Bangkok is a living, breathing person. She is a hybrid of people, culture, colour and life. People come, people go, and some live there for ever, trapped in the same jobs seeing the same happenings every day. What most people notice when they arrive in Bangkok is the sheer volume of people, and of course, the smog. Because of its hectic roads filled with all types of vehicles; taxis, Lorries, tuk tuks, buses, coaches, horses and carts (they produce a different kind of smog) it creates a type of air pollution that one notices almost immediately. Although many people dislike Bangkok due to its hectic atmosphere- even those that are born there- I would recommended to go and experience life in Bangkok, the happening capital of South East Asia. Throughout my travels, my buddy and I had to return to Bangkok frequently to travel to various areas, and so our experiences and understanding grew every time.
We became accustomed to the smog; the pestering tuk tuk drivers with their overpriced fares, their cheeky trips to travel offices for free petrol, the advised stops at fake gem shops, the shouts of YOLO from backpackers in Koh San Road with horrific new tattoos plastered on their bodies, the amount of rubbish and rats on the street, the strut of lady boys eyeing up potential customers, the street sellers shoving material in your face and shouting “you buy you buy”, the whiff of cheap Phad Thai from street vendors, and of course the random and well trained pickpockets. But don’t let this put you off. No this is Bangkok and will always be how Bangkok is.
We stayed mainly on Koh San Road, not the heart of real Bangkok, but the heart of backpackers Bangkok. Walking down the strip at night with the glare of the fluorescent lighting from clubs, the shouts from bars, the food vendors, and the clothes stalls all sporting the same pattern always will amuse me, because as soon as you step away from Koh San Road, you meet the true Bangkok.
True Bangkok is filled with beautiful dazzling temples that you must venture into and explore, due to each one’s individual and intricate designs that just blow you away. There are many temples- although I would advise you to stick to the main ones, as it can take hours to traipse round just one. Also take the water ferry, (don’t get an expensive boat ride but the local ferry) across the waters to Wat Arun, another temple that shouldn’t be missed because of its unique style in comparison to other temples- it looks like a jigsaw of iconic ornate tiles that cover the monument, and its perfect riverside location. After checking out the stunning Grand Palace, Wat Pho and Wat Saket (all impressive masterpieces in gold), we went and explored China Town. China town in Bangkok is the best China town I have been to. It isn’t one or two streets with a couple of restaurants, like London’s poor effort of China Town, no this is a whole district with street names in Chinese and a way of life. I would recommend wandering around the streets, we found ourselves in a never ending market with sections for fabric, shoes, electrical’s, home goods, clothes and of course food. China town in Bangkok is an experience not to be missed.
On our final visit to Bangkok and thinking of gifts to take home for the family, we went to one of Bangkok’s largest shopping malls: Siam Discovery and Siam Paradigm. These malls were massive. Massive. Floors and floors of various shops, cafes, restaurants, entertainment complexes, and cinemas filled the space. This was the Bangkok that was most well-known by the Thai, the luxurious and extravagant Bangkok filled with high skyscrapers and expensive hotels. Stepping into an air conditioned shopping mall filled with designer clothes made me recognise the ignorance many backpackers have of Bangkok, and so to really experience Bangkok I recommend you see all areas.
Many recommend the Chatuchak market in Bangkok which is held on the weekends, it is supposed to be the largest and craziest market in Asia, and unfortunately we were never there at the right time to experience it. What we did manage to experience on our first night (fortunately or not) was a ping pong show. Taken to a discreet part of Thailand with blacked out windows and dodgy men at the door, we were taken into a club with a central focus of a podium with poles surrounding it. What I saw that night, I really wasn’t expecting to see, especially who was in the audience: drunk backpackers, couples and large groups of Asian men on business trips, which made me feel even more awkward and uncomfortable. Looking at the woman in the show, she looked bored and tired. Who could blame her? Working day in day out, for a small amount of money to send home to her family, by the sex industry. I was disgusted at myself for supporting this industry, where women and men are treated as sexual objects, a form of entertainment to rich tourists. I would really insist to all visitors to not go to one of these shows, and further support the sex industry, we need to treat each individual human being with respect.
My number one top tip for Bangkok is: keep your wits about you but fully immerse yourself in the hustle and bustle of Bangkok.