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                                        BANGKOK, THAILAND

Bangkok is the fourth capital city of Thailand. Surrounded by Chao Phraya River on the west side and inner city moat and canals on the other side, Bangkok is filled with ruins, temples and deserted cities and many beaches.  With a population of 6 million, Bangkok is very diverse in culture and religion. Buddhism is the most common religion, which is 95% of the population and the other 4% is consumed by Muslim.

May 16

Our plane landed in Bangkok early afternoon and by suppertime we were checked into the New Siam II Hotel near Khao San Road in Bangkok.

Annie, Liam and Tony were already checked in and awaiting our arrival.

After dinner, we wandered around the Khao San Road area, a backpacker haven of lively nighttime activity.

May 17

Exploring the Old City
Straddling the Chao Phraya River and situated just north of Chinatown, the area where we were staying (Old City)
was near some of the most spectacular and revered historical
attractions in Bangkok.

We hopped into a Tuk Tuk and were given a quick tour of many of the surrounding venues.

All Manner of Buddha's

Our driver set the itinerary for our tour and we visited The Tallest Buddha, the Longest Reclining Buddha, The Biggest Sitting Buddha, the Crouching Buddha.....

Wat Indra Viharn 
features a huge standing Buddha image called "Luang Pho To".  The topknot of the Buddha image contains a relic of Lord Buddha brought from Sri Lanka.

Wat Sraket - the Golden Mount,
dating from 1800, an artificial hill topped by a gilded pagoda 260 feet in height from its base. Initiated by King Rama III the golden mount is one of the most celebrated landmarks in Bangkok's historic district and offers a panoramic city view from the top, after a vigorous climb up a winding staircase bordered with rows of bells.

Pictured here is me at the feet of the tallest Buddha, made of gold and standing 32 metres tall and 10 metres wide!

There are more Buddha images in Thailand than there are people.

Wat Kalayanamit

The biggest sitting Buddha image in Bangkok.

 

There are more Buddha images in Thailand than there are people.

River Boat Trip

The busy Chao Phraya River was lined with docks each housing an array of colourful boats of all descriptions. We hired a longtail for 500 baht and enjoyed a private leisurely boat ride through the canals to explore Klong Bangkok Noi and Klong Bangkok Yai. Bangkok is like Venice in its network of waterways, still used for transportation around the city.

Our driver likely did not speak English, or perhaps he just was not talkative, so we had to guess at some of the landmarks we passed. It was an interesting experience putting past rows of dilapidated wooden stilted homes, the locals going about their daily business.
The waterways were like streets, with intersections crisscrossing the dirty brown water. Along the banks, locals were fishing and passing boats carried goods to and fro. There were also people selling their wares by boat and several approached us hoping we would buy a trinket or snack.
The most unique part of the journey was the variety of architecture, old wood clad row housing next to elaborate golden decorated wats, temples and Chinese praying houses.
   

Chinatown

Our longtail let us off in Chinatown, a colourful, exotic and busy area, packed with market stalls and probably the greatest concentration of gold shops in the city. reflecting Thai-Chinese people's love of gold (which symbolizes prosperity).

The area has a somewhat seedy historical reputation for large numbers of opium dens, brothels, pawnshops and a fondness for gambling that used to prevail.

Between canyons of concrete skyscapers, the streets were a hive of constant commercial activity, all day long. We felt like we were in another age entirely, being that we really didn't see any other tourists the entire time we explored the Chinese shops.

The small alleys and streets between Yaowarat Road and the Chao Praya River, too small for cars, were crammed with market stalls and small shops jostling to sell just about everything imaginable; from hair accessories, tea sets, hardware and food, to fabric, strange vegetables imported from mainland China and Chinese funeral items.

An added feature to the area were circus-like acts of balancing and
maneuvering while transporting an astonishing amount of wholesale goods (sacks, boxes, etc), weaving in and out of traffic ...

... an interesting feat (especially while talking on a cell phone!

Water Transportation

Not served by the Skytrain options for getting back to our hotel were limited to taxis, tuk-tuks, walking or river ferries.  We chose to experience the major form of transport, by water.

We boarded the busy water ferry, cheap but standing room only, packed with locals probably returning home from work. We passed an enormous amount of other boat traffic, including ferries, barges, taxis, fishing craft, river boats, commercial and private.

Shopping in Bangkok

Bangkok attracts many tourists just for the shopping. And Asians love to shop. There is a huge variety of shopping options, from the modern downtown core with designer labels, to almost sleezy Night Markets, to specialized Wholesale Markets, to sell-everything sidewalk venders to enormous fast paced covered Market complexes. We tried to get a taste of them all.


May 18 Metropolitan Bangkok

We took the skytrain to the bustling Siam Square, a shopping Mecca of highrise stores, markets, shops and even exclusive high end clothing.

The exclusively modern shopping malls dwarfed most Canadian counterparts. Busy crowded streets offered immediate taxis and tuk tuks with the wave of an arm, although it was easy to walk the entire downtown area, a better way to get a feeling for the unique dynamics of the city.

Of course, there was the usually collection of signs and banners exemplifying the Thai love for their King, as seen throughout Thailand...LONG LIVE THE KING!


At MBK, I found some excellent bargains. The shopping complexes were linked by a network of walkways transcending over the busy Bangkok streets, with bumper to bumper traffic 6 lanes in each direction, the pollution asphyxiating in the stifling heat.

SILOM  Patpong Night Market

Day or (especially) night, the streets of Patong provide endless entertainment and amusement, from singers to pavement and alley vendors selling pretty much anything you can imagine, legit or not, authentic or replicated.

We spent the evening practicing our bargaining skills and ended up pleased with the total cost of our large assortment of gifts to take back to Canada.


Chatuchak Weekend Market

Before leaving Bangkok we had to experience the Chatuchak Weekend Market, the mother of all markets - and possibly one of the biggest and most famous markets in the world. Covering 35 acres of land with over 15,000 stalls and more than 200,000 visitors every Saturday and Sunday, Chatuchak is mind boggling.

In fact the acres of stalls, crammed and packed with towering stacks of every conceivable goods you could hope to buy, was just too overwhelming and I ended up not buying anything at all, instead fleeing from the hot crowded excursion, overcome with exhaustion.

May 18 Chiang Mai

We took an overnight train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, a beautiful city surrounded by a moat. From there we toured northern Thailand, visited the Elephant Conservation Center and the Long Neck villages. more...

May 25 Palaces and Wats

Back in Bangkok, we toured  the Grand Palace and Wat Pho bordering the eastern bank of Chao Phraya and forming a veritable Vatican City of Thai Buddhism. more...

PHOTO ALBUMS OF THAILAND

PALACES AND WATS>>>>>

NEXT CHIANG MAI >>>>>

May 27

Our Northern Thai holiday comes to a close and we board our plane bound for Canada. We will spend the following 3 months visiting family and friends after our 4 year absence.

NEXT Back to Canada 2007>>>>

 

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