Our experience in Bangkok was very short and somewhat limited. Due to the Thai coup d’état occurring only one day after our arrival there was a curfew for the entire country. We felt that it was important to stay away from any protestors and parts of Bangkok that might be zones for a military presence. Unbeknownst to us, even in places where we believed to be low key we would see military guards with rifles. Since we left America on our “world tour” we have seen and experienced so many places to realize how much we have back home. Although there are problems worldwide with many political systems we are fortunate to have a government that is not on the brink of being taken over by the military. But I also consider myself lucky to be here in Thailand during a time when peoples socio-economic issues are being played out on the world stage and we are forced to educate ourselves about the country’s political history.
After being in Bali for just shy of a month we were used to the heat and humidity of Southeast Asia. But when we arrived at our apartment we were greeted not only by our host, but also a hotter climate. Yes, you felt as if you were in hell’s mouth. Just walking outside for a few moments you would start to perspire and look for the closest air conditioned building. Luckily I wear gloves, hat, long sleeved shirts, pants and sunglasses to keep myself from getting a tan. Angelo of course is in shorts and a tank – we look like such an odd couple. We decided to take public transit to Bangkok’s Chinatown. This meant that we would be taking the city bus, a subway and also the sky train to get to our destination. One note for anyone planning to take the Bangkok bus : it doesn’t really stop. It just kind of rolls until you hop on and then speeds off. Same for when you are getting off, it slows down for you to jump off then moves on. It’s actually kind of fun.
Bangkok’s Chinatown is around 200 years old, with many Thai-Chinese who own the businesses. It’s is based around Yaowarat road, but it has many other roads that are part of the town. I noticed that it was different than other Chinatowns I have visited. I have been to Chinatowns in LA, NYC, SF, Yokohama and now Bangkok. In my opinion it felt like it served the purpose of being a place where Chinese could be encapsulated by their culture and not be a “tourist destination”. There were definitely tourists present but it seemed like a part of the city where Thai-Chinese could visit and buy, eat and congregate and feel connected to the Chinese culture. We did not see any souvenir shops per se, most shops sold products that are used everyday. We saw many foods and delicacies, some items we did not even know what they were. We walked down several alleyways where people were selling raw meat, fish, duck, poultry, and other items I could not identify on steel or wooden carts. The food is not kept in a refrigerated case, just out in the open. Some stalls had the food on ice, some did not. This type of market is called a wet market. You can also select some live animals to take home and butcher yourself. If you are a foreigner like us, and have never been to a market like this before you will be a little shocked. But I also found it fascinating. There is also fresh fruit and vegetables available for purchase. Durian, dragon fruit, lychee, bananas (note: much smaller here), papaya, coconuts, tumeric, galangal, garlic, rice … I could go on, it’s all there. It was so interesting walking around, some shops seemed like they have been around for decades. There are also many shops to buy flowers, incense and items for offerings. The offerings are for Buddhist and Hindu temples or Wats located all over the country. Chinese medicine shops are easy to find here with many different dried herbs, fruits, insects, etc to help with various ailments. I actually wanted to visit a well known Chinese acupuncture school that is known to be better than traditional medicine but time did not allow. Angelo and I visited Chinatown during the day, but from what I hear it is a place to visit at night. There are many more food stalls and wonderful foods to sample. Also, Bangkok’s Chinatown is home to a great Indian restaurant.
That same day we visited Wat Traimit, home of the golden Buddha. This beautiful golden Buddha is housed on the 4th floor of a temple, on the 2nd and 3rd floors are a museum about the Chinese immigrant story to Thailand and the history of the golden Buddha. This golden Buddha has a unique story. It was built around 13th or 14th century. Sometime during its history it was covered in stucco to hide its real value from the invading Burmese. Around 1950 it was moved to its current location and was dropped and pieces of the stucco fell off revealing the gold. What a surprise that must’ve been!
We also were able to visit Chatuchak weekend market. This is the largest market in Thailand. It has everything that one could ever dream of. If you ever go, get there early in the morning – 8 or 9 am to beat the crowds and heat. They have lots of great clothes, used or new to buy. It is actually a bit overwhelming, so my suggestion would be to go there with an idea of what your looking for to save time. It’s kind of like a swap meet but 10 times better.
One of the last things we did was have dinner with the family who we rented our apartment from while staying in Bangkok. Surpap and his wife Tsurumi invited us over to their home quite close to the apartment. They cooked us a wonderful curry and rice with salad. It was nice to have a home cooked meal after being on the road for two months now. We talked about dance and politics. They were very helpful during our stay and were very lucky to have met them. There are pictures of us with them and their two daughters and family friends.