The familiar bright lights of the city flash in hundreds of colors all around as the van door opens. We step out into the almost overwhelming cacophony of cars honking, wheels whirring, sirens blaring and people jabbering. Across the city before sunset, the earthy, deep chants of monks resound through the otherwise silent Wat Pho Temple as hundreds of tourists and locals join in their peaceful meditation and prayer. We have finally arrived after a two hour, 6 dollar ride from Webster Thailand’s housing to the capital city of Thailand: Bangkok.
As the largest city of Thailand and the center of the Thai government and monarchy, Bangkok has a culture and uniqueness unto itself and offers a seemingly endless possibility of things to do.
One of the most famous sights and center for tourism is the Grand Palace and the area around it. The Grand Palace houses the Thai’s much revered royal family in it in a mix of marble, columns and bright colors with traditionally Asian golden trimmed roofs. Protected inside the palace walls, the outside of the Emerald Buddha Temple glitters with deep greens, reds and bright gold as intricate flowers and designs jut out from its high walls. The green Buddha gazes out over hundreds of tourists from all over the world who push through the sweaty crowd to get one glance at his peaceful form.
Outside of the Grand Palace, there are dozens of temples in Bangkok with towering spires and ornate designs each with their own distinct personality and beauty. These structures reflect the deep admiration the Thai people hold for their monarch and for Buddhism, the country’s main religion. Because of this respect, Thai custom requires the covering of shoulders and ankles which can mean the addition of a beautiful Thai skirt to your wardrobe, as it was in my case.
The impeccably clean and beautiful Grand Palace and the temples came into stark contrast with the, at times, very rotten smelling streets with the occasional large rat as I wandered through the city, jumping over dirty puddles and trash. As time went on, I got used to it and continued my adventuring.
Bangkok has a variety of things to do. Samir Khairzada, an international relations major in his first year at Webster Thailand, lived and went to school in Bangkok for two years.
“There is always something to do in Bangkok,” Khairzada said. “Even though I lived there for three years, I still feel as if I haven’t explored much of it.”
Khairzada said he enjoyed hanging out and shopping at the different malls of Bangkok when he was younger. He named his personal favorite as Siam Paragon, one of the largest malls in Thailand (so large, I found it easy to get lost in). He said he enjoyed it for the variety of things for sale from H&M to Gucci. Khairzada said he even saw a helicopter for sale there once. For more of a traditional Thai shopping experience, Khairzada said he enjoyed the Chatuchak Market where he said you can buy most anything second-hand.
In addition to the shopping and historical sites, Khairzada said his favorite place was Lumphini Park. During my visit to Bangkok, we visited Lumphini Park as well. It was quite the sight to see with the clear, glassy lake at the center reflecting the surrounding twisting trees, lofty city buildings and the people paddling in swan boats on its surface. I enjoyed watching all the people walking about feeding the pigeons, fish and playing in the park. It reminded me of Central Park in New York.
In Bangkok when the day is gone and the parks and temples have closed, the lively spirit of the city continues in full force. Bangkok’s multiple night markets open with all types of clothes and accessories, such as knock-off Adidas and Ray Bans for 100 Baht ($3). At the night markets, the delicious smells of Gui Chai (savory chive cake), Khanom Ba Bin (coconut pancakes) and many other night market foods accompany the large amount of money you have spent.
After the Night Market, you can explore the world-renown nightlife of Bangkok with its variety of bars and clubs with its well-known “ladyboys” (transgender women). But, everything closes around two, so if you like to stay out later, you will be sadly disappointed.
I truly enjoyed exploring the city of Bangkok and all it had to offer. The wild rides to the Grand Palace area on crowded public canal boats, meditating in a temple from hundreds of years ago with chanting monks, watching the bright orange sun set over a 360 view of Bangkok at the Golden Mount and simply wandering the big city streets with fellow study abroad friends at the latest hours will stand in my memories as some of the best moments of my first trip to Bangkok.
As I journeyed through the city, it became clear that the contrasting parts of it made Bangkok what it is. And, at the end of my long weekend, I developed a great fondness for the city- rats in all.