What an exciting time to travel to Bangkok! A few days before leaving, we decided it would be a smart move to register with our Embassies and move our hotel from Siam Square (downtown) to China Town (of all places), which was just far away from the protester locations, but close enough to all the spots we wanted to visit. If you are not aware of the situation, the Red Shirts have been congregating and protesting in major city areas of Bangkok, Chang Mai and Phuket. In summary, they believe that their Prime Minister is corrupt and want him to resign. Also, they would like the current Monarchy government to be dissolved and a new, Democratic one to be installed.
Once we arrive in the Bangkok Airport, we instantly noticed a temperament change. The customs inspectors were wearing Hawaiian shirts and after stamping our passports, they smiled and welcomed us to Thailand. By the time we made it to baggage claim, our luggage was already on the conveyor belt. We exited the airport and approached the taxi stand. The girl asked us where we were going and she then instructed the queued driver to our destination. What efficiency. Within 30 minutes of our plane landing, we made it through customs, collected our luggage, got money out of an ATM and were already in route to our hotel. Were we really in Asia?
Lonely Planet described our hotel as the most stylish place to stay in Bangkok. That was fine and dandy, but I picked it because it was off the beaten path of the protester mess and it was on sale (only $50 per night). We walked into the lobby and Fabien was thrilled that his name was on a board welcoming him. The bellboy was so nice what we were suspicious of him. He introduced himself, made sure that we knew where and what time breakfast was, showed us how to turn the air on, told us not to drink the water out of the tap, etc., etc. Weird. And Lonely Plant was right about the decor. Super cool, stylish and sheik. It was late, so we decided to just hang in China Town and have a couple beers on the street. It was midnight, 95 degrees and the area was great for people watching.
We woke up Saturday morning and attacked the steaming city (near 100) with gusto. The Reclining Buddha, lunch on a riverside patio, Wat Arun, the Grand Palace(cover your eyes Frenchies….it was more beautiful than Versailles), a typical market and a tuk tuk ride. From there we rested at the hotel, cleaned up and went out in search of dinner. It was then that we got our first sight of the Red Shirt protestors. They were a fun bunch. Country music blaring, signs hoisted, noise makers going, dancing and singing. Cover your eyes moms, but we walked through their area to get to a famous city park. In the park, the police were having a little rest next to their riot gear. Within a couple of ours the police and protesters would have a standoff. 23 people would be killed and hundreds injured. Fortunately, we did not have any issue or find ourselves anywhere near these problems Saturday night. Probably because after a spicy dinner and a few beers, we were sleeping in the hotel at 10 p.m.
After the Saturday clash, the mood in the city was dramatically different. We planned to go see the Democracy Monument, the King’s residence and a few of the surrounding areas, but they were all barbwired off. The Red Shirts and police were everywhere and both of them had broken spirits. We had a taxi drive us around to the spots that he could access and then we took a water taxi to get a different view of the city. From there, we walked through a huge alley market where they were selling just about everything under the sun. From there we decided to just head to the airport and relax before heading to the beach that night.
Overall, I just loved Bangkok. Everything you would think about the city is true. It’s a mess, it’s so hot, it smells, the proverty is right in your face, but the people are just so nice that I couldn’t help but fall in love. And again, it was so cheap. Our room, the taxis, the shopping, cheap, cheap, cheap. At a clothing market, I bought some tank tops for 20 baht (40 cents). I didn’t even try to bargain because I would feel guilty cheating the woman out of 20 cents. And being so close to the amazing beaches (next blog) doesn’t hurt either. If you ever get a chance to go, I highly, highly, highly recommend.
Here are Bangkok’s Greatest Hits in the way of photos: http://www1.snapfish.com/thumbnailshare/AlbumID=2414744017/a=139030390_139030390/otsc=SHR/otsi=SALBlink/COBRAND_NAME=snapfish/
But if you are short on time, here is the best of Thailand: http://www1.snapfish.com/thumbnailshare/AlbumID=2414442017/a=139030390_139030390/otsc=SHR/otsi=SALBlink/COBRAND_NAME=snapfish/