dusit Maha Prasat and the Temple Museum. There is a strict dress code - no short skirts, shorts or spaghetti strap tops.

Wat Phra Kaew, home of the Emerald Buddha (historically fought over and brought from Laos).

Wat Pho is the largest temple in Bangkok and famed for its golden reclining Buddha that measured 46 metres long.

Wat Arun is the Temple of the Dawn; sits the western bank of the Chao Phraya River. It dates back to 19th century when Bangkok was located on the other side of the river.

Wat Traimit - houses the world's largest golden seated Buddha measuring nearly 5 metres high. This Buddha was found accidentally when it was dropped while being moved, revealing the solid gold Sukhothai style Buddha. In days gone by Buddhas were hidden in plaster to deter theft.

Four Wings
Four Wings
Sukhumvit Road is the longest road in Bangkok and isn’t really on the tourist map for attractions but the elevated Skytrain runs along much of it, which makes it a great place to stay and party.

The road is punctuated by the train stations with each neighbour having a different feel. Some of the top hotels are here with quite a few of European pubs and bars, shopping malls, spas, the financial district, making it popular with expats. Other areas have go-go bars, ‘red lights’, everything can be found there.

Whilst the Four Wings address is on this road, it is actually located a couple of minutes up the road on a quieter road. The hotel had a gym that was in a corridor, a spa and a roof top pool. The breakfast was a perfect mix of western and Asian food and definitely get the thumbs up.

Street Food in Bangkok
Street Food in Bangkok
The traditional breakfast dish in Thailand is called ‘johk’ which is a thick rice soup with minced pork much like savoury porridge; though I think it is a little strange for the western palate. Also popular is: Thai deep-fried donuts ((pa-tong-goh) sometimes eaten with condensed milk or custard); hot soya cereal ((nam tao-hu) made from tapioca pearls, grass jelly and warm sweetened soya sauce) and Thai mini pancakes (kha-nom).

Thai food seems to have a wonderful blend of flavours combining spicy, sour, sweet, salty and a little bitter. A typical meal might include a clear soup followed by a green curry, a fried fish dish, a hot salad (beef slices with lettuce, onions, chilli, mint with a twist of lemon juice) and a variety of dipping sauces followed by dessert. I am salivating as I’m typing this. Surprisingly in Thailand most people eat food with a spoon and fork instead of chopsticks, you hardly see any knives at the table.

Other recommendations:
Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat
Whilst I chose to leave Thailand, the sensible option would have been to head north and see a bit of rural Thailand or even to go to an island for a beach retreat.

But I jumped on a plane and headed to Cambodia; the flight with Bangkok Airways cost me around $100 and took around an hour. So much for avoiding the heat - Siem Reap was ‘hot az hell’. Cambodia is a great country to explore; a lot poorer than Thailand, but the people were very nice and of course I had a chance to visit one of the world's top 5 ancient cities - Angkor Wat. If tickets are purchased after 4pm you can watch the sunset there before using the ticket the following day. The complex is huge and you really need more than a day to explore. But if time is limited then you can chose the three main sites - Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm and Bayon Temple.

By the way, around 20th May the 10 week violent protests came to an end, leaving 85 dead, countless injured and an estimated 50 bn bahts economic damage.

Published on Friday June 18th, 2010

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Tue, Jan 11 2011 - 08:14 PM rating by trekkerman

Considering you had a whistle stop of the city your report has good content.
As a season traveller to Thailand i would recommend you head back there and do more travelling around the country, to the North and also to the Islands in the South.

Mon, Jun 28 2010 - 04:46 PM rating by bootlegga

A fantastic report, as usual!

Fri, Jun 25 2010 - 03:33 PM rating by jorgesanchez

You were in Thailand in trouble times. Very good report and comments.

Fri, Jun 25 2010 - 11:01 AM rating by louis

It was very interesting reading about the place that I know but in different time (I mean much more stable). Great work

Sat, Jun 19 2010 - 11:30 AM rating by jacko1

Amanda, I am pleasantly surprised by the depth & insight of this report, it was very well written & contained loads of information so useful to the'wouldbe' traveller, very well done!

Sat, Jun 19 2010 - 10:15 AM rating by pesu

Clearly structured very interesting report about a trip influenced by unsettled times. Thank you, Amanda!

Sat, Jun 19 2010 - 03:30 AM rating by krisek

Good report, Amanda. You went at an interesting time indeed. Thanks for sharing your story.

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