3 Nights in Bangkok
Uncertain if I wanted to spend any time in Bangkok on my recent visit to Thailand and Cambodia, I thought it wise to only spend a tentative 3 nights, as a last brief stop at the tail end of four weeks of travelling. An afterthought of sorts. Not enough to see or do much, but a way of dipping my toes into a city renowned for its congestion, pollution, shopping, amazing food and a rich sprinkle of culture.
Key to how I experience a place is where I stay. I spend hours and hours trailing the web in search of accommodation that is unique, comfortable and just right for what I am looking for in that specific corner of the world I am planning to visit. It was the setting for Loy La Long that caught my attention. A 30 year old, Thai wooden house built practically on the river with only a handful of rooms. Add to that a hard to find location tucked away on the grounds of a temple (Wat Pathumkongka), and I didn’t need any convincing that it was the right place for me to get a sense of the Bangkok I wanted to see.
It lived up to its reputation of being hard to find, but what a find! Creaking wood, and water sloshing against the floor boards with every passing boat created an ambience that is hard to beat. River barges, pleasure boats, water taxis, long-tail boats, speed boats, express boats, and pretty much anything else that can float use the Chao Phraya from early in the morning ’till late at night as a watery highway. River life captured my heart and held me mesmerised and enchanted. All I wanted to do was stretch out on one of the two balconies and watch life gently flow by.
I struggled to drag myself away from the bewitching charm of the river, but I did manage to make it to the flower market, albeit on invitation from one of the many interesting travellers I met during my stay. Pak Khlong Talat is a riot of colour, and hive of activity that spills onto the sidewalks and streets.
Watching women skilfully use long, sharp needles to make beautiful phuang malai garlands without as much as a glance at their hands, made me gawk in appreciation. Given as offerings or kept for good luck, these garlands can be found everywhere in Thailand. The lingering scent of an assortment of freshly cut flowers follow you everywhere and was only rivalled by the enticing aroma of a cheap meal on the sidewalk, when my stomach started growling.
Wat Arun, named after Aruna, the Indian God of Dawn, is one of the many landmarks in Bangkok that sits impressively on the banks of the Chao Phraya. Adorned with broken pieces of multi-coloured porcelain and ceramic tiles, and an elongated Khmer-style prang or tower that reaches 79 metres into the air, it is worth climbing the steep steps to have a closer look.
Wat Pho is perhaps best known for its enormous reclining Buddha, and although it is worth seeing, the temple grounds house many other treasures, and spending enough time here to soak up the beauty and energy of one of the largest and oldest temples in Bangkok will not disappoint.
Bangkok is a city with many faces. How one spends one’s time here, simply depends on which face one is interested in seeing.