Nov 02

A Crash Course — 24 Hours in Bangkok

by in Asia

Notes from a bleary-eyed traveler just trying to capture the essence  . . . maybe one day it’ll get re-written to make more sense, but for now, notes from the road. . .

Flying into Bangkok, it seemed we’d been traveling for days.  We’d completely lost Monday . . . never really sure what happens to a day lost to the dateline, nor could I determine with any accuracy how long we’d been travelling.  But we had arrived.  Grateful that the driver stood at baggage claim to shuttle us to the hotel, I finally began to unwind as he raced through the midnight freeways.  Bright signs, intersecting spaghetti-bowl highways, outcroppings of skyscrapers, industry and emerging development, all tossed together in a mish-mash of exotic landscape barely distinguishable through my exhausted lens.  Tomorrow.  We’ll figure it out tomorrow.

Bangkok awakens on the river.  The sun glistened off the water as barges, long-boats, ferries, and water taxis slowly overtook their channels, looking like toy boats from our 27th floor perch.  The haze – the west’s iconic image of Asia – hung over the city . . . yet somehow didn’t seem as horrific as I’d imagined.

Amidst the markets, the wats (temples) the tuk-tuks, and the scammers eager to cash in on western tourism dollars, we wandered.  It wasn’t yet 10AM and at least three different drivers had attempted to lure us into their ride, telling us that it’s a Monk holiday and the temples are closed.  Thank you, Lonely Planet, for sparing us the scam.  Don’t these guys read the same guides and figure out a new angle?

Kao San Road – backpacker mecca – I had to see it, even if Dundee and Sacagawea are the only two children visible in any direction.  It’s Dundee’s sense of direction that navigated through the maze of food vendors, exotic smells, and market carts hawking all manner of merchandise.  Like kids in a candy shop, we found the perfect dive for spring rolls, pad thai, chicken satay, even a grilled cheese, and a beer.  For under $15.  I’m starting to get it.

What’s up with all the 7-11s?  It’s like ABC stores in Waikiki.  Where’d the notion come from that convenience stores should be the anchor corner store in every destination around the globe?

The famous Reclining Buddha…insanely massive!  The sound of the coins jingling as they are dropped into the alms bowls resonates through the building.  The ones on the end seem to lose out.  Note to self…ration at the front end to have ample for the last bowls.  Good life lesson, I guess.

Grand Palace…finding the entrance a challenge in itself.  Then Dundee needed long pants…great local experience trading out Baht for acceptable clothing then turning it back in once we’re ready to move on.  Emerald Buddha…actually made of jade.  Go figure.  Smell of incense, the sound of people slowly padding into the temple to pay their respects.  The brilliance of the glittering columns, monuments and frescoes.  It’s a visual feast.

Less than 24 hours into Asia, and we’ve found our legs in Bangkok.  Hopping on/off the ferries, winding through the maze of markets on back streets, learning to navigate a new city, a new culture, a new land.  Like riding a bike, it all comes flooding back.  This is why we travel.  Let the adventures begin.

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