The journey from Siam Reap to Bangkok was by day bus that took about eight hours including crossing the border between Cambodia and Thailand. When crossing into Thailand the first thing you will notice is the major difference in the level of cleanliness in the streets. There are “public toilets” that you pay a couple of cents for in most places with actual toilets and not squatter holes. The roads are like heaven in comparison to Cambodia with minimal bumps and respectable driving habits from all drivers. I arrived at the bus terminal on the outskirts of Bangkok and required some assistance to get a taxi to my hostel.
The Lub D Silom is a nice venue that has many of the essential amenities a backpacker requires and easily comparable to one of MTV’s Real World houses based on the style of the venue. Upon finding my bunk, I spoke with one of my roommates and was recommended to book a backwater canal and royal palace combo tour for my first full day in the city. This was a great decision as I got to see a side of Bangkok I had not previously heard of and the ability to visit the highlights as well. We took a skinny long boat through the canals to view all the old style houses that overhang the water. Other highlights include 130 year old artist’s house, a floating market, many temples, feeding the local fish that are huge, an orchid farm, and a tour of the main river. Around lunch we docked up near the royal palace and left the boat to continue on foot. The Royal Palace is a beautiful place that is extensively decorated and extremely busy at all times. An important point to know is every visitor must cover their legs and shoulders out of respect. If you arrive wearing shorts and a tank top you can borrow a cover up from the “queen’s shop” but be ready for a long wait to obtain some silk. There is plenty to see inside the palace though you are unable to take pictures inside any of the buildings. After visiting the palace we made our way over to the reclining Buddha, his final stance. This statue is almost 50 meters long, over two stories tall, and hailed as the best decorated in all of Bangkok. Once finished the tour, I shared a taxi back to our starting point with a few other people from the tour. Very shortly after getting in the car I figured out how bad Bangkok traffic was as it took almost an hour to go less than five kilometres. I vowed to not take a taxi again until I was going to the airport in the early hours of the morning when there would surely be no traffic. The far better method of transportation to move across the city is the skytrain and the river ferry. These are both quick ways to move anywhere no matter the time of day and price based on distance travelled.
For my second full day in the city I went with three of my roommates to a cooking school to learned some Thai recipes. This was another terrific experience as our chef spoke flawless english, had a good sense of humour, and was patient throughout the day. We started off by going to the market to buy the main ingredients for the dishes we were going to cook. I enjoyed walking the market early in the morning amidst the hustle and bustle of the locals. We then walked a short distance to the cooking school, grabbed our aprons, and got to work. In the end we enjoyed six different dishes cooking everything ourselves along the way. This was an unexpected delight as you could change the flavour of the dish depending on your preference be it the heat of the dish or the added flavours. I spent my afternoon visiting the Thompson House and the Bangkok Arts and Culture Center. The Thompson House was a brief look into an American’s of exporting silk to New York city for designers to use in their fashion. The house itself was traditional in many senses of design and decor but incorporated some modern conveniences as per the owner like a staircase on the inside of the house and an ensuite bathroom in the guest room. The Culture Center is a modern building reminiscent of the Guggenheim in New York with the circular design incorporated in every level and every gallery. The first five floors are dedicated space for local business and artists in the community to show case their projects/business. Floors six through nine are for galleries and shows. During my visit there was a street art show on the seventh floor and a photography collection on the ninth. In a brief recap the street art show was about using art to speak about topics and ideas that are not allowed to be verbalized in Thailand. The photography collection was from a local photographer and her travels in the past year. My favourite part of the collection was a projection image of a star cluster 120,000 light years away and over 16,000 light years wide. To view this image you would look through a cut out in the wall to see a dark room with the image projected on the wall just as if you were looking through a telescope at the stars yourself. Once I finished in the galleries I headed across to the shopping mall superplex in search of a pair of pants as I didn’t bring any on my journey. I was able to purchase/haggle for a pair of pants and was on my way back to the hostel to meet up with a friend for an evening outing. In the evening we headed out to see a cabaret show, Calypso, with over 70 performers and a show time of approximately 80 minutes. There was show tunes, 90s tunes, rock and roll, and other genres all choreographed with up to the entire troop performing a song. We were able to see the performers up close after the show for pictures and they were very popular. A short river ferry home was all that was left for me in that long second day in Bangkok.
My final day visiting Bangkok was spent walking almost the entire length of the city from the eastern outskirts of downtown to the shores of the river near the palace. I have enjoyed walking the cities I have visited so far as I always see many things that I normally miss from the sky train, bus, or car. When I made my way through Chinatown I was surprised by more than a couple things. There was one bit of sidewalk that was so well covered that you could have sworn you were inside a building. I was also surprised by a vendor that laid down a blanket on the sidewalk and then dumped a bucket of phone chargers out into a massive pile; $1 a piece, your choice. The vendor beside him had his blanket with neatly laid out cellphones with cracked faceplates and otherwise what would appear to be cosmetic damage. I can only imagine what use these phones had and how much he was selling them for. My walk concluded with my arrival at the famed Khao San Road which is home to many hostels, street vendors, and late night shenanigans. A home for many Westerners in their travels and a place never short on excitement although I was only passing through with no intention of sticking around for dark to fall. I headed to the river and caught the ferry back to the skytrain where I walked the remaining distance home. I spent the evening packing and getting ready for my next city Kuala Lumpur.
Bangkok and Thailand is surely a place to visit. Next time I will make it a point to spend time in the southern regions and on some of the islands as the stories from other travellers speak of beautiful locations and tranquility.