Eyes wide open

May 2017

Wat Pho, Bangkok

 

Same same but different

Leaving London, I boarded a plane and set off for Bangkok. People mentioned that I would feel a culture shock, excitement coursed through my veins, I was ready to experience the Thai culture and everything it had to offer, however, I didn’t quite expect it as soon as I stepped off the plane! Getting into a taxi I told the driver the address, the first problem came when he pulled up at the side of a very busy, major road, not knowing the way, ok, I just remember thinking please nothing hit us, I’ve just arrived! After phoning the hotel, we were back on the road, getting close he pulled up again to ask a police officer the way, the police officer then got into the taxi and directed him to the hotel. My face must have been so comical, not knowing what to think. Arriving safe and sound, I guess it was ‘Welcome to Bangkok, this is how we roll’. 

Wandering around I was in awe, amazed by so many things, from the electrical wires strung across streets, to the temples and street food. Embracing the culture I walked through the shopping district and found a local food market, the food was so cheap, I had pad thai for the equivalent of 80p and didn’t get food poising, bonus! Lumphini Park was an experience too, from watching people do a keep fit class that was so positive and energetic it made you feel like joining in, to the giant monitor lizards that I almost walked into turning a corner. 

Catching a water taxi down the river I got to witness a lady selling products from her boat, not the easiest of jobs and see some of the stilted housing, which although lived in also looked to be falling down. Getting off the boat I walked and found myself on the famous Ko San Road, a hive of activity both day and night, with shops, street stalls and bars. The fried insects on sticks certainly looked interesting but I wasn't prepared to try a fried scorpion, no way. Instead I opted for the pad thai and spring rolls from a street vender. As I sat on the tiny plastic stools I spoke to the excitable lady who served me. It was a family run business and that morning she had made the spring rolls and her son and husband cooked the pad thai, it was delicious and so cheap. I couldn't understand the people that chose to go into the McDonald's and pay way more money for a meal that was nowhere near as nice.

Of course, no trip to Bangkok is complete without experiencing the nerve-racking thrill of a Tuk Tuk ride and visiting at least one temple. Speeding along the road in a three wheeled rickshaw, surrounded by noise and pollution I certainly felt vulnerable, but it also gave me an adrenaline rush. I got caught up in the chaos and admittedly loved it. I guess the danger creates a thrill. Anyway, time for a temple. Wat Pho with its many, many Buddhas including the giant reclining Buddha was my favourite, although touristy it's worth it, but for a smaller alternative, Wat Traimit with the solid gold Buddha, is impressive, as is the view from the top. 

Leaving the chaos of Bangkok I caught the night train to Chiang Mai, it wasn’t the best night’s sleep I’d ever had but it was refreshing to arrive in a quiet, green city. A place to momentarily relax before visiting more temples. Pho What Tanu Surat, standing at the top of a very large hill was a highlight, getting to watch the monks pray and then to be blessed by one, I felt very lucky, I was surprised by his great sense of humour too.

A large tent stood in the centre of Chiang Mai, signs all around advertising the lady boy cabaret show, intrigue and curiosity lead me to buy a ticket. Sitting with a group of people I watched as the cockroaches scuttled along the ground around me, wondering what I was about to watch. Glitter, dancing and bad singing, lead me to laughter, I’m just pleased I wasn’t one of the males in the crowd, who got attention whether they wanted it or not. It was a day of two halves, going from the religious temples to a cabaret show, Asian culture at it’s finest. 

The last temple I visited, Wat Rong Kung, located near Chiang Rai, reminded me of an icing sculpture, white marble profound against the countryside. You couldn’t help but be fascinated. Walking through the hands reaching up from hell, you passed into heaven, the temple, adorned with wall murals of, wait for it, super heroes, minions and famous singers. Certainly, a different take on heaven and fascinating. Looking around for the toilets I expected a plain building, oh how I was wrong. The toilets were in a grand, ornate gold building, defiantly beats a hole in the ground. By far the poshest looking toilets I’ve seen.

My journey in Thailand had wowed me, shocked me and left me wanting more, I couldn’t wait to return.