Hi Friends! Sorry it’s been awhile since my last update — I guess we have been having too much fun? Or more likely that it hasn’t been on my radar to write recently. But I am hoping to crank out the rest of the posts from Southeast Asia before we head to India. I decided to break up the Thailand post into two parts for ease of reading. We did a whole lot of activities while we were there in January. I hope you enjoy reading about Bangkok!
Part 1: Bangkok
I was excited and nervous when we touched down in Bangkok after a later flight into the city. Our Airbnb host sent a car to get us from the very hectic airport and we just called it a night after that.
The next day we hit the ground running with an early morning trip to the floating market. We met up with our guide, Paul, and were taken to eat a local breakfast from a lady making noodles in a boat! Breakfast was delicious — I had some rice noodles with coconut milk and lime and ginger — but (spoilers) we might have regretted eating because Paul really hooked us up along the way with ALL OF THE SNACKS. He gave us a fish patty from two ladies in a boat freshly frying them to order and they were super spicy and delicious. Rice cakes, fried thin cookies, and oranges were also given to us to eat while we were walking around. The guide seemed to have a very good rapport with the people in the markets because we didn’t have to pay for any of the samples or fruits we were given. We learned about how the market was mostly food, local produce, and some clothing — but it had only a few stalls of souvenirs that we came across. Once we made it through part of the market, we got on a long tail boat to take us through the canals and to the temple market.
Boating through the canals was quite an experience. The boat is really loud and goes very fast for the canal only being 10 meters wide. We slowed down for passing boats and in more populated areas. Our guide taught us about spirit temples (a small temple building just outside the house for prayer) and local life in the area. Most people living in the area of the market work on large farms along the canals. The temple market was much much smaller than the main floating market and its mostly for locals. Paul took us to the temple, where we got some lotus flowers, incense sticks, and gold leaf before taking off our shoes and heading inside. We learned how to do a traditional Buddhist prayer where we light the incense sticks and place the lotus flowers for offering. Then we took the gold leaf (not real gold) and applied it to a specific Buddha. People usually put them in a place needing healing but you can put them wherever you want. After the temple, we set some fish and turtles free into the canal. I chose to release two “doctor” fish to represent good health in the future and Matt released a super cute baby turtle to represent long life.
We got back into the boat and headed to an orchid farm. Our boat held just me, Matt, Paul, and the driver while most boats we passed had about 12 people in them — it felt a bit luxurious. The orchid farm was really pretty. Paul told us about how some of the flowers are cut and sold for religious practices and a lot are sold for florists. You can buy the whole plants for about 25% of the prices in the US. They had so many varieties and including ones they sell to make fragrance.
We finished the tour by returning to the floating market and having a delicious Thai lunch with mango sticky rice for dessert (the ripest, most delicious mango I have ever eaten).
The rest of the day was spent relaxing the heat of the day away at the Airbnb. We then headed to the mall by BTS skytrain and find a restaurant boasting the best pad Thai in the city. I found the whole dish way too fishy and really didn’t like it. After the mall experience, we took the train a bit further away to check out the Artbox weekend market. It was nice but it was pretty clear that it was geared toward foreigners/tourists. We walked around and grabbed a couple of Thai beers to people watch a bit before ordering curry at a booth. Overall it was a good first dip into markets, but all in all it was full of foreigners and the food wasn’t super authentic.
Our third day was spent exploring on our own so we decided to head to Chinatown. We tend to always end up in Chinatown areas of the cities we are visiting because they have really good food. First we visited the very shiny golden Buddha at Wat Traimit before heading into Chinatown for lunch. The temple was super busy and a little expensive to get into, but the Buddha statue was pretty impressive. It used to be covered in stucco and colored glass to conceal how valuable it was so that it wouldn’t be stolen. When they went to move it in the 1950s, the stucco was chipped and revealed the gold beneath. Once we were finished at the temple, we went to get some very highly rated crispy pork and it did not disappoint. We were able to get seats relatively quickly and ordering was easier than anticipated (I am always worried about the language barrier). The crispy pork and the noodle soup were both SO GOOD. I still think about it sometimes and it was over a month ago!
So the city was super smoggy and the pollution levels were off the chart. After the first day of being outside, I got a sore throat and was very uncomfortable. I purchased a disposable particulate mask to see if it would help while I tried to find a more long term solution that was more comfortable than the super stiff and hard to wear disposable version. We decided to spend the afternoon inside our Airbnb because of the heat and pollution, but we found a super promising dinner to go to later.
For dinner we went to a nice restaurant that was recommended to us called Supanniga. The tea was so good that I actually bought a jar of the loose leaf tea from them when we were paying the bill. All of the food we ordered was incredible and we ordered a little bit of every category from the menu. I highly recommend their restaurant if you are in Bangkok— they have a few different locations.
Our final morning in Bangkok was spent taking another tour exploring the temple of the reclining Buddha and the royal grand palace. Our guide, A, was really great and navigated us through these super touristy and crowded places much better than I would have if we were on our own. The reclining Buddha was first on the agenda and it was gigantic. Our guide explained a lot of the different areas of the temples while we were walking toward the main attraction. For me, the most impressive part of the whole temple were the feet of the reclining Buddha. The mother of pearl inlay was incredible! I felt a bit rushed through the reclining Buddha room and trying to get a picture without tourists’ heads proved to be an exercise in patience.
Before heading to the royal palace, we took a boat ride through the canals on the loudest long tail boat. Since we had ridden through the canals on our previous tour, we didn’t really see anything new — just maybe more people and more trash in the water. When we were done with the boat rides, we headed to the VERY crowded palace. A taught us about the different stupas and the different kings who helped to build the palace complex. I think that visiting the palace is a great way to spend a few hours in Bangkok, but maybe go first thing in the morning before the tour buses get there — that place was insanely crowded, to the point of being really unenjoyable. It turns out that I don’t like being sweaty and hot and being surrounded by other tourists. We learned a lot about how we want to visit big tourist sites in the future.
After our big tour, we had lunch at a pretty touristy place nearby the palace so that we could make time to visit Wat Arun, a very famous temple across the river from the royal palace. It took us awhile, but we found the ferry to get across the river and walked over to the beautiful temple. One of the main reasons I wanted to go there is that they do traditional Buddhist blessings for anyone and I wanted to see how they did it. We wandered around the large white stupas decorated with china and colored glass pieces. Afterwards, we found the main temple (using what we learned from A about how to spot it) and walked inside after removing our shoes. There was a monk inside who beckoned us over and gave us a blessing. He chanted and spritzed us with water before tying yellow bracelets around our wrists. I still have mine on a month later! It was a pretty unique experience and I was glad we trekked over there for it.
Afterwards, we went to pick up our new pollution masks and then rested until dinner. For dinner, we headed to a nearby neighborhood to get some local non-touristy Thai food. Only locals were there and it felt much better than the super tourist ridden lunch spot we were at earlier. While we were eating dinner, I was watching a lady outside making what looked like super thin bread with egg and bananas and we decided to try some for dessert. The lady was nice and our minimal Thai got us what is called a roti with banana and Nutella and it was delicious.
Our time in Bangkok left me with mixed feelings. I wanted to be excited about our first city in Thailand, but the pollution sort of ruined it for me. Also the number of tourists that we encountered during our tours was not anticipated but maybe that was a rookie mistake. The other cities we were in before didn’t have the concentration of foreigners that we experienced in Bangkok. We learned a lot about the country from our guides and I still would recommend visiting but maybe not during the time of the lunar new year holiday. We also ate a lot of great food and the culture of Thailand was new and exciting. Stay tuned for part two where I talk about our time in Chiang Mai (spoilers: we played with elephants!).
One thought on “Thailand! Part 1”
Hey Jessi and Matt! This is Hester and Michael – we met you two on the elephant sanctuary tour. We wanted to check in to see how you two are doing and where you are in the world. We explored Australia for almost a month before heading back to Shanghai. Please update us on your whereabouts! Hope you two are safe and healthy.