Thursday, 19 June 2014

Not-so bustling Bangkok

Journeying down the Chao Phraya river as the sun beams down on my face, I enter into a jet-lag induced haze until a crackle on the sound-system jolts me from my slumber. I'm aboard the popular tourist ferry boat taking us from the central pier in search of Bangkok's greatest attraction - The Grand Palace.

The May heat in Bangkok is like nothing else I've ever experienced, and when paired with the month's high humidity it makes for a heady concoction. As one of the ferrymen helps us jump off the boat and onto the pier we're greeted by the hustle and bustle of a Thai street market. The heat gives no respite and only increases as you walk through it thanks to the copious amount of street vendors cooking up a delectable buffet of dishes.

Vast, tall white walls cocoon the Grand Palace, but our tiredness somehow leads us walking in the opposite direction to the entrance. Instead, we happen upon Wat Pho, the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. Named after an Indian monastery where Buddha is said to have lived, it is home to 91 chedis each intricately decorated with a rainbow of colours. The star attraction, however, is the reclining Buddha. Entering the hall - robed, with shoes in hand - the size of it makes me gasp. Fellow tourists stand at awkward angles around the space trying to photograph its entirety.

We decide to make the most of our riverside location, and walk back to the pier in order to travel to Wat Arun, pausing at a street-stall for a coconut to drink, and witness the female owner carelessly strike the top off with a meat cleaver before inserting fluorescent coloured straws.

The ideal place to get photos of one of the country's best Temple's is while you're on the ferry crossing, as snaps become the last thing on your mind when you're challenged to climb to the two different levels. Despite it not being Bangkok's tallest monument, the steps are so steep all your focus is on getting up/down.

As we travel back down the river to our starting point, I begin to wonder what all of the bad-press about a hectic Bangkok was about. Perhaps it's the season, but I haven't found the most visited city in the world a hassle in the slightest.

We catch the cool air-conditioned haven that is the SkyTrain back to Asok station, and have a five minute walk through Sukhumvit to our hotel to freshen-up for the evening. At a mere £26 per night Windsor Suites was a gem of a hotel, 14 stories high with a roof-top pool to boot, it was more than we needed to rest our weary heads.

Showered and somewhat refreshed, we catch one of the many taxi's lining the capital city's streets a few soi's down to the infamous Cabbages & Condoms restaurant, which graces the pages of many travel guides. Opting to sit in the 'garden' we are greeted with what can be better described as a jungle of trees and greenery, with fairy lights and lamps giving the area a gentle glow.

The restaurant has been a Bangkok institution for many years after the owner decided there was a desperate need in the country for a better understanding and acceptance of family planning. We opted for Thai Green Curry, vegetable spring rolls and fried shrimp - all guaranteed 'not to cause pregnancy'.

With our full stomachs we make the cross-city journey to the popular backpacker location of Khaosan Road where we have our first sights of the copious amount of fake-goods on offer in the city. Stalls offering popular international brands line the streets, while travellers spill out of bars Chang's in hand. A few spit-spots of rain suddenly becomes a typical Thai thunderstorm and we find shelter in a bar, before deciding to give in to our jet-lag.

In the taxi back to our hotel, I watch skyscrapers and colourful tuk-tuk's pass my window and understand why this city is visited so often by the world over.

Becs x

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