Thailand – Bangkok, same-same but not different

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Dave


During my trip I have visited Bangkok a number of times.  My first was arriving to meet Jonas prior to our trip to Vietnam.  He has been to Bangkok often and was kind enough to act as a guide to me whilst we explored some of the more frequented touristy areas in addition to those areas that Bangkok is so famous for.

Bangkok was my hub for my trips to the southern and middle regions of Thailand; for my trip to Myanmar and my last minute trip to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.  The central location if offers made travel to these places simple and at low cost.  The airport offered flights to anywhere in the world, from Toronto to Sydney, Manila to Tokyo and using www.skyscanner.net you can easily find cheap those budget flights.

Lonely Planet introduces Bangkok in it’s well read South East Asia guide as – ‘Ladies and gentlemen, fasten your seatbelts. You are now entering Bangkok, a city that is always on the move. ‘  But my take on the city is somewhat different.

But first some facts (as you know I love facts).  The city isn’t really called Bangkok.  It was name bestowed upon it by westerners.  It is in fact called Krungthep mahanakhon amonratanakosin mahintara ayuthaya mahadilok popnopparat ratchathani burirom udomratchaniwet mahasathan amonpiman avatansathit sakkathattiya witsanukamprasit.” Whilst the name is long (the longest of any city in the world) the locals shorten it to Krung Threp, which translates as ‘City of Angels’.

Most people I have met love the city in a unique and overly passionate way.  They are attracted by its low cost of living (compared to western cities), the warmer climate and the party going atmosphere dominated and grown by the Europeans, Americans and Australians.

I’m not a Bangkok fan.  I don’t despise it, of course not, but I’m not attracted to the city and what it has to offer.  I really don’t think it’s anything special and I look at people with bemusement when they think it’s the best place in the world.

The Bangkok skyline


The city is of course nothing like what you see in movies such as ‘The Hangover 2’ (a terrible film).  There is a perception that Bangkok is brothels, prostitutes and ‘ping-pong’ shows.  It is not.  There are say just a few roads with these on but that’s it.  Similar to Amsterdam and it’s red light district – it’s just a very, very small part of the city (and one where you don’t see any locals there either).

Kosan Road at night

The main party street in Bangkok is called Kosan Road.  To describe this road simply look at a typical ‘English street’ that you would find in the Costal Del Sol or one of the Greek islands such as Kavos.  The place is busy during the day and then chaotic in the evening.  Dotted in the middle of this pedestrianised road are food vendors offering an eclectic mix of beetles and bugs to consume. 

The city offers a great selection of malls and shops; another thing Bangkok and on the whole Thailand is famous for, and quite rightly so.  A thing that I’ve noticed a lot on my trip is that Asia likes to build all their malls together rather than what we have in the UK where there tends to be a mall in every major town and city. 

The size of the malls in Asia far exceeds the scales that we see in the UK too.  Many are seven or eight floors and can take more than a day to navigate around.  For Bangkok they had the largest, MBK and also the most sophisticated, Siam Paragon.  In between these two malls stood a further three malls all interconnected via open and covered walkways.

MBK Mall

Sian Paragon mall

MBK is the mall you should attend if you are looking for the typical high street stores and also if you are hunting for a bargain.  Siam Paragon focuses on designer apparel and the chic.

As I was in Bangkok for twenty days I did frequent them often, but not just for shopping.  All the malls contained multiplex theatres, Siam Paragon was by far the best.  They boasted a 4D cinema (if you’re not sure what that is check out my Beijing post), and also an IMAX cinema too. 

What makes Thailand slightly different for the cinema-goer than going to the UK is not just the Thai subtitles on English films but what happens just before the film starts.  The lights dim fully, and some calming music begins to play.  Everyone stands up.  Some hold hands.  Then the screen starts showing a video of the King, in all his awesomeness.  Pictures of him growing up, visiting his subjects, and making decisions.  Basically highlighting his importance to Thailand and how he feels he has helped to shape it.  At the end of the montage which ends with a big orchestral piece you sit and the film commences.

A video clip of the opening montage to the King

Siam Paragon Multiplex theatre



If you are planning to stay in Bangkok and are looking for hostel then I strongly ‘Lub D’ in Silom Square.  The hostel is very modern and chic, and is the second best hostel I’ve stayed in (the first being ‘BackHome’ in Kuala Lumpur).

I met a few groups of people during my stay.  One of the groups I met, a group of girls from Ireland, all decided to head out on a trip to the ‘famous’ floating market (a place often plastered all over guide books on Thailand), then to the Bridge over the river Kwai and then finally to a Tiger sanctuary.

Leaving the day after booking the weather started off fairly okay.  We had a long trip, I think about an hour or two to get to the floating market.  As we arrived it slowly started to rain, and then it got heavier and heavier.  It turned into the typical Thai rainstorm.  We were getting drenched.  We chose the wrong day to go around the floating market and worse still we were on a boat without a roof. 



How we wished for a boat with some cover


Ignoring the rain the place still didn’t look like the pictures you.  It was full of tourists and is now far from what it was during traditional times.  It almost seems false and is simply there for show.

Leaving the floating market we headed to the bridge over the river Kwai, which was a bridge basically over a river (hence the name).


Finally we headed to the Tiger sanctuary.  It was still raining, but lightly this time, and it turned out to be a really enjoyable afternoon.  The sanctuary opened after a tiger was rescued from a circus I believe.  Since then they have been bringing in rescued tigers and looking after them in the very large outdoor complex.  The organisation are primarily staffed by volunteers and receive funding through large charitable donations and also by offering tours to tourists, like me, to see them, walk them and pat them!


A theme of yawning cats as my conversation wasn't that entertaining

Even the small cats where nothing compared my two cats, Tiger and Chief

Overall the city is popularised by a false image of what it actually is and it is this false image that attracts the tourists, for their economy is that a bad thing?  I don’t know.  Beyond the false image, you do have a thriving South East Asian city that is pretty much the ‘same-same’ as all the other Asian cities I have visited and because of this I wasn’t overly wowed by it like many others.

5 comments:

  1. Hi Dave Lovely photo's.They cat's are beautiful a want one.Chief n Tigger would have them for starters though.Lol.Mumxxx

    ReplyDelete
  2. Nice blog. BKK used to be a lot of fun, but nowadays with all these "party-tourists" flooding the city, I also use it merely as a Hub... and to hit Subways, of course!;)
    Great pics! Love the tigers, but its kinda frightening to see two bloodthirsty gingerhaired creatures in one picture! :)
    I am fairly certain I was there when you took the first one on rainy patpong?

    Keep the posts coming, its what keeps me going in what they call "summer in europe"!

    Cheers

    ReplyDelete
  3. Glad to see that you posted again! Sounds like you're having fun :-) I hope you have a good time in Sydney too.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hey bud - your "agingerabroad" email is not working. We met in Thailand - hangin' with the Irish. Hope all is well! How can I reach you via email?

    Karim

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hey Karim, hope you're doing well. what's your Facebook name and I'll get you added. Dave.

    ReplyDelete

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