Adventures in Asia: Bangkok (Part Two)

The last 2 days I had in Bangkok were equally as fun as the first two were. Seeing that we had seen most of the temples, the last 2 days were spent at markets, good food joints, and wandering around.

There was, however, one temple that I hadn’t yet done yet, which was Wat Pho (also known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha) and so, we did this first thing in the morning of the third day. This Buddha was 46 metres long and 15 metres tall, covered in gold leaf. I remember how shocked I was when I first saw it. It looked like it was so large that it was squeezed into the building, about to burst out of the temple’s four walls. I kept thinking, “Wow, I thought I had seen the biggest reclining Buddha I’d ever see in Penang.” For reference, that one was about 33 metres, so you can imagine how I felt standing in front of one that was now 13 metres longer, taller, and much, much more golden.

I started from its head and slowly moved my way towards its feet, stopping to take pictures and marveling at the statue and the gaze of the Buddha as it seemed to follow me down the length of the temple. The feet itself were 5 metres long and had many carvings on it; they seemed to tell a story all on its own.

Since I saw that first reclining Buddha in Penang, I’ve been so fascinated by them. Yes, I think it’s interesting that they represent the Buddha at the moment of death. But what I am even more captivated by is how much power they seem to exert over the entire surrounding area. In their presence, you can’t help but feel small, so moved by this higher power. I also can’t help but picture how they built something so big back then with the limited technology they did. I’d come to ask myself this question after seeing many more things that blew me away.

In the temple, you have the option of purchasing a bowl of coins that you can drop, one by one, into 108 bronze bowls that line the length of the walls. It’s all for “good luck” and the money that you spend goes back to funding the upkeep of the temple. I thought it was a fun and meaningful activity to do and it was cool for everybody –tourists, believers, and the like – to be going down the line, in one neat row, dropping coins into these bowls.

Afterward, Hailey and I wandered over to the Suppaniga Eating Room for lunch. It was the perfect spot to eat – it was right on the river, had the cutest eating space and décor, had great authentic Thai food, and also was awarded a Michelin Star! She had a Khao Pad Nam and I had a Khao Klook Ka Pi, both of which were essentially just rice paired with a variety of ingredients and spices.

After our lunch, seeing that we were already on the river, we were able to wander out to the dock just behind the restaurant and negotiate a price for a shared boat with some other tourists.

The boat we hopped on would take us around Bangkok’s main river and some of the smaller side rivers for about an hour. Aside from the cool and fun experience of getting to ride around in a boat with the wind in our hairs, I loved the boat tour because we got to see the other parts of Bangkok that are sometimes hidden to tourists in the more populated areas. We saw a lot of dilapidated houses (that looked like wooden shacks that were barely standing) by the riverside, and all the surrounding areas noticeably looked much poorer. We also got to see a lot of the locals (some of who gave us a friendly wave or smile after seeing our boat go by).

At one point during the boat ride, a man in his own smaller boat came up to us to sell some of the things he had: beer, ice-cold water, souvenirs, images of the Buddha, etc. He picked up a beer, pointed at the driver of our boat who was a couple of feet behind us and was trying to tell us in his broken English that we should buy a beer for him. It was our first taste of Bangkok’s famous “floating markets”, I guess.

Later on, we even saw a giant sitting Buddha in the distance. I wasn’t sure if it was a tourist attraction but it looked to be under construction for the time being.

We took the rest of the afternoon off so that we had a chance to re-charge. At night, for dinner, we decided to head to Bangkok’s Neon Night Market, which had a ton of vendors selling souvenirs and had a lot of good food options. I opted for the traditional Pad Thai dinner that I’d basically been having for almost every meal and for dessert, we had a banana and chocolate roti (one of Bangkok’s best street food options)

After wandering around the Neon Night Market for a bit, we realized that we had pretty much popped our heads into all of the stands already. By this point, it was only about 8 pm so we tried to think about what else to do that night. I pulled out my phone and searched up tourist attractions nearby, just in case there was something nearby that we could still see. We were in a pretty remote area in Bangkok so the only thing that was decently nearby that had popped up was Patpong Road. Google Maps described it as an entertainment district in Bangkok, catering mainly to foreign tourists and expatriates. It was also internationally known as a red-light district at the heart of Bangkok’s sex industry. I had turned to Hailey and said, “Hailey, we need to go check that out.”

It was about 2 km from where we were so since we had nothing better to do and because it was a nice, cool night, we decided to walk there, which took an hour. It was such a great way to see more of the city and on the way, we stumbled upon Erawan Shrine, which is something that I had actually read about before this trip. It’s described as being “a little slice of calm in the center of town.” It houses a statue of Phra Phrom, the Thai representation of Brahma which is the God of Creation. And coincidentally, when we stumbled upon it, there was a group of Thai dancers doing a performance. 

We finally got to Patpong Road and were instantly brought into the lively and touristy atmosphere. We were wandering up and down the main road, totally bewildered by what we were seeing and what was happening. We had people coming up to us every minute to sell us ping-pong shows (I had to google what this was on my first night in Thailand), selling us drinks, and more. At one point, our curiosity got the better of us and we wandered into one of the places on the main road to just see what was going on inside. Let’s just say that for an hour that night, we witnessed some very elaborate dancing. It definitely will be a story to tell for the next 40 years and an experience that will forever bond the two of us.

Hailey said to me at the end of the night, “When you don’t have plans is when crazy stuff happens. What did I tell you?” She couldn’t have been more right. What a great (great?) way to spend my last night in the city.

Day 4

My flight back to Singapore wasn’t until that evening so we still had the morning and early afternoon to sightsee together. Since it was a Saturday (and therefore the weekend), we chose to visit one of the floating markets, which are incredibly frequented by tourists in Bangkok. There is a really big one that has been made very popular but unfortunately, it’s a two-hour drive outside the city. And I’ve also heard that because it’s been made so popular by tourists, it now feels more like a tourist trap than an authentic floating market. So because our time was limited, Hailey and I chose to go to Taling Chan, a floating market only a few kilometres from where Hailey was staying.

When we got there, we realized that there was actually a tour of 3 floating markets at 9:45 am for only about 90 baht (from what I can remember). They only do a tour at that one time every Saturday and Sunday, so, unfortunately, we didn’t get a chance to be on a boat and see the floating market boats pass by us on either side. So instead, we got to walk along a dock that had a few boats left, selling their goods to tourists on the docks. And luckily, there was also a huge land market at the same site where we found some souvenirs for friends and some gifts for ourselves.

Our last stop that day was the Chatuchak market, where we spent a couple of hours. I had a few more items on my shopping list that I wanted to get and Hailey kept saying that this was the perfect place to do it. Chatuchak, which is only open on weekends, is the largest market in all of Thailand. It has more than 15,000 stalls and 11,505 vendors which are divided into 27 sections. It’s the world’s largest and most diverse weekend market, with over 200,000 visitors every weekend. You’ll see everything in this market, from plants to antiques to electronics to clothing to gifts to furniture to books and more. And what makes it all even more overwhelming is that you’d go down one alley and suddenly, you couldn’t remember where you were in the whole market. You’d come out the other end and feel as if you were just picked up and placed on a different side of the world. To make it more confusing, all the vendors and small shops looked the same and sold the same things – you’d see a purse and think that it looked familiar, but really so many shops were selling the same thing all for different prices. It was a world of cheap goods and continued bargaining at Chatuchak.

That wraps up the weekend spent in Bangkok — a weekend I am never going to forget. Next trip: Japan!

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