Exploration of Bangkok around the Chao Phraya river
After a nap of an hour, I refresh myself and want to start my first exploration of Bangkok. First and foremost, I want to find the river – the Chao Phraya – a distinctive landmark and the way to move relatively quickly in Krung Thep, the local name of the city which is best described as City of Angels. A fellow traveler residing in the same guesthouse has joined me.
Strolling through quiet streets
We find the Chao Phraya river immediately, probably with a bit of luck involved. We stroll around in the neighborhood, walk into a renovated temple complex, with a lot of glitters, but not really impressive. Later on, we walk through some streets with food stalls. As it is Sunday, the city seems rather quiet.
Legit tourist information center?
More or less on the way back to the hotel, we find a tourist information center. Tempted to get some info we enter the place. In my opinion, the correct prices are mentioned for the destinations we are interested in visiting. The lady who informs us is a speech waterfall. Frequently she mentions T.A.T. – the Tourism Authority of Thailand, but nowhere I see a logo or sign that indicates this small office is officially a part of that organization. When she uncovers a nifty reference letter and offers us a free overnight stay above the office when booking a trekking tour, we back off.
An organized tour to the khlongs
Back at the hotel, the staff informs us about an organized tour to the khlongs, the canals in Bangkok, including a floating market. Quite spontaneously we book this trip with six people. Afterward, after a journey of 3 hours, we can be dropped at the royal palace. That`s killing two birds with one stone in our exploration of Bangkok.
Floating around the channels in a long-tail boat
At 9 o’clock the next morning we commence our tour with ten people in a long-tail boat to the khlongs. The khlongs are a tangle of natural and laid out channels in the City of Angels. At the floating market, the Thai try to sell their merchandise in small, motorized boats. There is not so much trading going on, as only sporadically we encounter a salesman/saleswoman.
Rich and poor living together at the khlongs
But it is nice to float around the khlongs. Apparently the poor and the rich live together fraternally around here. Ramshackle wooden houses on stilts form the majority, but you also pass concreted models, and occasionally even spacious, luxury pile houses in teak wood.
Only a few volunteers to visit a snake farm
Along the way, we make a few stops, including at a snake farm, annex a zoo. Only a few of us are entering. Asian zoos are usually rather miserable places for the animals. Later we stop at an orchid plantation. Our guide explains the breeding process. Back on the boat, we get an elucidation about the Thai man-woman relationship. I fear that if he continues at this pace, he will end up being thrown in the water by the women in our company.
A temple swarming with catfish
Then we stop at a temple along the water. It turns out to be swarming with catfish, you can even touch them. Soon it becomes clear why. The animals – specimens up to 40 cm long – are fed richly here daily with whole pieces of bread. The fish flock to the food thrown in the water, a rather spectacular sight.
The Grand Palace is a must-see during your exploration of Bangkok
Our trip ends when we get dropped at the Grand Palace on the shore. The palace forms a gigantic complex of temples, galleries, administrative buildings, and halls. The King’s Cult is kept in high esteem in Thailand; he actually does not live at the palace but uses the spaces for ceremonial purposes. The temples and buildings are richly filled with gold and other colors, often also covered with mosaic. In an exploration of Bangkok, this remains a must-see for every visitor.
Outstanding massage treatments at Wat Po
After visiting the Royal Palace, we walk around at a local market and decide to take our chance to order some rice and vegetables at a food stall. The meal tastes delicious, and the impression prevails that our stomachs will not protest. After lunch, I visit Wat Po, a temple known for its outstanding massage treatments by blind people. Again also here you can admire the colorful mosaic style, but with significantly less gold on the stupas. The most impressive statue is the enormous, lying Buddha, gilded in gold, in one of the buildings.
A crazy tuk-tuk ride to the night market in Patpong
When the heat is starting to take its toll, we decide to return to our hotel with the riverboat, the way to move quickly in busy Bangkok. After refreshment in the hotel, we decide to explore the night market in Patpong. We’re taking a tuk-tuk; some sort of a 3 wheeled and covered motorcycle. After some negotiation, the driver takes off through the traffic like crazy and clearly enjoys it. But he does bring us where we need to be. Patpong is one of the many nightlife and red-light districts of Bangkok. There are several bars and strip tents between the selling stalls. You must have seen it, but it doesn’t really appeal to me.
Rather expensive restaurants in a rancid atmosphere
The area has a separate, somewhat rancid atmosphere. Occasionally someone asks us to enter a bar, but I had expected more intrusiveness. Trying to find a place to eat, we find out that prices are a bit high, and the music being played is quite loud. Until we see a Mexican restaurant somewhere in a side street. The food tastes slightly spicy but delicious. After dinner we walk around Silom Road, one of the big boulevards … and we bump back into our tuk-tuk driver. Did he follow us? Anyway, we engage him to ride us back to our hotel to end our initial exploration of Bangkok.