Bangkok in a Nutshell
- MasterCard says that Thailand's capital of Bangkok is the most visited city in the world, ahead of London. It welcomes 16 million international arrivals a year.
- Bangkok is known to Thais as Krung Thep Maha Nakho, but its full ceremonial name is Krungthepmahanakhon Amonrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharatratchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amonphimanawatansathit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit.
- Bangkok is a very large sprawling city bisected by the Chao Phraya River,Bangkok was once crisscrossed by dozens of canals or “khlongs”, and its buildings stood on stilts, earning it the nickname Venice of the East. Most have now been filled, over the years.
- The most atmospheric city life seems to take place on the waters where long tailed boats and water taxis ply constantly up and down (these are quite useful to avoid the congested roads).
- The backpacker’s mecca, the Khaosan Road, is crammed with cheap hotels and bars and dubious looking massage parlours. Thai massage is available on every corner. This is where I stay on my early trips. before I head north to Chiang Mai and the Mekong.
- Marvelling at the glitzy temples, with their assorted Buddhas. Wat Pho Temple with its enormous reclining Buddha, famous for its training in the Thai style massage, where if you are lucky, someone walks on your back. On the opposite shore, Wat Arun Temple with its steep steps and Khmer-style spire. Further away The Golden Buddha, officially titled Phra Phuttha Maha Suwana Patimakon, a gold statue, with a weight of 5.5 tons, located in the temple of Wat Trait.
- The must see (if you’re up to braving the crowds) is the most opulent sight of them all, the Grand Palace (the King’s home) and its sacred Wat Phra Kaew Temple, that contains the tiny Emerald Buddha
- A trip out to Damnoen Saduak Floating Market – more long tailed boats, chock full of all manner of vegetables, and vendors in their conical straw hats. (A Thai tourist destination that was in decline and has now been revived.)
- Shopping for fake designer goods in Patpong, where I stock up om 'Armani' jeans. Fried grasshoppers for supper. There's a famous red light district here, at the heart of Bangkok's sex industry. This one is more international – unfortunately there are quite a few others, catering mainly to Thai tastes
- And some incredible hotels. with amazing service. The Banyan Tree (there are several) is great. I've flown in from Brunei this time. Fifty minutes in the taxi from the airport - that’s not bad for Bangkok and I'm there. The skyline has changed since 2005. There are many more tower blocks and very little Thai script. Nearly all the signs are in English now. My Banyan Tree is in an upmarket hotel area adjacent to an equally upmarket shopping area. And things are definitely looking up. I’ve been upgraded to a suite. So I have a little palace on one of the top floors. There’s three separate rooms and a huge tub. It’s a shame I don’t have time to indulge. I’m off shopping, trying to match the bamboo design steel cutlery I bought in Kho Samui in 2003.- some items have gone AWOL over the years. I have researched on the internet and found a shop in a plaza that stocks Thai cutlery and they have almost identical items to mine. The shopkeeper tells me that my exact design isn’t made any more. ‘Same, same’. I’m pleased to find a decent match and tired so I don’t bargain and he’s pleased too. There’s massage shop in the plaza so I head there next. When in Rome.
- I’ve taken a taxi to the plaza as the concierge has ensured a fixed price for me. It’s double the meter rate, but still cheaper than the price he will try and extort from me if I’m left on my own. Or it will be ‘Cheap price only if you visit the tailor shop too’. So I decide to walk back to the hotel and plot a scenic route on Google, across Lumpini Park. It seems, additionally, to cut off a corner The park is chock full of joggers and after navigating them I find myself back in the road where the hotel is located. I can see it on the other side. Except that there is no way of crossing the dual carriageway, which is barricaded in the middle, not to mention packed with vehicles. I ask directions from a kindly Thai jogger who sends me to a zebra crossing up at the next junction. It adds half a mile to the journey. So much for Google.
- Dinner in the hotel. Amazing red duck curry and chillie vodka cocktails in the rooftop bar. I shall definitely have to come back.
- Next stop Bangladesh.