So when I told people I was heading to Bangkok, Thailand for 4 days for the first part of my break, the first thing that came to their minds was the movie “The Hangover 2.”
I can wholeheartedly say that the city has absolutely zero parallels to the movie (with the exception of the heat!)
Bangkok is huge. It’s a metroplex with scattered skyscrapers, a million Buddhist temples and divided by a river. The thing that amazed me the most about the city was the culture. The people of Thailand have a strong devotion to the Buddhist faith and it was extremely evident, even though the 5 temples I visited were full of tourists. Practicing Buddhists and monks who inhabit and keep up the temples accepted us tourists gracefully, but still expected us to adhere to their customs. No shoes are allowed inside temple rooms where the main Buddha resides. Quiet, hushed behavior was expected and modest dress was the norm. The majority of temples required an entrance fee for foreigners, typically of 50 Bhat (about $1.50 USD). My favorite temple was one of the oldest; Wat Arun is on the banks of the river and is known for its unique decorative style.
One cool thing about being in Thailand at the time I was was that it was Thai New Year, celebrated by the festival called Songkran. This festival lasts three days and is basically a giant water fight. Locals and tourists alike take to the streets and douse each other with water guns, hoses, buckets, pretty much anything they can find. The water is used to symbolize purification, the washing away of sins and bad luck for the upcoming year. This also extends to religious practices as well; Buddhists pour water on statues of Buddha to cleanse him too. At first it was a little unnerving to be say riding along in a tuk tuk (the little motor-powered buggies that are everywhere in South East Asia) and suddenly see a wave of water coming toward me form the sidewalk! But as the days drug on and the weather got hotter, it was a welcome relief from the heat.
If Thailand is known for one thing, it would have to be street vendors. From food to clothes to art, they were everywhere around the city. Some of the street food was way too bold for me to try, so I tended to stick to the classics of Pad Thai and fresh fruit sold from carts. It was amazing to see just how much could be sold, especially when I visited the biggest weekend market in Bangkok. I wandered around the market for 3 hours but probably could have spent 3 days there to look at everything!
The last day was reserved for visiting the ancient city of Ayutthaya, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The site was a collection of Buddhist monasteries and palace sites and has been left to deteriorate since being destroyed by the Burmeese in the 18th century. The coolest part was seeing the famous Buddha in the tree, the head of a Buddha statue fell off and tree roots continued to grow around it, leaving it to play a sort of peek-a-boo with tourists.
Overall, Bangkok was an amazing way to start off my journey. Thai culture is like nothing I have ever experienced and it was incredible to immerse myself in it, even if it was only for four days. I will 100% be going back in the future, its only a matter of when.
Keep a look out for chapter 2: Phuket Island and beach-y paradise!