After a week in Japan we flew to Bangkok. We spent 4 days in Bangkok, then flew to Siem Reap – Cambodia for 3 days and ended the trip with another 3 days in Bangkok. In Japan we saw very few tourists or immigrants. Bangkok was the complete opposite. There was a level of comfort seeing so many other tourists, but it also felt like foreigners have pushed the Thai people out of Bangkok. There is no order in Bangkok either, which was a total contrast to Japan. People push their way through, and have no problem cutting people off. The traffic is total chaos! Japan was very busy but there was an order and people respected each other. Bangkok is more every man for himself.
If you haven’t been following the political turmoil in Thailand this year, there was a coup d’etat earlier this year and the country is currently under control of the junta. There is currently a push to get tourism back to the levels they were at prior to the political turmoil, which includes cleaning the beaches and trying to get taxi drivers to use meters etc. We did not see any visible signs of military control while we were there.
The taxi thing was very frustrating because we waited in a long line at the mall, then you get in a taxi and the driver refuses to turn on their meter. We soon figured out the nicer the taxi driver is, and the better their english is, the more they are ripping you off. Every taxi driver we had that used the meter didn’t say a word to us. Every taxi driver that was charging an inflated flat fee wanted to engage us in conversation.
We enjoyed the temples and the reclining buddha, but spent a lot of our free time at the malls. They take their shopping malls and movie theatres seriously! They have theatres with couches/pillows/blankets, and 4D theatres that show current releases.
We also went to the muay thai fights. It was a good experience, except a few of the fighters were really young and it felt a bit like child exploitation. There are a lot of rules that minimize the risk to the fighters, but it still felt wrong watching throngs of adults betting on these kids. The culture behind it was really interesting and I enjoyed the other fights.
One of my favourite parts was a visit to the Wildlife Friends of Thailand animal refuge. I really wanted to see an elephant up close while we were in Thailand, but while researching I read about the deplorable conditions elephants used for the tourism industry live in. I didn’t want to contribute to the torture of these animals for my pleasure (and I really regret swimming with dolphins in the past). I found http://www.wfft.org/ that rescues animals from these places and lets them live out their lives in suitable conditions with other elephants (they are social animals). We got to meet Edwin Weiks the founder and talk to him for a little while. They do amazing work and we had a great day there! This is a picture of me walking and feeding Boon Me.
Everyone told us to go to khao san road. Our first hotel was near it, so we headed there the first day. That lasted about 2 mins. After being grabbed by people trying to sell us stuff every 2 feet we got out of there as fast as we could. I think it’s more of a night time drinking place because the market was no fun at all. We decided to try and take the river taxi to the siam paragon mall. It took us quite a while to find the river taxi. Once on it, we were going down this canal lined with little homemade shacks that people were living in. It was a pretty eye opening view of poverty. Then we get off the taxi, walk a block, and we’re in a giant mall with Maserati and Lambourghini dealerships inside. To me, this was the paradox of Bangkok. It was shocking to see such opulence right beside such poverty.
Bangkok was interesting to see and experience, but it isn’t somewhere I would make an effort to return to. I don’t think we saw the best of Thailand though, so there may be a trip back there one day. I’ll write about Cambodia next.