Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Destination: Bangkok (Part 1)


Bangkok is perhaps the backpacking capital of the world. It is full of amazing sites, friendly locals, and delicious food. So in April, I hopped on a plane and spent a few days in the Thai capital.

Bangkok can be an intimidating place. Just take a look at its proper name: - กรุงเทพมหานคร อมรรัตนโกสินทร์ มหินทรายุธยา มหาดิลกภพ นพรัตนราชธานีบูรีรมย์ อุดมราชนิเวศน์มหาสถาน อมรพิมานอวตารสถิต สักกะทัตติยวิษณุกรรมประสิทธิ์, or Krungthepmahanakhon Amonrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharatratchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amonphimanawatansathit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit, translated "City of angels, great city of immortals, magnificent city of the nine gems, seat of the king, city of royal palaces, home of gods incarnate, erected by Visvakarman at Indra's behest.

Once you get past that mouthful, it's a blast just wandering about the city. Bangkok has a remarkable mix of ancient temples, modern architecture, and local shopping/food/entertainment. 

There is a dark underbelly, where you will inevitably be solicited to go to a sex show or a VIP massage. Sure, some people might find the "ping-pong shows" to be prime material for a good story, but patronizing these places forces young girls and boys down the road to be funneled into the sex trade, to feed the tourists' appetite for spectacle. I could talk about this at depth, but needless to say this was absolutely not my scene.

And, as always, one must beware the tuk-tuk drivers. They are experts at convincing you that the main attractions are shut for the day, and that they can show you to the other , like the infamous "Big Buddha." Their English is impeccable, and their eagerness is contagious. However, they are absolutely full of it, so do not ever listen to them. And walking around is the best way to get a feel for the city.

Grand Palace



The Grand Palace is the term used to describe the entire massive complex, and is divided into different courts. Tourists had access to two main areas: Wat Phra Kaeo, or the Chapel of the Emerald Buddha, and the Middle Court, where the Grand Palace is located. The picture above shows the Chakri Maha Prasat Hall, the main wing of the Grand Palace.

It's impossible to fully capture the grandeur of the place - I was absolutely blown away by the scale and craftmanship of every single structure. The Buddhism images told countless stories of virtue and bravery, while serene Buddhas stood watch in the many wats. Hopefully the photos below give some insight into the majesty of the Grand Palace.








Wat Pho, Temple of the Reclining Buddha


The reclining Buddha in Wat Pho is the second most visited temple in Bangkok. The mammoth Buddhas lying on his side is housed in a beautiful building, with intricate designs covering every wall and pillar





Wat Arun, Temple of Dawn


My final temple of the day was the Temple of Dawn. Overlooking the western banks of the Chao Phraya River, it is one of the most distinctive fixtures on the temple-heavy skyline. It is full of many Buddhas and other dignataries, and has been standing proudly since its construction sometime before 1656. I snapped the above photo at night, but climbed it earlier in the day (see below!).






The temples of Bangkok are breathtaking in every aspect - the size, the details of the designs, the gold and emerald beetle wing decorations, all are amazing. It is quite easy to get "templed out," but with enough breaks during the day one should fully appreciate the magnificence of ancient Bangkok.

Read Part 2 here.

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