A Day Out in Phra Nakhon

Phra Nakhon is home to many of Bangkok’s tourist attractions such as the Grand Palace, Wat Po, the Democracy Monument, and the Giant Swing. You’ll also find two of the original fourteen forts that protected Bangkok in the past; Fort Phra Sumen and Fort Mahakan. But there are also many nooks and crannies to explore. For me, this area is the most interesting because it is home to many bookstores, cafes and art galleries that aren’t necessarily glaring you in the face. So much so, that if you don’t already know where they are you would probably walk right past them. And you’d be missing out. The most enjoyable way to search for these unsung places is to walk around the area. You never know what you might find. There are so many photo opportunities and you could easily spend a whole day just wandering around; just like my friend and I did towards the end of last year.

We started at Yodpiman Pier.

Next stop; Vivi The Coffee Place, for coffee, cake, and a river view

Walking east, taking in some more sights along the way

A little piece of calm and ice cream on Phraeng Phuthon Road

A temple and a three-headed elephant shrine

Back in the midst of things

Enjoy your walkabout! 🙂

 

Street Life #3 All Around Bangkok

Wherever you go in Bangkok there is always something interesting to see. Whether its people going about their daily lives or tall skyscrapers or some other fascinating building that catches your eye. There are endless photo opportunities and whenever I take to the streets I find something new each time. Every neighbourhood is different; some old, some modern but they all have their individual characteristics. I don’t think I could ever get tired of living in this wonderful city. It has so much to offer.

Street Life #2 Yaowarat Road

Yaowarat Road is only a small part of Bangkok’s Chinatown but it certainly is the busiest. Jammed from one end to the other of shops selling health products, souvenirs, clothes, and gold; market stalls selling fruit and vegetables; endless restaurants with a wide range of delicious Chinese food; and temples and shrines to enjoy. It really is a vibrant neighbourhood any time of the day or evening. You could easily spend all day here just wandering around soaking up the atmosphere. It is a great place for walking too as there are a few narrow lanes just off Yaowarat Road where you can really experience Chinatown at its best. It’s definitely worth putting on your to-do list whilst you are in Bangkok.

Getting there: Closest pier is Rachawong; Closest MRT is Hua Lamphong. Yaowarat Road is a short walk from either place.

 

Street Life #1 Phra Athit Road

Phra Athit Road is not far away from the infamous Khao San Road but it is one of the coolest, hippest streets I know. Much cooler than its more well-known neighbour. It’s not as crowded with people, particularly in the evenings, but that’s not a bad thing in my book. There are still enough goings on to get in the spirit of things. There are cafes and restaurants that sell delicious food, try Roti Mataba for a fabulous curry, or get your fill of live music and drink premium beer from any of the interesting bars along the road; try Good Story.

If you don’t fancy that there is always Santichaiprakan Park where you can relax and enjoy the river views, or take a few photographs of Phra Sumen Fort.

Whatever you want to do I recommend that you check out Phra Athit Road; it’s one of my favourite places to hang out and it might become one of yours too. 🙂

Getting there: It depends where you are coming from but one of the easiest ways is to take a boat to Phra Athit Pier. Otherwise, it’s a short walk from Khao San Road; which every taxi knows.

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Dusit Palace Park

Dusit Park is home to several of Bangkok’s royal palaces and residences; the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall, the Abhisek Dusit Throne Hall, and Vimanek Mansion to name a few. The park was built by King Rama V who, after a trip to Europe, wanted to build a complex which had open spaces with many trees and plants, creating a cool environment and a place for relaxation.

The buildings here are of very different styles, some dating back to the early 1900s.Vimanek mansion is said to be the world’s largest teakwood building and it was King Rama V’s home during that time. There are many rooms arranged with furniture, pictures, and other personal effects of the royal family. The largest and most prominent of the buildings is the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall, the spectacular white-marbled edifice dominates the skyline. Inside, there are paintings that depict the history of the Chakri Dynasty. However, for me, the Abhisek Dusit Throne Hall is the most beautiful; the Moorish-style architecture gives the building a striking appearance. Inside there is an exhibition of arts and crafts.

There is an admission charge to some of the buildings but if you just want to wander around the grounds, entry to the park is free.

A lot of tourists visit the park each day but you can still escape the crowds a little, particularly if you are not bothered about entering the buildings.

Address: Dusit Park, Ratchawithi Road, Bangkok 10300

Open: Daily, 6.00am-5.00pm

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J J Green

I’ve never really been one for shopping and going to any sort of market, particularly in the evenings. I work in the evenings so any free time I get I like to relax with a glass of wine or two, and the suggestion of going to a night market makes me shudder. However, after a little persuasion from my friends and after much complaining from me, I arrive to said night market and realise that I actually love the place. Enter Jatujak Green Market, or JJ Green for short.

JJ Green, Bangkok

Located near Mo Chit BTS station, it’s easy to get to. Just cross Chatuchak Park and you’re there. Five minutes tops. JJ Green is a small but vibrant place full of stalls selling anything from retro t-shirts and vinyl CDs to vintage artwork and antiques. There are permanent shops, cafes and bars, and local sellers who just take up a space and display their goods in the car park. The items on sale are pretty cheap as well; I bagged myself a denim jacket for 150 baht.

It doesn’t take long to wander around, but the evening doesn’t end there. There are a few cool, hip bars to choose from where you can watch the world go by. It really is a great place to spend an evening. You’ll find yourself getting lost in the buzzing atmosphere.

JJ Green is open from Thursday to Sunday evenings, 5.00pm until midnight, although some of the bars stay open longer at the weekends.

Address: 1 Kamphaeng Phet 3, Chatuchak, Bangkok

Closest MRT: Chatuchak

Closest BTS: Mo Chit

Happy Happy Joy Joy

Happy Happy Joy Joy; I can remember crying with happiness three times in the past few years. It’s a very strange feeling crying tears of joy because sometimes they really do come out of nowhere, and at the strangest times.

I have already written about my time in Vietnam, but, when I stayed on Cat Ba Island, I went rock climbing for the first time.

The instructor, Onslo, and I still remember his name to this day. I was in awe of him; he could climb up rocks, without a rope, very nimbly. I took a shine to him instantly. Onslo explained how the equipment worked, and then I was ready to go.

Rock Climbing on Cat Ba Island
Slightly scared but ready to go

I started climbing up the rock. It was fairly easy to start with, although it’s quite a struggle trying to haul your whole body up vertically. As I got higher, I started to panic a little, froze, and could not move a muscle. I was stuck halfway up the rock. I started hyperventilating and was shaking all over; I thought I was going to fall to my death. The, very patient, Onslo told me to let go of the rock and hang in mid-air. I thought he was crazy, and whimpered that I couldn’t possibly do that. I, eventually let go, and once I realised I wasn’t going anywhere, because I was harnessed, I managed to climb the rest of the way.

Rock Climbing on Cat Ba Island
Halfway up

When I made it back down to the beach, my legs gave way under me and I literally collapsed onto the sand, and I started crying like a baby; tears of joy at having climbed the (not so very tall) mountain. It was such a sense of achievement; I’d tried something new and had been able to do it, eventually.

The second bout of joyful tears came when I passed my degree in 2013. I had started the degree, with the Open University, in 1993, and completed two courses with them, but then my life got in the way, and I didn’t continue it.

When I moved to Thailand, I restarted it. In 2011, I moved back to the UK to finish it, because it was cheaper for me to do so. I completed four courses in the space of three years. It was such hard work; at one point I was doing two courses at the same time, as well as having a full time job.

Each time I received an email to say my exam results were available, I didn’t want to look. I was afraid I hadn’t passed. But, I plucked up the courage and found I had passed every course. I cried tears of joy at the satisfaction of knowing that all the hard work I had put in had paid off.

Then when the time came for the degree ceremony, I wasn’t even going to go but my friend, Dipesh, said that I should go, and that I would be glad that I went.  On the day of the ceremony, my Mum and I arrived at the venue. I was really nervous about going up on stage to collect my degree certificate.

Degree Ceremony, Manchester
All Robed Up

I sat and listened to the director of the university telling us that we had made it, and that we should all feel proud after months and years of studying to achieve the degree. When my name was called, I went onstage to receive my award.

Degree Ceremony, Manchester
Receiving my Certificate

Afterwards, I was so glad that I had gone to acknowledge my achievement, I cried tears of joy once again because I felt so proud of myself.

When have you cried tears of joy?

The Art of Staring

When you think of what staring is, you imagine yourself looking at someone, or something, either through amazement or fear, or just pure interest. And it can also be taken as a sign of aggression, of intense concentration or boredom, and of affection.

When someone stares at you, and you catch their eye, you immediately wonder what they are looking at; have you got your slippers on instead of your shoes? Have you got your knickers tucked in your skirt? And at first you look away but you are immediately drawn back to that person to see if they are still looking at you, and they are!

If you stare at someone else-maybe you are people watching-you don’t want them to catch you ogling because they, most of the time, will have the same reaction as yourself. In Western society most people don’t like it, and it can be considered rude. Come on, you can hear yourself “What are they bloody looking at?”

The Art of Staring, Talkingthailand.co.uk

Not so in Thailand. If you travel around Thailand and stay in more rural areas, people WILL stare at you. It is quite disconcerting at first but they mean you no harm. It is simply because the locals are not used to seeing foreigners, especially in places which are not particularly on the tourist trail.

I lived in Surin, in northeast Thailand, for three years and I was stared at everywhere I went- I got used to it after a while but sometimes, just sometimes, I would ask myself quietly “What are you looking at now?” I went shopping at the local supermarket-they stared in my basket to see what I was buying; I went to work each day-they stared at me as I cycled passed; I went jogging in the park-they stared at me as I ran by; I went to the bar alone-they stared as I sat drinking my beer. Oh, they stared!

A few years ago, my mum and auntie came to visit, and, as they walked to meet me at work, a guy on a motor-bike stared at them, taking his eyes off the road. My mum, being the sociable character she is, smiled and waved, nearly causing a road traffic accident when the guy almost fell of his bike. He hadn’t expected her to wave at him.

I remember going to Tesco Lotus and, as I cycled out of the car park, a whole family, six in total, both adults and kids, who had parked themselves in the car park to have a picnic, stared as I cycled off. I had clocked them staring so I reluctantly gave them a huge (false) smile and waved at them (Come on, it’s a bit tedious all this staring.) But it was their reaction, from all six of them, enthusiastically grinning and waving back at me, that made me realise just how much I love this place. Needless to say, the false smile I was wearing became a massive, genuine, grin from ear to ear, and gave me such a feeling of happiness. It really made my day.

Now I am living in Bangkok, the stares don’t happen very often. There are far too many foreigners living here for anybody to take much notice of us. But, if you’re in Thailand, and someone stares at you, don’t worry or be angry about it, be happy that they are intrigued and interested in you, smile back at them and just see what happens. Enjoy the Land of Smiles.

Thai New Year 2016

As the Thai New Year approaches people all over the country are getting ready to celebrate with their family and friends. Otherwise known as Songkran, what started out as a traditional water blessing to bring good luck, it has evolved into a full-on, alcohol-fuelled water fight.  If you happen to be in Thailand during mid-April there is nothing for you to do but get involved.

Songkran is the Sanskrit word for movement or change, and in ancient times there would be celebrations when the Sun moved into the Aries constellation of the Zodiac. The holiday starts on 13th April and lasts for three or four days.  I have experienced this crazy festival three times during my time in Thailand, each time in a different location and each time with a different view.

Songkran on Khao San Road

The first time I enjoyed Songkran was in 2008, when I first travelled around Thailand. My friends had come to visit me, and on the first day of the festival I went to pick up my friend, Hayley, from the airport. Hayley arrived, we took a taxi back to the hotel, and slept for a while before entering the throng of party-goers.

Songkran, Khao San Road, Bangkok

Khao San Road is a small street, filled with bars and restaurants on either side and fairly busy. During Songkran there are stages set up all along the road, and there are thousands of people- all crammed into that little street. Suffice to say I got separated from Hayley within the first 30 minutes.

But, not to worry, after a few minutes Hayley appeared, being carried along by the waves of people. I grabbed her, she was fine, and we carried on partying into the night until we could party no more.

The next day was much the same but in the evening we decided to party elsewhere. So we got dressed up and hailed a tuk-tuk to Silom.  Bearing in mind that there is a massive water fight going on with people soaking you with guns and buckets filled with ice cold water. Even people in trucks hosing you down- there is no mercy for anyone. Why we decided to take a tuk-tuk, God only knows! By the time we arrived in Silom we were soaked to the skin.

By the third day it was getting ridiculous- there was no let up, so we went to Silom again, found an Irish bar and stayed put until 1am, when the water throwing stopped for the evening.

Although we had fun, it is just too crazy. Too many people, and not enough room to move, and to this day I have vowed I would never again celebrate Songkran on Khao San Road. Except, this year I have been persuaded to go again, so I will, reluctantly, be joining the party. Although, I say that. I know once I get there I will enjoy it as much as anyone else.

Songkran, Khao San Road, Bangkok

Songkran in Chiang Mai

The following year, I went to Chiang Mai to celebrate Songkran once more. As if I didn’t get enough water-filled fun the previous year. But, what a difference. I was pleasantly surprised.

In the central Tha Pae gate area of the city there were the resident trucks with ice cold water cannons, music blaring at ridiculous volume levels, and the obligatory alcohol from morning until night, but this time there was room to move, and loads of it.

Songkran, Chiang Mai
Source: http://andrewtaylor.photoshelter.com

Along the canal, the bars had set up tiny little stages so you could dance and watch everyone strutting their stuff to the music, and getting soaked at the same time. There were huge tanks of water where you could re-fill your weapon and get your own back on the barrage of water that was being fired from the trucks and from people passing by.

The atmosphere in Chiang Mai was amazing- everyone was in high spirits and having so much fun. And when the festival ended at 10pm, we all went on to a late bar to continue the party into the early hours.

Songkran, Chiang Mai

When I was there in 2009 the festival lasted for two days. And it was so much more relaxed than Bangkok. I think mainly because there is a lot more room to move and it can be easily escaped. In fact, I had so much fun the first day I didn’t make it out for the second, preferring to rest my weary bones in the hotel room.

Songkran on Koh Tao

In 2010, I visited Koh Tao with my friends, Doyle and Melody, and we happened to be there for Songkran.  Having experienced it the previous two years I eagerly told them what fun we were going to have. A day or so before we went out and purchased our weapons of choice, ready for the water war.

Songkran, Koh Tao

On the morning of the celebrations we went out for breakfast to line our stomachs in preparation for the large amounts of alcohol that would be consumed during the day.

Melody and I, being the little devils that we are, left before everyone else as we were eager to start partying. The others arrived to find us swinging from a large swing on the beach, slightly, well OK, very inebriated. We didn’t last until the end of the day; we were all in bed by 10.30pm! It was just too much excitement, or was it the alcohol?!

Songkran, Koh Tao

In the morning we were up for more excitement but were disappointed to learn that Songkran only lasted one day, due to the island having a water shortage. Quite rightly so.

And while I couldn’t stomach a third day in Bangkok, one day wasn’t enough. I am never happy!

Since then I have managed to avoid any Songkran festivities for one reason or another but this year I will, more than likely, be out and about, somewhere in Bangkok, enjoying the celebrations along with everyone else. Reluctantly of course.