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Bangkok: seeing what I’ve learned in school, in person (#2).

One of my favorite classes at Berkeley was Southeast Asian Politics, where I learned about Thailand and its overall political, cultural, and social landscape. I finally got to see this in person on Sunday, July 20.

First off, a non-advertised, non-ulterior motive blurb: I owe Google Maps and Google Search Engine (mostly Wikipedia and Wikitravel). The two combined have helped me create itineraries in a dozen countries over three continents. I donate to Wikipedia every year and encourage those who’ve benefitted from the site to also contribute.

I first took a taxi into the tourist heavy Grand Palace and temple area.

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A 25 kilometer taxi ride cost me 140 Baht, and I tipped 60 Baht, totaling $6.67 USD. I exited to find touts (solicitors) who tried to tell me that the temples were closed, and that I needed to take a tuk tuk to go to a better temple. Nice try buddy, Wikitravel warned me all about you.

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I came at a perfect time. The Thailand curfew was uplifted less than one month ago. I could still see the remnant of public sites being sectioned off by fences.

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Ministry of Defense, lots of soldiers stationed to the left.

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The City Pillar Shrine.

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Right outside the Grand Palace. It’s hot and humid, pants are required, no shorts allowed. I couldn’t do it, so I went straight to Wat Pho.

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Wat Pho is huge and gorgeous.

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Look at the size of the temple compared to the people.

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Afterward, I walked to the canal. Here’s Wat Arun in the background. Never seen these types of boats. They’re long, thin, and leave a gigantic wake behind its powerful motor.

I slowly walked towards Thammasat University, one of Thailand’s premier universities. Seeing the school on the map caught my eye, since I had learned about this in school.

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The lengthy road along the way was a street market filled with stalls. Giant green beans caught my eye.

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Arrived! I always appreciate seeing the fresh graduates posing for graduation photos. They’re the leaders of our future.

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Probably one of the most significant academic departments in all of Thailand.

I ate lunch in the cafeteria, really spicy papaya salad and some minced meat salad. Took a while to finish, my throat and mouth was on fire.

Took a cab and headed towards Lumpini Park.

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Arrived! Lumpini Park is a huge publicly accessible park where a lot of folks jog and bike. It’s a nice getaway from the city noise.

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I asked for the couple’s permission to take this lovely photo of them. I wonder what their story is. Perhaps expats who met and fell in love here?

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Or these two friends, what of their story? I wonder how different my life would be in their shoes. What they value must be so different than mine.

Afterwards, I slowly walked towards the central shopping center. I had read about Central World, Siam Square, and MBK Center. They were all in the same area.

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This view reminded me of a familiar-looking architectural layout in Hong Kong, from when I visited in February:

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Encountered several undeveloped, demolished land along the way. This is a pretty common view, spread across random neighborhoods.

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It’s really obvious when you’re nearing the money center of the city. 4 and 5 star hotels appear out of nowhere. Foreigners on the sidewalk.

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I spent the next several hours walking through plenty of malls. In particular, the skywalk was convenient for both providing shade and for getting past the otherwise ridiculous traffic. This reminded me of Hong Kong’s Central Station.

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The MRT here was built in a desperate attempt to reduce the traffic. India has truly trained me well, no amount of traffic anywhere, even China, will topple India’s congestion and controlled chaos.

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I was genuinely impressed by not hearing any honks all day. Thai folks seem to be very patient, non-aggressive drivers.

MBK Center, which pictures cannot provide justice, is a gigantic 8-story building with upwards of 5,000 stores or stalls. I failed several times to haggle on something I wanted to get for my sister. Beijing flea market experience and business negotiation classes failed me here.

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Lastly, an urban experience is not complete without taking the city’s public transportation (taxi excluded). I wanted to ride Bangkok’s Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) or Bangkok Transit System (BTS) Skytrain. I took the BTS to the BTS หมอชิต stop. Seriously, there was no English equivalent, not even on Google map.

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Got off the train and landed in Chatuchak Market, which is the current/former largest outdoor market in Asia, boasting 15,000 stalls. Browsed for a while there before hailing a taxi back to the hotel.

Hailing a taxi was very difficult, I tried unsuccessfully with 7 or so taxis, even with a map and address of my hotel in Thai. English and Chinese may be the business languages of the world, but there is little use for it here. Cross-cultural communication (haha resume phrases) is often a struggle when traveling, which actually makes it more fun.

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