“One night in Bangkok and the world’s your oyster”. Or so the song would have you believe. For us, the story played out a little differently…
A nine hour flight with a passenger directly behind you constantly clearing his throat and intermittently coughing up his lungs isn’t a joy but if you are anything like me and simply live to travel, these things are all part of the journey. You’ve got to grin and bear it.
Landing in Bangkok early we arrived at our hotel, the Grand China, by 8.00am. What she lacked in modern features and fancy bits and pieces, she made up for in old fashioned hospitality. The concierge allocated us reliable and trusty Mr. Raymond for all our touring requirements. We had hoped to make the most of our first day and figured the railway and floating markets were a good place to start. And they were. The sights, sounds and sensory overload amazed us and it was just a pity we weren’t able to purchase a pantry load of spices to send home ready for our return. I reckon you would have to look far and wide to find this stuff where we live. And if the variety of ingredients wasn’t enough to inspire even the most reluctant cook, then after a visit here nothing would light the fire of inspiration. Seriously.
Pure luck combined with another of Hubby’s booking.com successes has found us smack bang in the middle of Chinatown which enabled perfect access to the entire city, either by transport or foot. The weather was great so each day we decide to get out and walk. The next morning Boom, the hotel porter, suggested we head towards the Grand Palace and travel the Budda trail from there, throw in a monorail trip and perhaps even a ferry ride up the river.
Equipped with Baht, a map and loads of enthusiasm we set off for a day we’ll never forget. Let me just say that the map was purely a guide, we didn’t set foot on the monorail, and we saw more of the back streets of Bangkok than we had ever bargained for. But I’m going to save the finer details of this one for another time and place.
During our time here we visited more temples and monuments than I can recall seeing in Europe, and a great many Buddas. Standing Budda, Sitting Budda, Swinging Budda and Black Budda. Emerald Budda, Gold-leafed Budda, Budda in Prayer and Reclining Budda of various different sizes. Religion plays such an enormous role in everyday life in Thailand so it makes sense that icons and monuments are everywhere. But what I didn’t expect was to find so many people working so hard to rip off the tourists that support their economy. It’s so sad.
Later that week Mr. Raymond took us under his wing and we headed out of the city. Travelling through the area you find yourself immersed in the beauty of your surroundings, mesmerised by the harsh intensity of the jungle and the wonder of how people thrive in such extreme conditions.
Our destinations that day were Kanchanaburi War Cemetery and Museum, River Kwai Bridge, Thailand-Burma Railway and Hellfire Pass. If you have the opportunity to visit these sites, take the time to stop. Read the stories. Really look at the photos. Try and imagine what went on here as these tragic events unfolded so many years ago. Just don’t expect to walk away dry-eyed and feeling untouched by the enormity of loss, pain and suffering endured by so many people who never made it out unscathed. Or simply never made it out at all.
Until now, whilst in Asia we hadn’t been game enough to really embrace the local cuisine to it’s full potential. However before we left home we decided to channel our inner brave and eat like locals wherever possible. Making sure we made safe and sensible choices the decision paid off, and the food and flavours of Bangkok were completely out of this world. Hubby is more of a meat man but his reaction to a spinach dish one night was priceless and I reckon if meat never passed his lips for the remainder of the trip I wouldn’t have heard a peep out of him. The jury is still out as to whether the tiny kitchen in the middle of a back-market, the pot stall in the laneway next to the school, or the cafe along the canal was our favourite. Truth be known, each meal was incredible.
So in a nutshell our week in Bangkok pretty much comprised of history and culinary delights, markets and mishaps. It was truly awesome. Then after a farewell from the concierge and porters at the hotel that would rival that of a rock star, Mr. Raymond delivered us safely to Hua Lumpong, Bangkok’s central railway station where we took the overnight sleeping train, a bus, then a high speed catamaran to Koh Tao. Otherwise known as Turtle Island in western circles.
So the first leg of our maiden voyage to this land of surprises comes to an end, and although you will have to stay tuned for the next chapter detailing our adventures on the island, I can tell you that our train trip was certainly one of the best point-to-point journeys we have ever taken whilst travelling. Super comfortable, clean, cheap and quiet, we highly recommend this mode of transport for anyone heading to Koh Tao. Wonders will never cease.
Happy planning and safe travels ,