For the record I wrote this post whilst sat on an air conditioned bus. I bought my bus ticket on level three of the bus station, which has grown into a shopping centre. Within ten minutes of the bus starting I was given a complimentary water to go with my ample leg room!
From the moment I stepped off the plane I was aware that I had reached a new stage of my trip. It’s hard not to look for similarities and differences to the Indian subcontinent, but other than touts, it felt like I had entered a new world. And it was this in mind that Bangkok felt intimidating. The size of it is nothing in comparison to other cities i have visited on this trip, but when you get so used to the disorganised it strangely became hard to get used to the organised. An airport bus straight to the main backpackers area was the first surprise. The next was the backpacker area! I remember Grant in Nepal saying that you can’t describe Th Khao San road, rather you had to see it to believe it. It was a frustrating description but I now fully understand. The first backpackers must sit open mouthed at what they started. A once quiet street has transformed into the ‘ultimate’ tourist haven. I’ve never seen a place like it. Pahar ganj in Delhi is the closest, but amongst it all, everyday Indian life continues, not every shop and person is out to provide a service to Westerners. Its crowded, loud, eccentric and for the first day sitting having a cold beer, fun! However by the time I left I honestly find it hard to look at it in any way other than a monstrosity! Thankfully my sanity was saved by staying in a lovely bargain hotel down a backstreet and away from the chaos.
In terms of sights Bangkok comes up trumps. The Wat Phra Kaew is one of the most spectacular sites I have seen to date. I hadn’t got a clue what to expect when I entered, along with Mirolovsky and Max, who i had met at various points in Bangkok but it knocked us all for six. The stupas, temples and other buildings are remarkable. They just kept coming! Just down from the complex is Wat Pho, featuring Thailands largest reclining Buddha and boy is it big! 46m long and 15m high, finished in gold leaf. Stupidly extravagant and utterly breathtaking. From there we took the boat along the canal and then the sky train to Siam square. I sat with my jaw wide open in awe at the sky train. Air conditioned carriages, clean, stations named clearly over the speakers and on the tv, huge sky scrapers out of the window, it really is a different world! Siam square was a very different part of the city and fascinating to see, huge shopping centres, everyone dressed as if they were going to a fashion show, it was superb people watching material and showed off just how modern Bangkok is. In the evening back in the area of Khao San road, the lights were turned on, the volume pumped up and it prepared to party long into the night. It was whilst sat in a bar chatting away that I decided that i would leave the following day. From the brief stay, Bangkok is a city of many faces. Despite desperately wanting to view it as positively as many of the sights I had seen there, it was hard to look past the dark undercurrent that seemed to be wrapped up with them. I suppose I just could’nt reconcile the feeling that Bangkok had sold out to tourism. Sure thats a huge and largely unjust generalisation but despite having a good time there and with plenty more to see, i found myself desperate to escape it!