March 18, 2013
To the uninitiated, Bangkok can either be scathing and unforgiving or just plain overwhelming. From the moment I stepped out of the taxi from the airport, arriving in the city on a red-eye flight, I smelled the craziness of the city and that was already 2 in the morning. It seemed that the district where I was to spend my first night in, knew no sleep. I was in Khaosan Road afterall–Bangkok’s party central for tourists and locals alike. The same Khao San road where Leonardo Dicaprio’s character in the backpacker movie The Beach, stayed while in Bangkok.
The next morning, I felt like I paid too much for the long-tail boat-ride (5000 baht) since my original tour was canceled, but in all fairness to this part of the trip, the morning’s mishaps melted away in the murkiness of of the floating market’s waters. I had the boat all to myself anyway. Yes the Floating Market IS “touristy” but how else should the locals react to the influx of tourists wanting to experience what used to be a way of life in this part of the country for Thai people? I can’t blame them. Although, I have to say, if you don’t want to buy anything from the market, you’ve got to be firm and say NO. If you do say “No” all through out, then expect your tour to be shorter than average.
Lucky for me, my long-tail boat operator Mr. Mong went out of his way to make this solo-traveler happy. Mr. Mong detoured from the usual tourist route and brought me to the Damnoen Saduak Temple and to a shed where we lazed about for an hour, feeding the fish. Slowly, the not-so-nice impressions and thoughts about this Thailand trip in general, dissipated as Mr. Mong and I patiently–and clumsily–gestured at each other in an effort to communicate.
I went back to Bangkok more calm and determined to acquaint myself with the city’s quirks by walking from Khao San Road to the temples beginning with the Grand Palace and Wat Prakeaw. My excitement could no longer be dampened, not even by a scamming Pigeon-Feeder at the park who demanded 100 Baht for a handful of corn she handed to me (I thought she had GIVEN it to me to help her feed the pigeons). “Keep calm and carry on”, I thought to myself over and over after handing her 20 Baht and taking off. There’s too many sights to see, I couldn’t let any bad vibe ruin the experience.
My visit to the temples had me mesmerized and regretful that I had to leave the city too soon to fly out to Chiang Mai. I was only able to visit one other temple after Wat Phra Keaw, and witnessed the magnificence of the 15 meter-high and 43 meter long reclining Buddha in Wat Pho. I stayed for bit and mulled over the paradox that was Bangkok. I looked forward to coming back, after Chiang Mai–and that’s another story.