After our two week Christmas break in Europe with a total climate shock, we are now continuing our travels in Thailand’s capital at temperatures that have almost become the rule for us during the past months. We chose to continue our travels in Bangkok because we both wanted to celebrate New Year’s evening in one of Asia’s most exciting cities.
First Impressions of Bangkok
Apart from two transit stops in Bangkok of very short duration, it is the first time both Ilinca and me actually make it to the city. And I was really surprised that the traffic situation was excellent on our day of arrival. As it turned out, this was only because it was an early Sunday morning. After my whole stay in Bangkok, I confirm also Bangkok, just like any other South East Asian city I’ve visited (except Singapore) has a traffic problem, but I have seen worse, e.g. in Jakarta or Kuala Lumpur.
Old Town of Bangkok
The old town of Bangkok really is quite different from its more modern neighborhoods. It is home to many of the cultural attractions such as the king’s palace, many temples, and museums. And all the small streets with its cafés, small shops, and restaurants, have its charm.
Going Out in the Old Town
Khao San Road is most likely Bangkok’s most famous road. During the day, the road is more or less calm with massage salons, restaurants, and some of street vendors. In the evening the street fills rapidly with tourists and at night there are many bars and discos attracting passing tourists with loud music and smiling Thai girls holding the menus. I guess it must be a great party location for younger and near deaf people, but for Ilinca and me, the music was way too loud. Besides, we are both still suffering from the jetlag these days.
However, only one or two blocks away there are other small streets with street food stalls and small restaurants, but without the noise from Khao San. After a tasty and spicy dinner from one of the food stalls, we had a fresh mango for dessert and later on a drink at a small café in one of the streets. We really enjoyed being outside in the pleasant temperatures in the evening (around 28° C).
The Grand Palace
Thailand is a monarchy, and as in other countries, there is at least one big palace for the king. This is no different in Bangkok where the former official palace of the king is located. The whole palace complex is very impressive and contains its own temple named Wat Phra Kaew, several former administration buildings, and of course the former residence of the royals. Especially the temple was very beautiful, even when parts of it were obstructed by construction work. Especially the murals (wall paintings) that were painted on a covered walk around the whole temple complex were very beautiful.
I was really impressed by the dimensions of the whole complex, but the masses of tourists that were flooding reduced the whole experience a bit. There were queues everywhere, when entering the palace, when buying the tickets, even when entering the temples and for taking pictures. After one hour of visiting, we were happy to leave the complex again.
Right next to the Grand Palace is a temple named Wat Pho. It is probably the most impressive of all the temples we have seen in Bangkok, and there were already a lot less visitors there, which made a visit much more pleasant.
There are so many temples in Bangkok’s old town, that it is almost impossible to visit them all. Ilinca and I visited at least 3 more and less know temples, and all of them were beautiful, but the more Buddha statues we saw, the more repeating each visit became. So I guess we had a slight overdose of temples in Bangkok, but for sure we will visit plenty more temples during our next weeks in Thailand.
Modern Bangkok is a big contrast to the old town. There are sky trains and a metro, fancy hotels, shopping malls, and all the other conveniences you can find in a modern Asian metropolis. One thing modern Bangkok is really known for are its rooftop bars that provide a wonderful panorama about the vast dimensions of Bangkok. So one evening we also went up to one of these rather pricy roof top bars, but it was well worth it. Apart from the view, it was a welcome occasion to relax a bit and get out of the steamy and hot climate from down in the streets of Bangkok.
As we happened to be in Bangkok for New Year’s Eve, we decided to spend that evening at Asiatique, a shopping and entertainment complex directly at Chao Phraya, the main river that flows through Bangkok. It was an interesting experience. First we had a dinner in a small Indian restaurant, and then we sat at the river board with thousands of locals and tourists from all possible nations. And right at midnight, we could also enjoy some fireworks over the river. They were not the most impressive New Year’s fireworks I have ever seen, but it is the first time I could watch it in shorts and T-Shirts in tropical conditions. This made the whole experience very special.
After in total five days in Bangkok, we will visit the former Thai capital Ayutthaya before flying north to Chiang Mai.