Day 1 in Bangkok - assault on the senses!

After a l-o-n-g day of flying, a transit in Singapore, and another shorter flight, we finally arrived in Bangkok last night, ready to explore the city that never sleeps.

We're staying in the Grande Ville Hotel in the Chinatown district of Bangkok. It seems pretty central, and even 18 floors up, we can hear the endless din of the traffic, the occasional squeal of brakes, and the incessant car horns. Thai drivers really love their car horns!

I'm on a mission to try something new, food-wise, every day. The hotel puts on a great buffet breakfast, and as well as some fantastic pineapple and watermelon, I tried a fruit that kinda tasted like a cross between a pear and a potato. There was a sugary looking mixture with what looked chilli flakes mixed through it, near this mystery fruit, so I sprinkled some on and had a taste. It turned out to be salt mixed with sugar, which gave it all a fairly bizarre sweet and salty taste. Not sure I'll go back for that tomorrow, but it was worth a go.

We then donned the camera gear and started the day's walk down to the Chao Phraya river. It was looking pretty full and full of debris after the recent floods - I can only imagine how much water came through this city in what were its worst floods in 70 years.

As soon as you step outside the relative peace of the hotel, Bangkok screams at your senses to wake up, and see, hear, smell, touch and taste everything it has to offer.

Tuk tuks, cars, taxis, buses, trucks and motorcycles jockey for position down the crowded streets, changing "lanes" without indication, using their horns instead. People squeeze down the narrow footpath between the road and the shops, with all manner of food, electronics, clothes and kitchenware out for sale.

Narrow, grotty little alleyways spear off to the right and left, with shafts of light beaming down through holes in tarpaulins. Everywhere, there is the smell of something delicious cooking - corn over hot coals, chicken on skewers, and huge pans with hot stuff simmering away. There are also foul smells - the rubbish on the streets, dog poop, and rank water running through the drains.

We walked down to the Pak Khlong Market on the river. It was a huge complex and completely frantic, even at 11am. Fresh food and produce was bundled, bagged and stacked as far as the eye could see - four bwzillion types of "Asian greens"' enough garlic to keep the world's vampire population at bay for the next three centuries, and all of the delicious ingredients such as limes, lemongrass, chillis and basil, that you associate with Thai food.

There were hilarious sighs in the markets - cats making comfy beds in bowls of limes, tiny ladies trying to wheel huge, full trolleys through the tiny, crowded isles, and all sortsa weird offal that I prefer not to ponder too much. We walked past one food stall, where the guy was cooking "spicy chicken" so spicy, that standing within 30ft of him, made us cough in that "chilli's got the back of your throat" kinda way. For 30 baht, or a mere AUD$1, it looked like an amazing meal.

Photographically, the markets were a visual paradise - so many colours and textures, and sights just a tad different from good old Brisvegas. Seeing different things, and how other people live, is one of the reasons I Iove traveling so much.

A photo board showed photos of how the floods had effected this market - it almost looked like the Rocklea markets post-floods. It's great to see the Thai people getting back on their feet and trading so soon after such devastating events...I guess it's the same everywhere - when your livelihood is effected, you do whatever it takes to get back on deck.

We continued our walk through various parts of downtown Bangkok. We were frequently offered tuk tuks to transport us, but preferred to walk. I reckon you see more when you're not hanging off the back of a mobile death trap. I will definitely have a tuk tuk ride at some stage, but it was great to be able to stop and take photos whenever we wanted.

The temples here are large, ornate and everywhere. "Wat" is the word for temple. "Which Wat is that?" became my question du made me giggle anyway :)

We wandered up to Wat Indrawiharn, where the main attraction was the 105ft/32m tall standing Buddha. Good grief it was large! Cats and tourists strolled around the complex, the cats looking for cosy beds in the sun, and tourists seeking the shade.

After being immersed in food markets all morning, we decided to go for the street food option for lunch outside Wat Indrawiharn. We both tried spicy chicken fried with holy basil and rice. Delicious! And such a bargain at 30 baht per dish.

Next stop was the Thewet Flower Market, which is both a great smelling and looking place to explore. Flower sellers sat round plucking damaged petals off their roses and bundling at least two dozen in a bunch, then wrapped the lot in newspaper. In some cases, the buds were individually wrapped in what looked like a specially made foam. I loved how far they went to protect the flowers!

As well as cars and tuk tuks, boats are a popular and convenient way to get around this city. We headed down to the nearest pier and caught the Chao River Express, a "river bus", back towards the Memorial Bridge, where we'd more or less started our day at the markets.

The boats fang it up and down the river with no apparent speed limits. Long boats zoom past tugboats, which are pulling or pushing massive barges. It all feels a bit James Bond-esque. Docking at each pier down the line is a loud and occasionally whiplash-inducing experience, where a boat hand whistles loudly to signal the boat is coming into a pier. Then the captain does an intricate series of movements, shoving the motors into forward and reverse, to shunt the boat (rather violently) into position....but we got to our destination in the end!

Our hotel has a rooftop bar on the 24th floor, which provides a pretty spectacular view over the city. Cocktails on the rooftop seemed like the perfect way to end our first day in Bangkok!

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  1. Michelle RavenscroftDecember 29, 2011 at 5:36 AM

    Wow Mel so much in just one mind blowing, but awesome!
    Enjoy the rest of your trip and I look forward to reading and learning more!!
    Great photos.

  2. Hey Michelle, thank you, and yep, it was pretty full on, as I think each day will be :) going crazy taking photos, so there will be a LOT to sort through when we get home, but we're really enjoying exploring this city! Happy New Year to you!

  3. To me, Bangkok is always one of the best places to consider for a holiday. Friendly folks, nice food, shopping sprees, entertaining night life, etc. Read more about Bangkok here.