First in a series through an unforgettable country
First Stop: Bangkok, Thailand
Traveling to Thailand always seemed to be a destination that was not quite in reach. The timing, the distance, amount of time required to make the journey and the cost of the ticket. There always seemed to be a reason not to go. This year, everything seemed to fall in place and even the airfare was pretty good so it was time to see what all the fuss was about. We bought our tickets, took the journey and I’m so very glad we did.
The questions kept coming up by friends and family as to what we needed to do before traveling to SE Asia. In preparation (not counting hotels, tours and shuttles) we did get some vaccines not because anything was required-they were only recommendations. The vaccines we took were Hepatitis A, Typhoid and Tetanus. I know there are some who travel without vaccines and that is purely up to the traveler to make that decision. We also purchased travel insurance and that is always a good preventative measure when leaving your home country. Other than learning a few key Thai phrases we were set to travel.
We stayed at the Ramada Plaza Menam Riverside which is located on the Chao Phraya River that flows through the heart of Bangkok and is a major river in Thailand. The hotel was very nice, the staff were exceedingly friendly and very helpful with all of our questions. One perk that is it offered is a free ferry on the river to the River Express boat at the Saphan Taksin BTS station were the BTS Sky train station meets the ferry pier. We bought a full day ticket and spent a good portion of the day on the river stopping at different piers to see the sights.
Temple of the Reclining Buddha (Wat Pho) AND Wat Arun
The Reclining Buddha is massive and impressive and is surrounded by several colorful temples that can be toured. Beware: there are people walking around warning of pick pockets so hold your valuables close and or out of sight. I would recommend stopping to see the temples, they are historic and full of color. Take water and remember when entering the temples to dress properly. Shoulders and knees covered. Shoes are removed when entering. The day I toured the temples it was overly crowded making it hard to really get good photographs of the Reclining Buddha.
Wat Arun is located across the river from the Reclining Buddha. The river crossing costs around 3 baht. The temple was under renovation when I visited but we were still able to walk around the Wat and get a feel of its greatness and beauty. The views from the temple area are good and especially in the evening when the lights are shining and the city is lit up- it’s really something to see. Bangkok takes on a new face once the sun is down and the bright lights of the city take over. There is a tour if you are interested that is done by tuk tuk and is a Bangkok by night and foodie tour.
Other stops along the river are the flower markets and Chinatown to name a few. All within walking distance from the boat piers. When you are ready to move on to see something new come back to the pier and catch the next boat down the river. One thing that was slightly confusing is when we were ready to go back up the river to catch our hotel ferry it’s not clearly understood where to line up to catch a boat going in the opposite direction. It seemed like everyone was in one huge line or group and the boat guys at the pier were yelling instructions as to where and what area to line up in. That was the only thing negative I could say about the day spent on the river.
Road Trip Out of the City: KANCHANABURI
Bridge over River Kwai and JEATH War Museum:
The movie brought this to life for us and we needed to see where this part of history took place. The JEATH museum is small but somber. The acronym stands for Japanese, English, Australian/ American, Thai and Holland. These were the primary nationalities involved in the construction of the bridge. It is a reminder of the thousands of POW’s and forced laborers who lost their lives in the Second World War. Kanchanaburi is about 80 miles outside of Bangkok. Our drive consisted of views of rice paddies, sugar cane fields and some beautiful Thai rural landscapes. People who visit have different reasons to see the symbolic bridge. We walked along the bridge where some 9000 Allied soldiers lost their lives while building it. The day was a long but we learned a lot about that era and the Thailand it was back then.
The Floating Markets of Damnoen Saduak:
The first time I heard about the markets was on the Travel Channel. I knew one day I would have to experience them and see for myself the fascinating way of buying and selling. Our journey started off on a long tail speed boat through the canals winding our way back to the markets. We saw a different way of life being lived on the canals. We arrived to the dock and the experience began. We saw women selling fresh produce, flowers, and souvenirs and cooking full meals all within their boats. If you want to get up close and personal there are small boats that can be rented offering a chance to mingle within the vendors to get a real feel of the floating markets. The atmosphere is vibrant and bustling with activity. Around the canal are gads of stalls packed with shopping items and food vendors. You can buy on the canal or walk around canal. It’s a must see when visiting Bangkok.
Shopping Eating and Night Markets:
Bangkok is known for its crazy malls full of wonderful things, endless street food that will make your eyes bulge out and night markets with more endless shopping.
Asiatique Night Market: Our hotel was within walking distance to the market so it made it so convenient for me to shop and take my time. The market is filled with rows of shopping, great food and cool place to people watch. There is even a ginormous Ferris wheel to get great views of the city at night. Bargaining can be done in the markets and it is expected.
Street Food: There is a ton of food being cooked on the streets in Bangkok. One famous street is Khao San Road. It’s very popular with the tourists and backpacker community. There are tons of shopping, street food, night clubs and the ladyboys. Street food can be found just about on any street in the city. The experience is like no other.
MBK Center Terminal 21 Platinum Fashion Mall: Floor after floor of shopping. The malls were almost overwhelming to me in Bangkok because there is so much to see, such as name brand items, designer wear, soveniers, restaurants, jewelry, movie theaters- you name it and it can be found here. In my opinion, I think the best deals were found at Platinum Fashion Mall. The food court on the 6th floor offers great choices in Thai food for dirt cheap.
No visit to Thailand is complete without having a Thai Massage The massage was on my list from the start and I loved them so much that I ended up having several while in Thailand.
Don’t forget to take a tuk tuk taxi. Some would say it is a touristy thing to do…didn’t bother us, we had more fun in tuk tuk taxi’s especially with the horrific traffic that Bangkok has..by all means take a ride, you’ll never forget it.
Four days in Bangkok was not nearly enough because there is so much more to see that we just didn’t have time. Unfortunately, when in an area so far from home we try to cram as much in as we can because we never know if we will make it back. We wanted to catch a flavor of all of Thailand, from Bangkok to the northern and southern parts of the country.
What makes Thailand so unforgettable? I believe it’s the people who we met along the way offering us smiles and wanting to share their country and culture with us. They seem to have a peace about themselves that left me wanting more and to learn more about them.
Next stop: Chiang Mai
We left on the evening of the 4 day to catch the overnight train to Chiang Mai.