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Rosy morning light filtered through the trees that line our tiny street as we began our walk towards the Grand Palace and Wat Pho. We had just landed after a 20 hour sleepless journey, but the excitement of being in a new city is as good as caffeine. We dropped our bags off at our tiny boutique hotel and immediately took off for the day.
The giant bodhi trees seem to melt into the walls lining our alley in a great tangle of roots. The largest ones are almost as big as a house and are decorated with rainbow colored belts made out of strips of cloth, indicating that a spirit lives there. Spiritualism, religion, deep reverence for the Thai monarch are blended and seeped into the magical brew of the Thai culture. Portraits of the King and Queen adorn every intersection and building. Golden spires from temples or palaces sparkled and winked at us over the walls. You can feel the ingrained spiritualism even in their greeting, hands pressed together as if in prayer.
It was still before 7AM but we already passed by a busy market of people selling and buying mysterious paper, which we guessed were temple offerings but according to Google, they were lottery tickets. As serendipity often happens while exploring on foot, we only half jokingly followed our noses to a busy street market quite hidden off the main boulevard among a maze of alleys. We meandered through the stalls with crowds of locals doing their morning shopping. Everything edible that you can possibly imagine is sold in those stalls, from freshly fried donuts to durians to gorgeously displayed seafood. There is also a dizzying variety of fresh Thai cooking, which made me realize the Thai food I’ve been exposed to in the US were only about 0.01% of all Thai food.
The moments when I truly feel like I’m traveling is when I’m walking through a city. The sun was directly overhead and the air was thick with moisture. Three-wheeled tuk-tuks puttered by, a magenta–colored city bus sat idling in traffic and passengers dangled their arms out of the open windows. A old lady stopped us and delightfully pointed at Ellie saying something in Thai, which in the universal language of grannies probably translates to “cute baby”. There are still temples to see and markets to explore, but I realized that this was the journey I’ve been waiting for and that there’s no rush to get there at all.
Our One and a Half Day Bangkok Itinerary
1. Baan Noppawong – A gem of a little hotel at the end of a quiet street. It’s a beautifully restored colonial style house with only 7 guest rooms. It’s charms include but are not limited to: dark wooden floors, tasteful erotic artwork, French doors, koi fountain. It’s minutes away from Khao San road, if you care about being close to a dirty street lined with touristy bars.
2. Pak Khlong market – A not too exciting street of flower shops—I recommend going straight to Chatuchak market if you want to see a real flower market.
3. Wat Pho – Giant Reclining Buddha. Get up before 10 AM? Wat pho? (sorry)
4. Grand Palace – Absolutely amazing architecture. Every square foot probably deserves an hour of your time if you want to fully appreciate all the details. Go there early to avoid the crowds and heat. Long sleeves and pants below the knees is the dress code.
5. Ferry ride across the river to Wat Arun, but the temple was under construction when we were there so we skipped it.
6. Wang lang market – busy stalls hawking cheap clothes and street food. Richie got what he thought were tacos, but they had cotton candy floss inside! Apparently, Thai cotton candy tacos are a thing.
7. Wat saket – Took the ferry back and rested for a short while at our hotel. Then we walked to Wat Saket. The walk through the old neighborhood was really charming and the climb up the mountain via winding stairs was beautiful as well. The mountain is lushly green and kitschy Buddhist-themed figurines and fountains are placed throughout the hillside. Get an ice cream at the top to cool off and take in the view of Bangkok while listening to the chime of the temple bells.
8. Wat Traimit – another temple, but we were all templed-out at this point. This one is quite small compared to the other temples we’ve visited, which had expansive grounds filled with gardens and buildings. The stairs led up to the main hall which you would need to buy tickets for.
9. Khao San road – This quiet street turns into a rowdy street market at night. Maybe it’s a sign of my old age, but I was quickly bored of all the stalls selling the same, repetitive tourist fares and unremarkable foods. We ended up eating dinner at a vegetarian Thai restaurant off a side street.
1. Boat Noodle Alley – Really relished in the touristiness of this experience and the noodles were legitimately good. You can pick your broth and type of noodles for about $0.50 a bowl and then eat as much as you like while stacking up the empty bowls. You can sit outside next to the river, which I thought would be more romantic. But after watching the trash float by and smelling that distinctive sour smell from the polluted canal, I got why all the locals chose to sit inside.
2. Victory Monument – We walked around this neighborhood and discovered some stalls that sold cheap but actually cute and stylish clothes. The “malls” however are to be avoided. They are basically a street market crammed into not very well ventilated old buildings and even though the clothes are super cheap, you probably couldn’t get me to wear them for free.
3. Chatuchak market – Boasted as the largest outdoor market in the world and I am inclined to believe it. It took us half an hour to just walk through the gardening section. Anything ever manufactured in the world is there. But apart from cheap plastic stuff, there are also some vendors that sell pretty awesome handicrafts. I could have bought a suitcase full of pottery if I didn’t have to carry them on 8 or so more flights with me.
Bangkok has my heart and I hope you will get to visit one day. If you have, feel free to let me know what were your favorite spots in the city. xx