Sunday, 19 July 2015

April 2015 - Bangkok

Back in April we visited Thailand - our first week was in the amazing Bangkok, a place I knew I would love...and I was right!
We arrived first thing in the morning on a Sunday and since we were moving further south before the following weekend we knew we had to visit Chatuchak Market (only on at weekends).
To say this place was huge would be an understatement 
It was enormous. 
We spent as many hours as our jet lagged boys would allow for and still only covered a small part of it.
Little truck made into a cafe
Each section is roughly divided into types of merchandise - everything from home ware to vintage fashion.

 The most interesting bizarre and disturbing section was the live animal bit. 

ot only can you pick up a puppy or a kitten, but a squirrel, pelican, monkey...pretty much anything alive. 
Including baby owls in hats. 

The heat by midday was oppressive and we tried really hard to get back into home ware...but it was pet metropolis. 

We stopped for a snack 
(boys only - you wouldn't catch me eating insects!)

and later lunch - alongside the odd cockroach and dead mouse.

It was a colourful, exciting, exhilarating, disturbing, exhausting, amazing first day in Bangkok.

we bought this little bead for a light pull
 I was fascinated by the colour and vibrancy - the pearlised pink cars are taxis.

 By mid afternoon the boys were absolutely done in...we headed back on the wonderfully air conditioned Metro back to our apartment.

We chose to stay on the outskirts of the city - it was walkable to a boat and Metro stop. Our apartment was on the 30th floor so the views were amazing, especially at sunset and during a thunderstorm.

 there was a shared pool further down - we never saw anyone in it.

and great 360 views from the roof top garden

 view from our bed:

 and a teeny balcony of our own

We went everywhere by either boat, metro or (our favourite) tuktuk. Obviously they are built for two, three at a push, 
but none of the drivers seemed to 
mind all five of us climbing in and sitting on each other.
Nor did it stop them speeding round corners and weaving among 6 lanes of traffic at breakneck speed. Scary and ace all at once.

Our local ferry stop:

I can't remember how we divided up our days  
but here's what we did in photos:

 We went to a couple of night markets - our favourite was Rod Fai - which had loads of vintage cars, VW vans and stalls. 
Great food and music.

she came home with me!

There are shrines and spirit houses at the entrance to every single building - covered in flowers and offerings. Red things are offered at the Trimurti shrine where people (mostly single women) ask for help with affairs of the heart. Red fanta is a common offering...

We wondered through flowers markets

The smell was intoxicating - and has given me a life long yearning for the smell of jasmine.

Less pleasant was the smell in China Town!

played everywhere

I could have wandered these streets for hours

...but a huge storm was following us!

On that particular day I lost my legendary ability to find the way home and we ended up more than a little lost! We wandered for a good few hours - and saw plenty of Bangkok we wouldn't otherwise have seen. Some of it was fascinating - some of the poverty was difficult to see. But it was all interesting!

open air 'kitchens' on the roadside

I was usually to be found a few hundred yards behind...taking photos

We did of course eventually find our way back 
(I was never worried!!)

and had a snack of mango with salty/spicy dip while waiting for the ferry back to our part of town

On the hottest day of the holiday - and seemingly the hottest day of the year in Bangkok - we hired a tour guide (found through Trip adviser) who was a lovely student Amy,  to take us to all the temples and palaces. It was invaluable - we saw more in a day than we could ever have hoped to see on our own.

It was brilliant...but man, it was hot. REALLY hot.
Even the Bangkokians were finding it hot.

We all loved The Reclining Buddha - 
so much bigger than she appears in books

and the Golden Buddha

One of the things we all enjoyed was the street food. It was (literally) everywhere - and we tried loads of it. All of it good (apart from one particular curd type ball in china town - none of us enjoyed that!)

 Eating anywhere was incredibly cheap - we usually managed to get a meal with drinks for all five of us for less than a tenner. Even if we didn't know what we were eating.

One night we took the ferry down to Asiatique which was only a couple of ferry stops from where we were staying. It's a kind of sanitised night market with restaurants and fairground rides. It was a nice way to spend an evening but didn't feel as authentic as a proper night market. On the upside there were toilets!

and the boys had their feet cleaned by teeny fish

 More spirit houses

 We spent one afternoon walking around the Khao San Road - the most concentrated tourist area of Bangkok often referred to as backpackers heaven. And you could see why - it had a particular vibe to it and I can imagine the boys revisiting it in a few short years! 

We found a lovely restaurant just off the main street and another great cheap meal. The boys had a chilli challenge - which I believe Kenzie won(as usual)

One of my favourite memories of our week is hanging about on the river. The ferries are cheap and plentiful but we also took a trip on a traditional longboat - taking a tour though the Klongs, or canals, off the main Chao Phraya river. 
It's a great way to see the city.

Wat Arun in the background - one of the most beautiful things to see in Bangkok. Except when it's closed for maintenance and covered in scaffolding :(

The boys had been saving their pocket money for months so we spent a good few hours in the malls. They were obsessed with the (fake) watches and football kits - so much time was spent learning how to barter! 

In one of the malls there was a place called Art in Paradise - where you could take photos within really clever paintings...hours of fun.

the boys were dubious - but of course loved it!

 On our last full day we met up with a lovely couple from the UK, Donna and Rob who Alistair had been working with. They had lived in Bangkok for three years and were about to relocate back to the UK so we tried to pick a place to visit that they also hadn't seen. We decided on The Ancient City - which is about an hour out of the city.

It's a large park made up of either replica buildings or actual buildings transported to the park in order to give a representative tour of the whole of Thailand  in one place. It's so big you would struggle to see it all in a day - and you can either travel round on old style trams, on rickety old bikes or like we did by hiring a golf buggy!

We spent about 6 hours in our 8 seater (the boys LOVING being allowed to drive) and barely saw another soul. It's an amazing place - the buildings are exact replicas and included huge shrines, temples, waterways, replicas of small villages, huge palaces and boats. My photos really don't do it justice.

The only other people there were monks on a day trip. 

We saw two big snakes (one of which we halved by accident in the buggy) and a beautiful monitor lizard.

No trip to Bangkok would be complete without a trip to the famous red light district. Our new friends took us to G's, a wonderful German restaurant right in the heart of the area. Alfie was offered all sorts of 'holiday treats' along the way and invited to look behind the curtains of the clubs. To be honest the sights on the streets was enough of an education (for all of us!) without taking a peek....and you can't unsee what your eyes have seen!

pussy galore
 It was good to visit with people who know the scene - especially as Donna made a point of reminding the boys that most of the girls (and boys) involved in the sex trade aren't there of their own volition, have serious drug problems and would doubtless be doing almost anything else to make a living. It was a good thing for them to hear 

With G, the vivacious owner 

It was a fantastic week - we all LOVED Bangkok. It's crazy, busy, sometimes smelly, sometimes fragrant, spiritual, friendly and fun. 
 I didn't want to leave and was worried that our second week further down the coast would be an anticlimax. 
I was very wrong.
Fee x