A 12 hour time difference coupled with months of poor sleeping habits (mostly Jesse) can really throw you for a loop. The result for us when we arrived in Bangkok were some really early morning wake up calls, followed by afternoon naps that unexpectedly turned into 12-14 hour sleeps till the next day. Luckily we have the time to let our bodies do whatever weird and wonderful adjusting routines they need to do. The only downside was that we didn’t experience Bangkok at night until our 4th day here! But now we seem to have adjusted (mostly), and are leading more normal days.
As our first stop in South East Asia, Bangkok has made a great first impression. The city is massive and modern and bustling, but still has so many little neighbourhoods that retain their own unique identities and old school charm. Food and eating are everywhere and seemingly never-ending in this city, so Bangkok food will require it’s own blog post altogether. For now though, I’ll just reflect on some of our other experiences within the city from the past 6 days.
We’re staying in the Thonburi district, sometimes called the “former capital of Thailand”, at a great little B&B called Focal Local. It’s located on the opposite side of the Chao Phraya River from almost all of the main tourist action and attractions, which actually suits us just fine. We’ve really enjoyed living on this little side street for the past 6 days because it feels like we’re right in the middle of everyday life. When we walk out the door, we see people at work out of their homes (hair dressers, laundry cleaners, food stall owners, mechanics), people riding motorbike taxis to work and kids walking or biking to/from school. Jesse has managed to cache a google map of the area into his iphone which has allowed us to take some fun “backroad” walking routes to and from our destinations. We run into little food stalls we’d never see otherwise, and share friendly smiles with the local folks we pass by. Some of our favourite moments have been while walking back from the local ferry terminal, through a public park where both kids adults come to play sports. There are the typical games of soccer, basketball and badminton being played, but we’ve also been introduced to new sports like “volleyball soccer” (which we’ve since learned is actually called Takraw) and “head/elbow kickball through super high basketball-like net game” (still don’t know the actual name of this one) which are really quite mesmerizing to watch. We sit down with the other locals to watch these games being played, using it also as a great time to people watch. Amazingly our presence doesn’t attract too much attention, which we’d like to think is sort of a reflection of the less hurried pace of life here as well as the warm and unassuming Thai nature.
Back on the tourist circuit, we also had the chance to visit some key attractions like The Grand Palace (beautiful, but busy and too hot during the day), the insane Chatuchak Weekend Market (got lost a lot until Jesse found a map!), Chinatown (all food, all the time), Khao San Road (which I found overwhelming and just did not enjoy) and we even managed to get in a few temples (Wat Arun and Wat Pho).
A fantastic recommendation from our friends Laurence & Chris was to take a night bike tour of the city, which forced us into some dicey first-hand experiences with the insane Bangkok traffic. Crossing any streets in the city had already been daunting to say the least, as the cars, taxis, buses, tuk-tuks and motorbikes weave and speed in such unpredictable ways. But to do this in a big single-file convoy of 12 bikes (which, in Bangkok, will also ride on sidewalks) at night-time added extra challenge. But luckily, the tour mostly led us through back roads and, oddly, parking garages, on our way to visit 2 beautiful temples and the local flower market. Seeing the lit-up temples in the evening moonlight was a real highlight, and avoiding the crazy tourist crowds was an even bigger bonus. It was also great to get back on a bike again, which both of us dearly miss.
Recognizing that this post is getting pretty long, I’ll end it here. Up next, we’ll talk Bangkok food :)