Arriving in Bangkok after five weeks in Bangladesh was jarring. Where in Bangladesh traffic is chaotic and noisy, it is orderly and efficient in Bangkok. From the Bangkok airport to downtown is a 30 minute ride on their new elevated train. They have three elevated train lines plus a single underground metro line that is gradually being extended. The freeways are multi-lane with all drivers staying in their lane and not using their horn every few seconds. Tuk-tuk three wheel vehicles and taxis are the regular short distance transport; everybody else is in cars. And the air is breathable!!
The backpackers’ area of town, which is just north of the main palace, is Las Vegas and New Orleans all tied together with a little bit of Santa Monica and Venice Beach thrown in for good measure. It was quite a shock after coming from a conservative Muslim country. We lucked out getting from the elevated train to our hotel. While we were waiting at the taxi stand, the supervisor of the taxi stand folks drove up and asked where we were going. It turned out he lives just down the street from our hotel. So we piled into his car, and he delivered us across town to our hotel – no charge. He volunteered to take us to the transport center to get minibus tickets for Cambodia the next day. But we were able to arrange our transport through a travel agent next door to our hotel. We’ll look him up again when we return to Bangkok at the end of our trip.
We spent Monday touring the sights in Bangkok. A nice man we met at a water fountain helped us find the best way to arrange a boat for a canal trip to see some of the waterways that meander throughout Bangkok. I had no idea it was such a canal based city. We stopped at a special seated-Buddha temple that was open for a special celebration that day. Next we toured some of the temples in the downtown area. This was good because at these temples we could go in, take pictures, and wander around. Finally we visited the main golden temple and palace complex. It is a major attraction. We’ve never seen so much gold in one place. It rivals the Incas. Inside the temples you could look but not touch or take pictures. But the whole complex is spectacular and much revered by the Thais.
Deni wanted to sample street food from street carts the first night. So we sampled some of the many choices for dinner. The food was good and not fiery hot like the Bengali-Indian food. Wine and beer are of course available since they are not restricted in Buddhism as they are in Islam. As a matter of fact, there aren’t a lot of restrictions in Buddhism. There’s not even a designated day of rest. No wonder Thailand has become an increasingly developed country. They can work 24/7 (Deni’s observation).
Wednesday was a travel day from Bangkok to Siem Reap, Cambodia. We booked seats on a minivan for the trip. But the van could only go as far as the border. There it’s a complicated process of applying for a visa which takes about a half hour. Then we walked out of Thailand, no problem, to a no-man’s land where we queued up for an interminable wait to pass through Cambodian immigration. It took about two hours. Then it’s a shuttle bus to the transport center eight miles out of town where we unloaded our luggage again and got assigned to a taxi. The actual travel time is about six hours. But with all the transfers and waiting it took about eleven hours before we finally were loaded into a tuk-tuk to go the last couple of miles to our hotel.
More later about Cambodia. Angkor Wat and the many other temples are awesome.