Thursday, May 18, 2017

Capital City

Mel and I walked around the bus terminal to stretch our legs after an eight hour ride from Chiang Mai to Bangkok. We stood in a long line waiting for a taxi to take us to our hostel to drop off our bags and begin our day (we arrived in Bangkok at 6 am - true to my style of starting the day early when travelling). 

After hearing mixed reviews of Bangkok we didn't know what to expect our three days there to be like. However, somehow the stars aligned and we seemed to time and plan everything perfectly - it was actually quite odd how well the pieces our trip fit together.

It started with us weaving through the streets to reach our first destination - the Grand Palace and Temple of the Emerald Buddha. After being warmly greeted by the security at the palace, we entered into the complex. An overwhelming feeling of amazement and respect hit us both. We both kept remarking, "I can't believe we're here." The wats were ornately decorated with vividly coloured mosaic pieces, a style I have not really seen in Chiang Mai.

Prasat Phra Dhepbidorn (Royal Pantheon)

Mel and I at the Temple of the Emerald Buddha
The Grand Palace

As part of our ticket to tour the wats and grounds of the Grand Palace, were tickets to the Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles, where we admired the detailed traditional khon dance costumes and learning about the art form Her Majesty has worked to revitalise and conserve. We then made our way to Wat Pho, home of the reclining Buddha, who took up the whole hall.

The Reclining Buddha

Chedis at Wat Pho
The rest of the day was spent manoeuvring through Chinatown and Little India, an excursion that lead to us getting lost multiple times, steamed buns, me buying a cute pillow in the shape of a teddy bear which I then christened Sleepy Bear (super creative I know), and me devouring multiple types of Indian sweets that were either dosed in saffron flavoured syrup, made of coconut, or a type of milk fudge.

The next day we travelled to a floating market in the morning, where vendors prepared dishes in their boats. We decided to do a sample style breakfast which included dried mango (think mango fruit leather), mini coconut pancakes, deep-fried banana, khanom buang (small crisp crepes with meringue and shredded sweetened egg yolk sprinkled on top), and durian. Yep, you read that right, I finally tried durian. What was my reaction to this renowned fruit, known for it's strong smell that is reminiscent of trash? Well, after doing my best not to smell it before eating it, a piece of advice I received from a durian lover, I tried a small piece and let's just say that it is an acquired taste that I unfortunately don't have. Durian has a cream texture and is described as mostly sweet when good quality, and is many people's favourite fruit, but seems to have a harder sell when it comes to foreigners.

Next on the agenda was JJ Market, an outdoor weekend market spanning 27 acres, with multiple sections such as art, pets, clothes, and food. It was interesting to see the diverse offerings of the market, from high-end art to sugar gliders.

Then we were off to the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA). Here the emphasis of how strong Buddhism has on the present day culture was emphasised, with the majority of the art involving Buddha, gods, and other characters from myths.

Beautiful sculptures at MOCA

We ended the night with watching a Muay Thai at Rajadamnern Stadium. We watched intently as fighters jabbed, kneed, and kicked their opponents, sometimes resulting in a throw down. For a while we were mixed in the crowd of energetic older Thai men placing bets, however we were instructed to move to the side where the rest of the other foreigners resided. During the fighting a small band played with the music getting faster as the fighting became more intense. Most of the fighters representing local gyms were young, with almost half of the 18 of them under the age of 15. However, their power and skills had us reviewing our own workout routines (or for me, my lack of).

สู้ๆ (Pronounced "Su su!" - means fighting in Thai and used as words of encouragement)

On third day in the capital was spent in the heart of the city, exploring the themed mall Terminal 21 (most museums are closed on Mondays in Bangkok) which consisted of 6 floors and structures such as the Golden Gate Bridge on the San Francisco themed floor and statues and fountains for the Rome themed floor. Taking a break from the mall, we walked around Bangkok's largest park, Lumpini Park that had gorgeously trees and bushes, with multiple ponds that had benches bordering them. Needing the A/C once again (it is currently hot season in Thailand which means most days get up to the mid-90's or higher), we headed back to Terminal 21 via the MRT to catch a showing of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.

The rest of the night consisted of a quick dinner and rushing to make our bus back to Chiang Mai (we made it with less than 5 minutes to spare). Thinking over the past three days I was thankful for a wonderful jammed packed trip with an awesome travelling partner and friend <3

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