Bangkok - A very pleasant surprise
Saturday 4th November 2017
When Rebekah was planning our schedule for this trip I have to be honest and say that I didn't expect Thailand to figure on our countries to visit and I certainly did not envisage us even contemplating a venture into Bangkok.
As far as my uneducated travel mind was concerned Bangkok was either the place that old men went to choose a young wife, young men went to watch a game of Ping Pong (and I don't mean table tennis) or if you were that way inclined a chance to party (and more) with a lady with bits or a man with t*ts (this has always confused me greatly).
Although I had never been there in person films like The Hangover 2 had only added to my preconceptions that Bangkok was as seedy as it got and without doubt not the kind of place that I wanted to be taking my nine and seven year old daughters.
Luckily for all of us I was not Destination Derek and played no role in plotting our way around the world - I remember questioning Bangkok when Rebekah passed me her final draft of our route and all I got back was one of those death stares that wives often give when you challenge their judgement on a subject you nothing about.
Having arrived in Thailand from India I was amazed by just how much Bangkok was the total opposite to Delhi; it was clean, tidy, civilised, quiet and most importantly no one driving a car used their horn constantly! It really felt like we were in a civilisation that we were used to back home for the first time in over seven weeks after our time in Uganda, Tanzania and India.
We were met at the airport by our Airbnb host Vittatas (Vit) who turned out to be one the nicest guys that we have ever met and someone who helped make our stay in Bangkok pleasant and memorable. Our apartment was at the top of Bangkok Horizon a recently built block of flats and we were on floor thirty seven - the top floor! Rebekah was amazed that I had booked this place as she knows full well that me and heights do not go well together but to overcome any fear or problem you have to face it and although I still do not like heights I am pleased that we stayed on the 37th floor.
Rebekah and I often take turns in booking our accommodations and sometimes we keep it as a surprise from each other and the children to add a little bit more adventure to our next destination -however we are also both very good about distancing ourselves from being the person responsible for the booking when it has turned out to be a flop and reminding the guilty party. Luckily so far our experiences with hotels and Airbnb have been in the main great with a few notable exceptions (Airport View Hotel, Uganda)(Hairdressers, Port Elizabeth) (SINA, Uganda) (Enro, Uganda) which were all in fact booked by Rebekah LOL! [edit - I have excuses for all of these I promise!! - Bex]
The first thing that we did in Bangkok was go to the supermarket and we just spent an hour or so walking around it and drooling over things that we had not seen or eaten for what felt such along time - it's crazy when you have been staying in countries that don't live the way that we do how excited and how much pleasure silly little things like walking around a supermarket can bring.
I don't know why but whenever I reflect on a place that we have been, to think about how much I enjoyed it or disliked it my immediate thought is always to remember how safe I felt. I suppose this is because we are travelling as a family with young children and I am always conscious that I have three other people to protect before I even think about my own safety. When it comes to Bangkok I have to say it is the safest that I have felt anywhere to date on our trip (that's not to say that I have felt unsafe in other places). In Bangkok I was always 100% comfortable and relaxed if we were still out after dark, there was never any panic or stress about going on any form of public transport (train, metro, canal boat, taxi) both day and night and most importantly it was a place where its citizens respected law and order and there was always a visible but in no way overbearing police presence on the streets.
We were very fortunate to have been visiting Bangkok at a truly unique time when the Royal Cremation of King Rama IX was about to take place. One evening a few days before the ceremony, we were even lucky enough to witness a rehearsal for the horse procession going through the streets of Bangkok - the usually busy and vibrant pavements and roads were totally silent as everyone sat motionless on the street floor as the Princess led the parade of dozens of horses on a white horse - it was something that we will never forget. The country literally came to a standstill in respect for the King who reigned over Thailand for almost 70 years, for most people here, he is the only monarch they've ever known.
In terms of things to do in Bangkok there was so much on offer that we extended our stay from three nights to five and even then we could have easily stayed another few days.
Our trip to Bangkok has once again shown me that in life forming prejudgments and preconceptions has no value and is a complete waste of time. This adventure is making me reevaluate my outlook on certain aspects, my thought processes and the way that I approach things. I look back on our stay in Bangkok with great fondness and am very pleased that Rebekah included Bangkok into our trip.
If you are heading to Bangkok here is a few things I recommend that will keep you busy and amused:
Chatchukat Weekend Market - set over 25 acres this is Thailand's largest market. I don't think that there was anything that you could not buy there. We spent a good 4-5 hours walking around and even then there was so much that we didn't see. We got the train which was super easy. Tip a don't get off where it say Chatuchak - get off at Kamphaeng Phet - the one after and avoid the crowds heading there. It's just as close and easy to get to the market.
Buddhist temples - so many temples to go and visit and each one has its own unique story or stand out Buddha statue to view (Emerald Buddha, Reclining Buddha, Golden Buddha to name but a few). Although it was interesting to see the work that goes into the statues and buildings after a while you do get the feeling that you have seen enough temples.
BatCat - what's not to love about a Museum showcasing tens of thousands of Batman memorabilia along with other rooms with even more collectibles from every super hero or children's toy you can imagine. I doubt that a better Batman collection is in existence anywhere else in the world and was a great place to visit and spend a few hours. Just a shame for us that there was a power cut halfway through and we were left to look around using our phone torches!
Ayutthaya - around an hour's drive from Bangkok, Ayutthaya is the former capital of Thailand and has played a huge part in the country's history. The ruins of the former capital are interesting to explore. There also plenty of temples to visit and places to enjoy good Thai food. You can also do a river tour but we didn't after seeing the speed of the river and that it was breaking the banks in places. They were expecting heavy flooding there.
Red Cross Snake Farm, Research & Museum Centre - This was another place that we really enjoyed visiting. A professional demonstration was put on with snake handlers explaining the different types of snakes and the threat that they pose to humans if bitten by one. The Museum was very interesting but unfortunately because we visited on a Sunday the Venom extraction demonstration was not open. Not a place where you would spend all day but a good couple of hours fun for the children.
Ko San Road - no traveller to Bangkok
should leave without having a drink and walking the streets of the famous Ko San Road. See the tattoo parloura, drink a Singha, eat pad Thai. Or if you're our child get your hair braided.
Rattanakosin Exhibition Hall - I personally really enjoyed learning about the culture and history of Thailand at this place, however it did drag for a few hours and the children were bored halfway through as in the main it was directed at adults so bear this is mind if travelling with children.
Canal Boat Ride - A great form of transport to get into the centre of Bangkok and a good way to avoid the busy roads and traffic jams. Extremely cheap as a ticket for a 30 min journey was only 19bht per adult with young children going free.
Shopping Malls - So many huge shopping malls in and around Bangkok . The food halls in these places offer fantastic Thai food at great prices. The shops themselves cater to everyone's needs.