Beginning in Bangkok

8 04 2013

Tim and I kicked off our Thailand vacation with three days in the country’s capital city. Coming from rural Cambodia, we knew we’d be in for a shock visiting one of the biggest, most international cities in all of Southeast Asia. After all, the metropolitan Bangkok area is home to over 14 million people, which is nearly equivalent to the entire population of Cambodia. However, overwhelmed as we might have been, we loved every minute we spent in Bangkok.

We took a bus from Siem Reap into Bangkok on Tuesday, arriving in the late afternoon. Our bus dropped us off only steps from the city’s Skytrain, an elevated public train system that serves some of the busiest parts of the city. We bought a pair of tickets and hopped on a train heading to Sala Daeng, a stop located just a few blocks from our guesthouse. Riding the Skytrain was amazing. I would recommend that any tourist take it. Not only is it a fast, convenient way to cross neighborhoods, it also provides a gorgeous view of the city that you couldn’t otherwise see. Not to mention the train cars are in great shape and blast much-needed air conditioning throughout the heat of the day.

The view of the city from Lumphini Park

The view of the city from Lumphini Park

The neighborhood we stayed in was a business area, the streets bustling with people on their way to or from the office. On the street were countless food stalls, selling anything from fresh orange juice to curries, pad thai, fried eggs on rice and more, all for under a dollar or two. The number and intensity of the wafting smells was almost paralyzing, with absolutely everything looking and smelling delicious. Clothes vendors filled in any gaps left from the food stalls, and I swooned over the cute sundresses, colorful leggings and practical tops.

One of my favorite things about this area was that it wasn’t particularly touristy, but it was easy to navigate as a tourist anyway. The food was on display so we could see it even if there weren’t English menus. The city was well signed and easy to walk around in. We were never far from public transport either. In fact, the city’s transit system is truly remarkable. In addition to the Skytrain, there’s an underground metro, a network of city buses, and a boat system that runs up and down the river. If one of those doesn’t work, there’s always tuk tuks, taxis or motodops.

Riding a boat up the river

Riding a boat up the river

During our short time in Bangkok, we did a lot of exploring. On our first full day, we took a three-hour food tour led by a friendly and knowledgeable Thai woman, Dao. We visited several small, locally owned restaurants to sample main dishes such as duck, yellow curry, flaked and fried catfish, and green curry with roti. We went to the pastry shop to taste pandan rolls and finished the trip with coconut ice cream. It was the perfect introduction to the city.

Noodle soup in Chinatown

We spent the rest of our time in Bangkok exploring tourist sites and popular shopping centers. I didn’t care much for the main tourists sites, like the Royal Palace and Wat Pho, because of the huge crowds of tourists being herded through lines like cattle. Since Cambodia doesn’t see the same number of tourists as Thailand, you are often free to explore sites at your own pace and usually at no- or low-cost. Because of this, I was a bit turned off from some of Bangkok’s main attractions. Overall though, I loved Bangkok and would happily relocate if given the opportunity. The food, the energy, and the pace of life were a welcomed break from the crawling, sweltering days of Kampong Kdey.

Temple of Dawn

Tim and I are now in the northern city of Chiang Mai. We’ve got one more day here before heading down to the beach for our third stop of the trip.

Katie

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