A little reminiscing about past travel to Thailand’s amazing city of Bangkok…
In this Part 2 of Bangkok, I share a few places to explore but also reminisce about the noticeable changes after travelling to Bangkok four times over a few decades. Check Part 1 Bangkok Pretty Little City for where to stay and how to get around.
Where is Bangkok?
A sprawling metropolis that never sleeps, Bangkok city is home to almost eleven million people and Thailand’s most populated city as well as its capital.
Nestled snuggly in the Gulf of Thailand, Bangkok dates back to the 15th century.
You can be assured of an intense experience wherever in Bangkok you explore – it really is that bustling and electric.
What to see
I truly believe that if you spent six months exploring Bangkok, you still would not see all the Wats, temples, and beautiful sights in this hectic and amazing city.
Do check out the splendorous Grand Palace as its architecture is spectacular…
…although it is expensive to enter and forgo the visit this time while in Bangkok as last visited the palace in 2004.
If you’re a shopaholic, then Bangkok is the place for you!
Countless markets, stalls, and shops sell rip-off designer okay copies of everything imaginable, especially DVDs, watches, leather goods, and clothes, just to mention a few.
I have to add that I did notice much of the goods sold are made in China whereas years ago, goods were made in Thailand and the quality seemed better. So, check the labels before you buy although labels don’t always tell the truth either.
This is Bangkok’s sprawling weekend market, and with 15,000 stalls, this makes Chatuchak the largest in the world!
Everything is on offer here from jewellery, religious icons, cheap clothing, rip-off clothing carrying high-end fake name brands, live animals, delightful street foods, but also local small restaurants and tiny cafe nooks are squeezed into Chatuchak.
Surprised to see this very friendly chef creating a delicious and fragrant massive Paella at the Chatuchak Market…
Chatuchak is also a great place to mingle with locals. Immerse yourself in everyday Thai life and watch everyone go about their daily routine.
Arrive early and expect to stay for the rest of the day as it is impossible to see every stall in one day – there are just too many!
Explore China Town’s narrow exotic and winding alleyways.
China Town (Yaowarat Road in Samphanthawong district) is where you can taste cheap local and authentic food. Always a bonus while travelling.
Graced with many alleyways and bursting with tiny shops selling everything imaginable, China Town also offers loads of street stalls selling food treats and trinkets. In an area that only seems to sleep for a couple of hours each night, you are only a 10-minute walk from the river and the amazingly cheap ferry transport when you stay at the Check Inn. This area is great for taking photos and people-watching.
Infamous Khaosan is in the Banglamphu area of Phra Nakhon district, which is around one kilometre north of the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew.
In former times, the street was a major Bangkok rice market but now, an abundance of cheap backpacker-style accommodation to reasonably priced 3-star hotels grace Khaosan.
For only a short street in central Bangkok, its huge reputation goes back to before the 1970s.
Khaosan’s reputation is synonymous with cheap backpacker accommodation or as the world-famous “backpacker ghetto”. The street is lined with massage parlours, hairdressers, restaurants, bars, and market stalls along the road selling predominantly Spring Rolls and Pad Thai, but also pizza and western food. You can also pick up used books, pirated CDs, DVDs, and fake IDs along this street.
Typically in the latter part of the evening, loads of western tourists (especially Australians) drink in the bars, which can be a little tacky. I believe you can still see a live Ping Pong show here if you so desire. Having witnessed one of these shows back in 1989 in Khaosan, I gave this a miss on this visit as sure nothing much has changed since then…
Travelling through Thailand including Bangkok four times during 1985, 1989, 2004, and again in 2014 – the witnessed changes in this city and in its locals over the years are countless – not too dissimilar to changes experienced in Malaysia and Laos.
Most noticeable and sadly, the number of western fast-food chains that have invaded this dynamic city and across the country are immense. Resulting in the squeezing out of the small local and friendly family-run stalls, shops, and markets – although, smaller markets are in some designated areas these days and seem to be in existence more for tourists than locals.
The once healthy stalls that sold fresh tasty BBQ meats, fresh fruit, juices, coffees, and a plethora of goodies, have almost gone – replaced now with stalls selling fast and nasty processed sausage or unhealthy plastic-like fish or cheese balls on sticks.
As in a western culture that has a profusion of fast foods, comes weight issues and obesity.
Perhaps it is not my place to comment, although can’t help but notice the change in the local Thai people over the years. This once svelte populace is fast growing into a larger one and it’s not uncommon to see obese children, even more so than 10 years ago in 2004.
I guess also the issue here is that (I’m told) in Asian culture, typically, fat people are associated with wealth and the display of wealth is important.
I’d like to hear any thoughts on this and if anyone has similar or differing views?
Regardless, western corporations and corrupt local governments have a lot to answer for as the tentacles and push of the mighty dollar are far-reaching and ever-present.
Other glaring noticeable changes are that streets are filled with huge 4x4s but fewer bicycles and motorbikes. Rickshaws are almost non-existent or operate mostly just for tourists.
Although the great thing about Bangkok that hasn’t changed over the years is that it is still a very exciting bustling and energetic city. The authentic food is amazing. Locals are still friendly and there is an abundance of sights and experiences in Bangkok – definitely worth a visit!
Leaving Thailand for Myanmar (Burma)
As most border crossings to Myanmar are closed or only offer a quick two-week visa on arrival, we decide to fly to Myanmar instead of travelling overland, as a 28-day visa is granted on arrival. In 2014, this is the maximum stay in Myanmar and also need to be mindful when travelling in the country as locals are fighting.