Even though we arrived late, there was a hum in the air. Bright lights were everywhere, as if the night were more of a day than the day was. The hum was continuous. It came from the noise of streets, of the trains overhead, but mostly the noise was tuk tuks and mopeds I have never seen so many mopeds as there are in Bangkok.
The city is vast, and like all big cities is chaotic, busy, and touristy. After a few days we’d figured out a way of getting around and a pattern of Thai life. Before that it was a minefield of complicated journeys and overpriced fares. The easiest way to get around is on the metro. There’s a BST (Bangkok Sky train) that seems cheap and easy, but it’s worth taking the metro as it’s cheaper and goes to more places. When in the centre of Bangkok, we learnt the hard way that you can’t walk anywhere. A good hour in the sun trying to get to the golden palace took precious time out of our day and left us exhausted. Stubborn as we are, we tried walking around a few times, to be laughed at by inquisitive locals and tourist information officers alike. The blindingly obvious solution is getting a tuk tuk.
Tuk tuks are another complicated arrangement, but they do the trick. With help from a friendly local, a one our ride, stopping at all the right places can cost 100-150 Baht. Get in a tourist tuk tuk and ask for one stop to a main sight, and you’ll see them ask for 400 Baht, or more of they think you’ve got it. Being ripped off a few times gets frustrating, especially when you see an old Thai lady speeding past you with a mass of pineapples, a bag of papaya and a chicken, undoubtably paying pennies for her trip. Que sera sera though, however much you try you will always have tourist stamped across your forehead. The best method is to smile, say a few friendly words in Thai and hope for the best.
Speaking of friendly smiles, there’s the oh so obvious and yet oh so unavoidable scams. I found people to either be genuinely kind and helpful or trying to get as much money as possible, and it’s hard to know which is which and who to trust. James and I are not naive at all, we’d read all the warnings and knew all the signs of a scam…but as I say they are unavoidable. [One day a man stopped us and simply asked us where were from, what we were doing. He told us quite quickly that he wanted nothing from us, and then spent time drawing us a map, telling us what to avoid and getting us a discounted tuk tuk. He looked after us, and told us to remember him as a good man and Thai people as good people. In return for our new friendship and fantastic day, we rung a gong for him, to bring him luck and happiness.] Everyone seems to smile at you, welcome you in or just give a friendly nod. The people of Thailand are warm and caring, that I stand by. I learnt to be aware that of the route you are taking, of the places you want to go to, and stand by them unless you have a reason not to. It’s okay to say no to the tuk tuk driver, to the suit shop, to the ‘better route’. As with all travelling, it’s your trip, not theirs.
Bangkok has some beautiful places to see. The Grand Palace does what is says on the tin. Immense pagodas, intricately decorated are nestled in a maze of equally beautiful chedis. The famous emerald Buddha (actually made of jade) takes centre stage, but the walls, doorways and roofs each have their own story and they too are a treat to look at.
Markets also dominate the city. They vary is shape and size, and sell all manor of things. The biggest is Chatuchak weekend market, but floating markets, food markets and flower markets are worth a look. Talking Chan is supposed to be the real McCoy in temps of floating markets and the only thing I regret not seeing. The food is worth the trip in any of the markets, most of it unidentified but delicious.