Bangkok was the last mega city that I visited on the trip. After having only spent 5 days there, I think I can say that I really like it. There is a certain raw gritty city vibe that the city gives off. On top of the phenomenal food, culture, unique markets (floating, and train), and the skytrain, it is a city vastly different from others I’ve visited such as Tokyo, Seoul, Beijing, and Chongqing. Although a huge tourist destination, I didn’t really get the sense of being overwhelmed by foreigners. Sure walking down some of the expat streets, in the malls, and down the infamous Kao Sarn road you are inundated with foreigners, but outside that it was few and far between.
We spent the first day hunting down some of the markets for souvenirs and handicrafts, spending a good chunk of the day wandering around the city, and through a couple of the shopping malls. Malls here in the US are nothing compared to malls here in Asia. The malls here are ENORMOUS, and often are littered with countless high-end brand names of clothing, jewelry, perfume, and shoes. More often than not the stores are empty, but there are plenty of “shoppers” milling about. While walking around one of the nicer malls here in Bangkok, we stumbled onto a famous Michelin star restaurant called “Din Tai Fung”. It is a famous dumpling restaurant in Hong Kong and has branched out to select cities. We debated going in and eating, but finally did ordering an order of pork, and chicken dumplings, and some pork sweet buns. Turns out, its famous for a reason. The pork dumplings were phenomenal. Slightly sweet, with mouthwatering juice as you bit into it. It really was fantastic, and cheap! We ended up paying like $14 for all three of us. After eating, we set our sights on Chinatown. It was a long trek though the city, but after 2 subway rides and a couple miles of walking we finally arrived at a street filled with fresh fruit, seafood, and countless street food options. I grabbed an oyster omelet that was fantastic, and then we trucked back to a side alley and found a fancy chef that was cooking up orders like a maniac; throwing up a ball of fire every time he started cooking a new dish. I ordered seafood stir-fry that was amazing. Mouthwatering crab, squid, shrimp, and scallops all fried together with a small plate of rice. Walking away from the day quite full, I finally understood why Bangkok is considered a street food sanctuary. The food we’ve eaten just over the past 2 days has been outstanding.
We visited two markets the next day that were also very cool, and unique to Thailand. The first was the Mekong train market. Long ago, train tracks wound their way through a town, and eventually over time, a market sprung up on both sides of the tracks. Today it has grown to the point that sellers are peddling their goods right on the train tracks, and you are forced to walk down the length of the track to navigate to the different parts of the market. The cool thing is that the tracks are still active with a train rolling through 6 times a day. When approaching, the train blares its horn, and like clockwork, all the sellers pull back the awnings, and push back their tables, and like magic the pathway is cleared for the train to creep on through. It slowly chugged by within inches of us, and skimming over the fruits and vegetables that were still on the ground. Passing by us, the awnings were dropped, tables pushed back out, and within seconds, people filled back in and it looked like nothing had happened. This is something that you definitely cannot find in the States, and sadly something that probably won’t be around in a couple of years in Thailand. I don’t think it is very well known, but was much better that the floating market, which was overflowing with tourists, and seemed to be a fabricated picture perfect photo op for the tourists. It was also cool with seemingly endless passageways of water, each canal filled with people and their boats selling everything from wooden elephants, to photo ops with pythons, to mango sticky rice. Somehow I imagine that 5 years ago this was an awesome destination as the Thai people really used it as a “market” and actually purchased their daily food items, selling here to support their families. Although cool see, I don’t think I’d come back., as it’s a tourist hotpot with the endless “sales people” pushing their various wares.
There are many things about Bangkok that I love and these are just some of them. I can’t wait to come back. Thailand is an amazing destination, and I would have loved to have some more time to explore the city. I would love to rent a bike and cycle down through the soother peninsula, or take time to explore up north and see all of the ancient ruins. I will definitely be back, and I hope that when I do come I’ll get to see the rest of the country. The little bit I did see was stunning, and I know that Thailand has a lot more to offer when it comes to destinations off the beaten path.