Bangkok, Thailand : Culture and Shopping Paradise

To begin our last leg of our giant journey, South-East Asia, Thailand was the first country we touched. On 19th January 2017, we landed into Bangkok very early morning around 3AM. We got our luggage, and exchanged some money. We highly recommend buying a tourist sim card at the airport itself, because other dtac,truemove and other companies’ stores in the city don’t always have all the offers, and sometimes are even out of sim-cards!

Bangkok is a very different city, than many others I’ve seen, including some places around. Its got a mix of modernity as well as ancient temples. Bangkok has some great places around to do day trips to as well, such as Ayutthaya and the Thailand-Burma ‘Death Railway’.

All over Thailand, at least in the cities, you’ll find 7 11’s almost….. EVERYWHERE! They’re little convenience stores that have snacks, basic things like milk and yogurt, basic cosmetics, etc. They also sell sim cards.

We took our taxi to our hotel, unpacked and got some sleep.  ‘Some sleep’ turned out to be 7 hours of sleep. I woke up at 12! We were too tired and lazy to go out anywhere, and used the time to organize ourselves. In the evening, we decided to go to the MBK Shopping center. MBK is a world famous shopping center, where you can get everything – from an Iphone to Adidas Jackets, from the latest gizmos to fake Rolex Watches! We got the tourist privilege card, which gave us a free welcome drink (Thai Iced Tea), and some discounts at some shops! We got there by the BTS, which is the skyrail, absolutely jam-packed, everyone on their phones, and outside the stations- complete traffic. Bangkok traffic is famous, and we’re proud to say that we have experienced quite enough of it. MBK is a great place for bargain, and a great place to get things for friends and family, because of buy 2 for 100THB, 4 for 150THB kind of deals.

Chinese New Year Celebrations
Local dinner at MBK

On our second day, we went to Ayutthaya. We got up early, and were at Bangkok’s Hualamphong Train Station in time. But, when wwe went to the ticket booth, there were no seats (the train was full!), so we paid 350THB per person for the first-class train at 8:30, so we didn’t have to wait for the sun to burn us, or for any of us to become impatient and sick of travel already. But, the train was comfortable! With reclining seats and AC, and a free snack, it was the way too go.

Ayutthaya was once described as the most wealthy city of the East. It accepted many foreign from India, Vietnam, Burma, Japan and Iran and later on traders from France, Spain, Netherlands and Portugal. In the middle of the 16th century, the kingdom came under several attacks by the Burmese, and later on the Thai attacked the Burmese too. This war was known as the Burmese-Siamese War. This war resulted in the end of the kingdom. For more info – History and Things to do/Tourism.

We got off our train and looked at the timings for 3rd class trains back to Bangkok, just so we had an idea. The way most tourists go around is by tuk-tuk (for those doing everything in one day). They have a fare of about 300THB per hr. My father had read online that you can get it for 200THB per hr. At first they wouldn’t agree. But, we’d done this before, so we walked off and 2 minutes later, they came back agreeing. Tell the driver which Wats you want to visit, and he’ll take you in an order. Take how much ever time you want inside the Wats, and go to the next one. Make sure you remember your start and end time, so you pay the right amount.

We had 6 wats on our list, in this order :                                                           Wat Chai Mang Khon                                                                                          Wat Phanan Choeng                                                                                                  Wat Mahathat                                                                                                            Wat Mongkhon Bophit                                                                                            Wat Phra Si Sanphet                                                                                                Wat Chaiwatthanaram                                                                                              Off all, we liked Wat Chai Mang Khon and Wat Mahathat the most.

Wat Chai Mang Khon
View from the top of Wat Chai Mang Khon
Reclining Buddha at Wat Chai Mang Khon
Wat Chai Mang Khon
Wat Phan Choeng
The famous head of Buddha with tree roots grown around at Wat Mahathat.
Buddha head awith tree roots around, Wat Mahathat
Prang (Pagoda) in Wat Mahathat
Wat Mahathat
Buddha heads cut off by the Burmese at Wat Mahathat

Wat Monkhon Bophit was actually closed, due to renovation.

One of the Three famous Chedisi at Wat Phra Si Sanphet
Wat Chaiwatthanaram
Wat Chaiwatthanaram
Wat Chaiwatthanaram
Wat Chaiwatthanaram
Wat Chaiwatthanaram

In the evening, we decided to get a famous Thai Massage, to treat ourselves after a day of a lot of walking. We went to the famous ‘Lek’ Massage, and were mind-blown by what kind of hands the girls have. The main difference between Western Massages and Thai Massages is that Thai Massages focus on pressure points.

The next day, we decided to go to the Chatuchak market. Chatuchak is a famous weekend market, from Friday evening to Sunday evening. Chatuchak is a big bargain market, and you can find lots of great buys.

Coconut water and ice cream is a big thing in Thailand

It gets really hot in the day, and with so many people, its a bit of a sweatbox. We got there by taxi, going through lots of traffic, it took us an hour! I recommend going by MRT(underground) or BTS(skyrail). MRT has seats, unlike the BTS and also has much lesser people generally.

The next day, we went to the Thailand-Burma Death Railway. It was a 415 km railway built between Thailand(Bangkok) and Burma(Rangoon), built by the Japanese to transport arms to extend their empire during the  World War II, mainly to get India. The Japanese used forced labour and allied prisoners of war. About 250,000 Asian laborers out of which 90,000 died and 61,000 allied POWS of which 16,000 died. The working conditions were horrific, with maltreatment, sickness and starvation. The most famous part of the railway is the ‘Bridge over River Kwai’. The Kanchanaburi War Cemetery and Thanbyuzayat War Cemetery has the bodies of several POW laborers. The Americans took all the dead bodies back to America. The Japanese used Australians, Dutch, British, Javanese, Malay Tamils, Burmese and Chinese. The Death Railway Museum and Research Center in Kanchanaburi provides lots of information.

We went to Bangkok’s Hualamphong station, to find all the seats full, and had to go to Thonburi Station. We had to wait for about 2 hours, but it was all okay in the end. We were quite impressed by how well everything was well maintained. After a train left, someone would go pick up the garbage (very less!) using tongs! Coming from India, to another Asian country, this was quite amazing. The train journey lasted 3 hours.

Cleaning up!

The train

The Bridge over River Kwai

Kanchanaburi War Cemetery

We had a wonderful vegetarian lunch for a great price at On’s Thai – Issan. We got back at Thonburi at around 6:30 PM.

The next day, after a wonderful sleep, we decided to go to some Wats in Bangkok. With terrible traffic and a scorching sun, we wanted to finish everything as fast as possible. The two Wats we visited were : Wat Pho and Wat Arun. Wat Pho was easy to access, and we got there by Ferry. Wat Pho impressed us, with its architecture and famous HUGE reclining Buddha. Wat Arun was mainly under a scaffolding, which took away its beauty.

Wat Pho
A heavy Chinese influence at Wat Pho
A heavy Chinese influence at Wat Pho
Wat Pho
Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho
Wat Pho
Wat Arun under the scaffolding
Wat Arun

The next day, we left early for Khao Yai National park, about 3 hours from Bangkok. More about that in the next blog 🙂