Thursday, June 13, 2013

Bangkok: land of Buddhas and delicious food on sticks

So it's clearly been a while again, but I promise I'm now about to end the doldrums of not posting with a flurry of updates. The reason for this (both in terms of why I haven't posted and what will be the subject of the aforementioned flurry) is that we got back from our 11-day honeymoon trip to Thailand yesterday. I highly recommend traveling to Thailand in the off-season. Yes it was hot and incredibly humid (and I say this as someone who grew up in Houston, a city whose climate best resembles the jungles of Vietnam for about 9 months of the year). However, despite the somewhat exhausting temperatures, it was so wonderful that nothing was crowded. Almost all of the group tours we booked ended up being private tours, there were never lines for anything, and we had many a hotel pool and beach nearly to ourselves.

The city of Bangkok as seen from a swanky hotel bar. 
I decided, so as not to overwhelm with photos, to split the trip up into three posts, to accompany the three legs of our trip: Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Koh Samui. For the sake of chronology, this post will be about Bangkok. Thailand's capital has more food than any city I've ever seen. There were restaurants every few feet and tucked away in ever possible alleyway. In between the resturants and in crevices they might not otherwise fit, there were street vendors selling even more food. I don't know if it was the heat or what, but I never really felt that hungry while we were there. Luckily, I pushed past that lack of hunger and ate everything I could find anyway. Bangkok is known for having some of best street food in the world, and while sometimes the food we ate without knowing what it really was turned out to be a bit spicy (for me anyway), it was always delicious.
Food just tastes better on sticks. 
A fairly un-traffic filled section of Bangkok road. This was rare.
Bankok is a city that's incredibly easy to get around in...provided you don't drive. There was traffic constantly through a mix of motorbikes and cars. They were constantly flowing around us in seeming chaos, but the most amazing thing about them (especially coming from New York) is that they never seemed to honk. Even in the most incredible gridlock, they were willing to patiently wait until the traffic cleared. I think New Yorkers would be much improved with some Buddhist philosophy, perhaps even as a requirement for drivers licenses. Luckily for those of who didn't want to deal with the traffic at all, Bangkok has a very efficient public transportation system. While it doesn't go everywhere, both the SkyTrain and the subway both had a stop right by our hotel, so it was easy for us to get where we wanted to go.

The Sky Train by our hotel. Also an excellent place to view the rooftop workouts of Crossfit Bangkok. You know, if you're into that.
When we weren't wandering the city ourselves, we took a couple of tours of some of Bangkok's larger temples. The first was the temple of Wat Tramit, also known as the Temple of the Golden Buddha because it contains the world's largest solid gold statue. Apparently for a long time the Buddha was covered in plaster and the fact that it was made of pure gold was only discovered when it was being moved and the plaster chipped.

This is what 5.5 tons of solid gold Buddha looks like.

We also went to another temple Wat Pho. While it doesn't have a solid gold Buddha, it does have a very large gilded reclining Buddha. So that's something.

Picture taken near the feet for a sense of scale. I'm wearing that cardigan out of modesty and respect for the temple, not because it wasn't a billion degrees.
The outside of Wat Pho.
The next day we took a tour of the Grand Palace, a former home of the kings of Thailand, now kept as a museum. The grounds are huge, and the buildings are pretty spectacular. Unlike all the temples we'd visited that always told the story of the Buddha on the walls of the buildings, the buildings and statues of the Grand Palace reflect the Indian epic Ramayana. This translated to a lot of monkeys everywhere. Below are some photos of the Grand Palace which really was pretty incredible.

Some monkey guards. 
Most of the buildings at the Grand Palace are done in the traditional Thai style.

I like this photo for scale, but it would clearly be better without those two other tourists in it.  

The perks of having a private tour guide include having someone  just standing around waiting to take your picture. Also to tell you things like why there are depictions of monkeys everywhere.

We weren't allowed to take pictures inside, but this is the jade Buddha inside the temple at the Grand Palace.  The Buddha, made of jade naturally, has several different gold outfits depending on the season. We caught him in his "rainy season" garb. Not that you can really tell from this photo.
When we weren't in tours our time spent could easily be divided into a pie chart of 30% wandering around enjoying being somewhat lost, 20% beating the heat in the hotel pool, and 50% eating. One of the places we aimlessly wandered  for a while was around the largest park in Bangkok. It was virtually empty of people (instead populated mostly by enormous monitor lizards), except for people who worked for the park. Apparently Thai people don't really like walking, which explains why they wouldn't really enjoy walking through a park. So few people walk that most of the crosswalks don't have traffic signals. It took us a while to figure out that traffic never really stops, and you just have to walk out in front of it at some point and trust that people will stop for you (which they always seem to).

Alone in the park with the elephant topiaries. 
Naturally, this is just the tip of the ice berg when it comes to photos. I'm in the process of loading and captioning the rest from our trip and will post the link when I'm done. Edit: it's up. So check back on this post for that, or just stay tuned for the post tomorrow where we will travel to the northern province of Chiang Mai. Spoiler alert: There are elephants. Not in topiary form.


  1. Beautiful and interesting photos! I can't wait to see the rest.

  2. What fun! I am all ready to book a trip there!

  3. Nice to travel via photos. Thanks!