In 1782, King Rama I renamed the city of Bangkok as Krung Thep, or “City of Angels”, but somehow the rest of the world never got the memo.
Actually, the full name of the city is much longer, translated roughly as
“The city of angels, the great city, the residence of the Emerald Buddha, the impregnable city of Ayutthaya of God Indra, the grand capital of the world endowed with nine precious gems, the happy city, abounding in an enormous Royal Palace that resembles the heavenly abode where reigns the reincarnated god, a city given by Indra and built by Vishnukarn”.
I think I’ll stick with Bangkok.
The first thing we noticed when we arrived was the 60-degree change in temperature, from 40º Fahrenheit in Xi’an to 40º Celsius. Yeah, it’s hot here this time of year!
Other than that, Bangkok at first glance seemed quite similar to the Chinese cities of Xi’an and Beijing: there’s a lot of pollution, a lot of noise, and way too much traffic.
But there is one crucial difference: most of the people in Bangkok seem to be taking it all in stride, with laid-back attitudes and lots of smiles.
You know, they should call this country “the land of smiles” or something. Oh, wait – they do. Good call!
We spent our first week in Thailand here, and barely scratched the surface of all this city has to offer. Things we remember most:
The Thai food here is awesome, of course – and most of it’s really cheap, especially if you visit one of the thousands of street stalls all over the city (and can figure out what they’re selling):
For people who aren’t into thai food (like Danielle & the kids), there are plenty of western options, too – but they’re much more expensive & apparently it takes awhile to find the few authentic ones.
We found some passable tex-mex (probably the closest we’ve come to the real deal on this trip), and a fantastic cajun place, along with some expensive disappointments.
We like to visit American fast-food chains, too – most have changed their menus slightly to reflect local tastes. McDonalds was disappointing, but KFC is awesome here, with waiters, real china and silverware, and some of the best spicy chicken wings I’ve ever tasted!
Frozen watermelon blended up into a perfect summer drink. We drank these everywhere!
Might be better with a little vodka, though.
They’re not the smoothest here, mostly composed of shifty tiles that wobble underfoot – it takes awhile to get used to.
But sidewalks aren’t just for walking, most also serve as outdoor restaurants or shopping malls, too. There’s an amusing mix of products available on the street: pirated DVD’s, lots of clothing, and a surprising variety of weaponry – knives, brass knuckles, nunchaks and throwing stars, even rifle scopes.
If you prefer to do your shopping in air-conditioned comfort, Bangkok takes shopping malls to a whole new level. They’re a great place to beat the heat, and you can find just about everything.
The coolest mall in town is Siam Paragon, with every designer brand you can think of, several car dealerships (Ferrari, Porsche, Maserati, etc.), one of the largest aquariums in SE Asia, and a really cool IMAX theater.
I think Bangkok has more massage parlors per square kilometer than any other city in the world (and most of them really are just massage places). After one long day of shopping, we decided to get foot massages at a shop near our hotel.
It was pretty awesome: the hour-long treatment involves a lot of work on the feet and legs (including acupressure), but also head, neck and shoulders. The cost: $5.85 each. I love this country!
Of course, this town isn’t just about eating, shopping and spa treatments – there’s a lot of temples and stuff, too…