May 12, 2013

A City of Beauty and Kindness

More than the excitement of traveling, I try to find something more to do when I have the opportunity to be on a foreign land.

Bangkok has always been deemed as one of the world's shopping mecca - with almost everyone I asked giving the same reaction to me. It was my first time in Bangkok and I wanted to explore as much as I can to witness the uniqueness of its culture and tradition. I spent hours researching all that can be done during my short stay, hoping to imbibe the vibrance and life of Bangkok. In the end, I was acquainted with a beautiful city and its kind people, making this one of my most memorable travels to date.

My first day didn't go according to plan. I initially wanted to visit the Erawan Museum (Chang Sam Sien) to see the artistry and peculiarity that people have been raving about. But since it was my first time in Bangkok, I had no idea what the distance or travel times are to get to the different points in the city. It was already quite late after we checked-in our hotel, and I was concerned that we might not have ample time to visit the museum. So, I did what most people go to Bangkok for. Shop. 

A few hours after settling in our hotel in Sukhumvit, my mom, brother and me took the BTS Skytrain and was off to Siam. I enjoyed looking at all the quirky and stylish boutiques and grand shopping malls all next to each other. Still, I had an itinerary in Siam. 

Other than the shopping, it was in my list to have a tranquil moment and visit the Pathum Wanaram Temple and the Erawan Shrine. While doing some research on the internet, I read people's comments about spending time to visit Buddha, amidst the bustling streets and countless shopping destinations in Siam. While traversing the walkway, we walked pass the grand Bangkok police station, with a huge photo of King Bhumibol Aduyadej of Thailand. 

The first temple we were able to go to was the Pathum Wanaram Temple. We arrived nightfall and wasn't able to see much of the place anymore. The place was quite serene and the all white exterior of the temple made it seem like a giant sand castle. 


We almost got lost looking for my next destination. We had a hard time asking for the location of the Erawan Shrine since most of the Thais had no idea what it was in English. So, we decided to keep walking, hoping to accidentally stumble upon it.

While on the walkway, I suddenly spotted a brightly lit corner and was so ecstatic when I realized it was finally the Erawan Shrine. It's not a grand site to behold, but what I appreciated most was the devotion of the people as they lit incense sticks and offered flowers to the Buddha of the shrine. It was almost late night and there was still a crowd of people waiting for their turn to kneel and pray. My mom, who was partially tired from walking, sat at one of the benches and admired the number of people who were still arriving at the shrine.

Something to look forward to is the worship performance that the traditional Thai women offer when a prayer is asked from them. They perform a brief song and dance ritual as they pray for whoever made a request. It is accompanied by a group of musicians playing ethnic musical instruments.


On our second day, we took the MRT Subway and got off at the farthest point at Hualampong station. From there, it was a ten minute walk to the Wat Traimit where the largest sitting golden Buddha was found. It was a hot day and we had to climb all the way to the top of the temple to see the giant Buddha. 


Just a few minutes from the temple was Yaowarat Road or Bangkok's Chinatown. While checking the area, I felt transported back to Gandara or Nueva Street in Binondo, Manila where rows of small family owned businesses and shops were found. It was like a trip down memory lane in Binondo where I spent part of my life at.

We intended to try the street food market of Yaowarat but found out that it was only open at night. We decided to just go back in the evening and spend the afternoon some place else. From there, we decided to take Bangkok's legendary means of transportation, the tuktuk. A piece of advice in taking the tuktuk, as much as possible take the government owned vehicles, and learn how to haggle.

We got off at the River City Pier and decided to take a taxi boat around the Chao Phraya River. While talking to one of the locals, taking a taxi boat has become one of the more efficient means of transportation in Bangkok. With heavy traffics congesting the roads of the city, some people have to take alternative means of transportation to get around the city.

It was a sunny day but the sights along the river made it an interesting experience. Unfortunately, the taxi boat can get really crowded and a lot of people have to stand while the boat is sailing. We stopped at the Tha Chang Pier and had our first street food market moments in Bangkok.


After our late afternoon lunch, one of the locals suggested for us to visit the newly opened shopping district called Asiatique. It is located at the Central Pier station, and has a designated boat that brings guest to and fro its pier. 

The Asiatique is a relaxing area to walk around in the late afternoon. Posh restos to a fastfood area can be found, with a lot of shopping options. The theme has a very old colonial feel, with the lamp posts and red bricks giving the place a really vintage look. One has the option to dine by the river as some fancy restos were situated near the pier. This place is highly recommended for an afternoon to shop and dine with friends or a tour with the family.



I became spiritual and more relaxed on our third day in Bangkok. It was one of my most anticipated part of the itinerary. I was about to enter Wat Pho for the first time.

Slowly taking my steps in the Wat Pho temple, I was in awe with the colorful architecture and interior of the temple's complex. It was a vast area that housed numerous temples, one of which for the majestic Reclining Buddha. It was difficult to take a photo inside since a number of people were crowding near the head of the Buddha to take a photo with it. The inside of the temple was filled with artistic depictions of ancient Thai life through pictures. What I found most interesting were the markings on the soles of the Reclining Buddha's feet.

But other than the Reclining Buddha, my plan was to experience the traditional Thai massage in the Wat Pho temple. After a long walk, we finally reached the massage area where rows of couches where arranged for the foot massage, and mattresses were all lined-up for the body massage. I don't normally opt for a hard pressure massage and it was a little uncomfortable when the therapist was exerting a little too much force on my body. It was surprising that even in my jeans, I can feel the pressure as the therapist's fingers pressed on my knees and legs.

After the session, I was so relieved. My body felt rejuvenated even after days of walking around Bangkok. The experience was worth it!





When the temple closed a little before nightfall, we decided to take the ten minute walk to check out the flower market of Bangkok. I love going to Manila's famous "Dangwa" where rows of flower stalls are found. I was quite curious how Bangkok's flower market fared so we went around to take a look. I was hoping to see different breeds of flowers, other than those that I always see in Manila, but the variety was a little less.


Before ending this post, I would like to commend the team running the Sofitel Bangkok Sukhumvit for making our stay more than wonderful. The room was quite cozy, and sleeping in the humongous yet comfortable bed was so relaxing. The accommodating staff made it feel like it was my home in Bangkok. 

My first time in Bangkok will most definitely not be the last. I was impressed with how friendly all the Thais are, truly living up to their monicker as the "City of Smiles", with my mom constantly praising the politeness and decorum of the city's people. This made me believe that other than the sites and shopping that the city is known for, its wonderful people are one of its most valuable assets.

No comments:

Post a Comment