This is now our fourth full day in Thailand and Vida and I have taken over 500 photos already. We’ve had easy access to Internet but not much time to use it. The heat here is pretty draining on us so we mostly use our free time to rest. Gallant adventurers we are not… yet.
We spent our first three nights at the historic Oriental Hotel in Bangkok, and it definitely met expectations. The service was very friendly and warm and the food was good, too. Somehow we got upgraded for free to deluxe river-view rooms which was certainly enjoyed. The Chao Phraya river that runs through Bangkok is pretty amazing and is a unique aspect of the city. There’s a steady stream all day long of ferries, river cruise boats, shuttle boats, tug boats pulling huge loads of who knows what, and the noisy water taxis. They crisscross paths frequently and it’s fun to watch them narrowly avoid collision time after time. At night, the river cruise boats are lit with colorful light scenes and decorations. The King’s 80th birthday is being celebrated and most of them seem to have something to do with that at the moment. On our first evening we went out on a river cruise dinner, and it was neat to seem them passing by. Many of Bangkok’s historic attractions along the river are nicely lit at night as well.
The roads of Bangkok are packed bumper to bumper with cars, tuk tuks, and scooters basically all the time so the frequent river ferries are a very nice way to get around, as well. The locals keep the boats pretty full and tourists squeeze to fill in the remaining gaps. Bangkok is definitely a city of hustle and bustle, and an amazing mix of old and new, side by side. The Skytrain public transit system is quite modern, clean, and efficient, for instance. We used it to we got around on our first day and it was downright pleasant compared to the next day’s combination of ferries and taxis.
Bangkok’s air pollution is very noticeable, especially when stuck in traffic on the roads. It’s not quite as bad as my memories of Mumbai, but it is still a major problem for the city. It’s less noticeable up on the Skytrain, which is heavily used by everyone. I can only imagine what the traffic and air would be like without it.
While in Bangkok we visited the Jim Thompson house (this Jim Thompson guy was entirely unknown to me before coming here, but he’s all over the place…), the Grand palace with it’s Wot Phraw Kaew, Wot Arun across the river, and the Vimanmek Teak Mansion.