Secrets of Bangkok
There are few capital cities in Asia that hold as many cultural treasures as Bangkok.
Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taipei are relatively young. Tokyo
and Jakarta have destroyed the past (or had it destroyed).
But it's not easy to find the treasures of Bangkok. The city is noisy,
dirty, and chaotic. The first time I visited Bangkok, I hated it. Now, I love it.
Secret #1 - Get on the River
Bangkok was designed as a canal city, and as soon as you get on the river, you can see what a great city this must have been in those days.
Today, the river culture is diminished, but still there, and taking a
longboat through the canals (or Klongs) is still the best way to get around Bangkok, if
your destination is near the river.
Even if you have no destinations near the river, you should hire a boat for an hour or two, relax, and watch the scenery go by. It's an inexpensive, cool, and scenic way to experience Bangkok.
||Secret #2 - Skip the Tours and Do it Yourself
The first stop in Bangkok has to be the Grand Palace. It's a site of historical, religious, political, and cultural importance.
It's also the most overwhelming human construction I've ever seen.
If you see this on a tour, you won't have time to savor it. Plan on spending a few hours. Watch Thai people come and go. Study the details on the buildings.
The Emerald Buddha is housed here, and the Reclining Buddha is nearby, at
|Secret #3 - Go to Ayutthaya
This isn't really a secret, but again, the key is to do it without a tour.
Ayutthaya was the location of Thailand's capital until its' downfall in 1767. The city was burned, and the capital moved to Bangkok.
Today, there are dozens of temple remnants that testify to the former greatness of this city.
|Walking among the collapsed chedi, broken Buddhas, and overgrown grounds,
reminds us how short the life of mans' constructs can be.
In some areas, the Buddha
parts are so numerous (even after massive looting in the intervening years), that we joked
that the city could be called "Buddhas' Body Shop".
This trip is a great way to escape the hustle-bustle of Bangkok and mix a little history with clean air.
Secret #4 - Meet the People
But, the best traits of Bangkok are the traits that the tourist almost never sees.