12 October 2017

Bangkok (Thailand Pt. 1)

Dear readers,

in March 2016 my boyfriend and I went on our first trip to Asia. We visited Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia in 3 weeks of travel. Today I want to share my stories about Bangkok with you.
Bangkok was the first destination we arrived in, after a long flight from Zagreb with a transfer in Doha. First impressions of this huge city in south east Asia formed right after we stepped out of the airport. It was so hot! But not like normal summer hot as we are all used to in Europe, more like the humid-hot I read about on other blogs. The transition to the hotel went well - we went on the subway, got out of the station where I thought the bus station is and got instantly lost. This was our first lesson to learn, for expecting that buses in Bangkok run like those in Europe. Of course, no signs, nothing, so we decided to go one more station with the subway and take a taxi. After some time, we finally managed to find the taxi stand for stupid tourists (which I usually do not consider myself to be one).
The hotel (Au Bon Hostel) was really nice, it exceeded all my expectations and I was glad we were staying there for 4 nights. We had a room with a huge comfortable bed, our own bathroom and shower and, the most important thing back then, air conditioner. The best part was - it was walking distance to the Grand Palace and other main attractions. After a shower and some free tea with cookies (also a bonus!), we decided to pay a visit to... *drum roll* the Grand Palace of course. We probably spent 4 hours there, with constant jaw drops and huge sparkling eyes. Since I am really close to Buddhism and its practice, it was so incredible to see all those golden statues of Buddha. Next on the list was Wat Arun, for which we had to cross the Chao Phraya river. Even though it was in renovation, the sun setting down next to the river and the temple was magical. Another thing we learned in the first day was, that boat rides are really cheap. Scary, because it looked like the boat was about to fall apart, but it was cheap. The second day we woke up early (jet lag) and started exploring the city at 4:30. I must say, it was one of the most beautiful experiences - Thai people and tourists still in their beds, the temperature mild and chilly, only monks on the streets hurrying to get to their temples. I really recommend early mornings to all travellers, because nothing is crowded and everything is so peaceful.
In the next days, we accepted the heat, became immune to leg pain, tried not to breathe too much on markets, accepted the messiness of the city and pretty much visited everything we wanted to. My highlight was Wat Saket, the temple of the Golden Mount, placed on a little hill in the centre of Bangkok. It had a beautiful view of the whole city and we climbed onto it quite early, so the no-tourists-atmosphere was simply magical. Walking up the spiral stairs surrounded with lush greens, little Buddha statues and friendly cats, coming to the first level and admiring hundreds of bells, then continuing up to the temple, lighting a candle for Buddha and lastly, coming out to the golden stupa for a beautiful view; incredible.
As much as we tried avoiding scams, which we read so much about, we still fell for one. While admiring and taking pictures of King Rama III Memorial, we stumbled upon a nice Thai man. He was chatting with us and very soon, he got us a tuk-tuk. Since we were thinking about taking one later anyway, we said why not and the tuk-tuk driver took us to some sightseeing we actually wanted to do the next day. We saw the big standing Buddha and three other temples. But in between he took us to a store, where they scam people and sell overpriced "cashmere" suit and dresses. We didn't buy anything, so the tuk-tuk driver got mad and just left us at one temple, which was thankfully right next to the tourist street, Khao San Road. At first we didn't really get it, why he just left, but then some other driver said, that he drove away, because we didn't buy anything. As more as we thought about it, for us personally, it wasn't that much of a scam - we got a free tuk-tuk ride to four big attractions *lol*.
Another thing I want to point out was the food - so delicious but yet so unknown. We ate local food at markets and from food stalls every day, mainly because we are foreign food enthusiasts and because we just love Asian cuisine, so pretty much anything we ever ordered, was really delicious. Fun fact - every time we were walking through a market, we noticed a strong unfamiliar smell, which reminded of puke. At first we thought, well, it is a big city and probably it just smells in general (which it pretty much did and it was even worse because of the heat), but then we encountered a strange fruit, called durian. A fruit, that smells like puke and tastes like a rotten onion. Well, apart of that, we didn't have any problems with the food, our stomachs were also satisfied, so I am already looking forward to our next trip to Asia.
One day we took a train from Bangkok to Ayutthaya, an ancient capital. The train ride costed a few baht, so around thirty cents (any currency, haha) per person for "second class" which included the magnificent fans on the ceiling. Yes, you read it right, open windows and fans. Inside, we were melting and the worst thing was, we were waiting in the train on one random platform, middle of nowhere, for one hour because of some construction work, so we arrived in Ayutthaya pretty late. Happy but already exhausted, we went as fast as possible to see the main attractions, the temple ruins and old Buddha sculptures. First, and that was the biggest mistake, we went though a disgusting market, where rats were eating meat from the tables *puke*. After that we got so lost, we were just walking around the streets. Second, we ran out of water. But after searching for a store, we found a little stall in the middle of pretty much nothing, where one man was selling things and bought ourselves a bunch of drinks (for probably all together 30 cents). Back then it was around 42°C and there were no trees whatsoever. At last, we managed to get to the main sight, paid the entrance fee and just sat down under a tree. It was really interesting walking though the ruins, where once the capital of Thailand was. Sadly, we were really short on time because we had a boat to catch later on so we couldn't visit all of the sights. Tired but happy we arrived at the hotel and noticed we were all covered in something orange - I guess the brick dust got stuck on our sweat.
The last thing I want to tell you about, is the huuuuge market called Chatuchak. We went there by bus (I still can't believe we actually found the right one and didn't get lost!) in the morning for a shopping spree, because I read about how everything was so cheap there. And it was - dresses, shirts, backpacks, selfie sticks and souvenirs for around 1-2€ each (20-100 baht). One side clothes and electronics, other side food - of course we just had to eat pad thai there, enjoy some natural coconut ice cream and re-hydrate with fruity salted drinks, which were sold around every corner.
On the fifth day, we left Bangkok after noon - with a taxi to the train station and a train to the airport (our plane was departing from the smaller airport Don Mueang, because it was a domestic flight), already excited for new adventures on the biggest Thai island - Phuket.
I hope you had fun reading this post, it sure was a crazy experience for a first time in Asia. Have you ever been to Bangkok? What did you like and dislike about it? Comment if you have similar or other interesting stories. If you want the whole detailed itinerary for Bangkok and Ayutthaya, please contact me per email. Thank you for reading. Next time expect a relaxing post about the beachy side of Thailand.

Love, Julija

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