Well, we’ve completed a three-week trip through parts of Thailand and it turned out to be a pretty cool place. We learned how to cook Thai Style in both the North and South, Jason did some of the best scuba diving of his life, Simone had her first experience riding on a scooter, we ate at some very good vegetarian restaurants in Chiang Mai and made it through without getting caught in any of the turmoil surrounding Thailand’s Political issues. The people were definitely nicer in the north than in the South, but as a whole there was a big language barrier (yet a lot of tourists and expats) and we were surprised to find local people to be more disconnected than other places we’ve visited. This caused us to not get a deep understanding of the people and the culture, but we did really enjoy our time here. We could have easily stayed longer in Chiang Mai where Simone had her pick of vegetarian restaurants and Jason could have dove for months around the islands. But, it’s time to move on.
We wrapped up our Thailand trip with a visit to the Grand Palace and a food court that we frequented every day that we were in Bangkok. The Grand Palace was exactly that, grand. The construction of the palace started in 1782 and when looking at all of the detail, one can only imagine how long it took to complete and what it takes to maintain. There are so many buildings, temples and statues all with intricate detail from top to bottom. Many of the temples and buildings are completely covered in shiny one-inch square tiles on the outside while every inch of the inside is decorated or painted, including the ceilings. All of this is maintained and kept completely spotless. With weapons dating back hundreds of years, the weapons museum was pretty fascinating, while the heart of the palace, the emerald Buddha was kind of a disappointment. It stood all of about one foot tall and was set far from where you had to stand. The most impressive part of this place for us was the detail of the statues and buildings.
If you plan to visit the palace, you will have to dress in closed toed shoes, long pants or dress, and a shirt that covers your shoulders. This can be quite uncomfortable on a hot Bangkok day, so think about wearing light clothes that you will be comfortable in. The cost to visit this work of art as of March 2014 is 500 Baht ($15-$16 USD) per person. If you are not close to the historic area and are near most of the other hotels, you’ll have to catch one of the public trains and then either take a taxi or the public ferry to get to the temple. The public transportation around Bangkok is really nice, clean and easy to manage. Just try to avoid rush hour or you’ll feel like a sardine in a can. If you feel the need to ride in a tuk tuk for the experience then do it, just don’t go far because they’re geared towards tourists and aren’t cheap.
We stayed at the wonderful Park Plaza Sukhumvit hotel just a hundred meters from the station that housed both the BTS Skytrain and the Metro. This was a very convenient location for transportation and was in good proximity to the Terminal 21 shopping Mall (also connected to the train depot), one of the coolest malls we’ve ever been in. We’re not big on malls, but the design of the seven-floor shoppers mecca was impressive. Each floor was designed after popular cities from around the world, such as Paris, Tokyo, London, Istanbul, and San Francisco.
On the floor designed around San Francisco is where we spent a lot of time. In fact we were there everyday, but not to shop, we were there to eat, and eat cheap. We frequented the food court on the fifth floor everyday because it was good food at an even better price. Unlike a traditional food court in the states, this food was fresh and really quite good. We could both eat a meal and get a smoothie anywhere between three and six bucks, that’s total for the two of us! This place helped out the budget significantly and also gave us a chance to try some of the Thai food we hadn’t eaten yet. All in all, Bangkok was a decent place to visit, although it was very hot, which kept us from exploring any further.
Thailand as a whole was a really nice place, we just hope they get all of their political issues worked out and can move on with their lives.