It was a week before Christmas when I arrived in Bangkok. Staying in the overcrowded tourist area of Khao San Rd seemed a mistake at first but I soon learnt to appreciate it. This crazy street, designed purely to meet the needs of every traveller, is a mish-mash of everything Thai and western! Loud music, massages, street vendors, t-shirt sellers, drugs, taxi's, bars, hippies, more bars, mango shakes, muesli are just some of the delicacies you can experience here. It's quite a sight!
I liked staying at KhaoSan Rd because it made me realise how relaxed and easy it can be as a tourist in South-East Asia if you so wish. There's a definitive tourist trail throughout Thailand and your itinerary could pretty much be handed to you on a plate. I just hope most of the tourists actually venture away from the trail every now and again to experience the real Thailand. It'd be a shame to stick so closely within the almost westernised tourist areas.
On my first night I met up with 'Aum' (a friend of my brothers) and her boyfriend. They took me to the Sukhumvit district famous for the Siam Centre, Siam Discovery and Siam Paragon shopping malls (Thailand used to be called 'Siam' back in the day). My first trip to an Asian mall was a fantastic experience made even more special with such great company. The whole place was decorated in the most fabulous Christmas decorations, but I admit it was pretty wierd observing x-mas in 30 degrees heat!
Something strange happened when I arrived back at KhaoSan Rd and bought a couple of sandwiches for the lcoal tramps. The first one pointed to her stomach gesturing that she didn't want food then stuck out her hand for money, the second grabbed at me (lets say 'below the belt') then chased me down the road grabbing and laughing until i legged it into my hostel! They never react how you expect, a simple smile would be nice. I once gave a kid in India a bottle of water only to find him staring me straight in the eyes whilst pouring the whole thing on the floor.
So far i'd seen only the central and western districts in Bangkok and from this i'd painted a picture of a very low-levelled middle-class city but when you visit Sukhumvit you see a contrast and realise that Bangkok is much more diverse than first meets the eye. Bangkok is full of huge skyscrapers hosting, malls, restaurants, hotels and businesses surrounded by many beautiful parks, all interspersed with Buddhist temples dating back hundreds of years.
I particularly enjoyed cycling in Bangkok and you can hopefully experience this from my video below. The traffic is mentally hectic but very exhilarating. So-much-so that I cycled over 100kms around the city during my week, passing through China town, visiting attractively landscaped parks, the malls, Chatuchak weekend market, many temples, enjoying the aweome food and even watching a Muay Thai fight.
Staying at KhaoSan Rd was actually a blessing because I quickly found the transit pier out on the Chao Phraya river. This huge river runs directly through central Bangkok and plays an important role in the transit of people and cargo around the city, made possible by the many ferry and container ships sailing up and down each day. It's a beautiful way to feel and experience life as a local., and is a must-see for anyone visiting Bangkok, especially if you time your return journey with the sunset.
So I weaved my way between the cloggy traffic of Bangkok to indulge myself in the beauty of such a huge metropolis, smack bang in the middle of mainland South-East Asia.
Bangkok will leave you amazed by a modern cityscape filled with a hip urban society immersed in culture, endulging food, fashion and entertainment... all whilst retaining the awe and inspiring presence of it's rich history.
So Bangkok was over and it became time to head for my next destination... Manila, the Philippines!!! My brothers girlfriend, Carla, is originally Filipino and has a huuuuuge family there. What better place to enjoy Christmas than with a nice family :)
Cycling Bangkok: 17:36 mins