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Bangkok: city of Angels
Bangkok (Thailand), July 8th 2012 

In July 2012, two teenagers visited us (children of friends) after they decided to take the chance to backpack with us through a part of South East Asia. After a careful consideration we decided to bring a visit to the Philippines. In most parts of south east Asia, June to August are the rainy months, buts some part of the Philippines are quite dry during this period of the year. But before we took the flight to Manila, we spent some days in Bangkok; just to relax after the long flight from Europe and to get used a little bit to the different climate.

Our travel companions arrived early in the morning, so it was a smart decision to spend the remaining part of the day around Siam Square in the newer part of town. Many huge shopping malls are located in this area, so it is a good place to escape the heat once in a while. The air conditioning is sometimes so cold, that you have the feeling that you walk in a refrigerator. But for the boys this was a welcoming change from the hot and steamy climate outside.

A Thai woman is proud of her bare Cockatoo

The shopping malls of Bangkok are huge and luxurious. All big brands seem to have at least one shop here. Even the Italian car maker Lamborghini is present. They have a showroom on the third floor of the Paragon shopping mall. How the hell do they get the cars here? The malls are a great place to see the rich Thai people in action. Many of the extremely expensive brands like Prada, Gucci and Louis Vuiton have outlets here too and most of them even have customers. We are surprised by the buying power of the Thai teenagers; especially the girls. Many of them, sometimes still wearing their school uniforms, form long queues in front of designer boutiques, just to get a chance to buy one of their products. This is a world that differs huge with the world outside the shopping malls, where many ‘normal’ Thai people are selling fruit or second hand cloths to ‘survive’ the day.

The next morning we went to the old part of town, the area where the old temples and palaces are located. We took a typical public river boat, which is a very efficient way of transport in clogged Bangkok. We got off the boat in the area called Banglamphu, the area where also the backpackers ghetto Khao San Road is located, and walked the remaining part to the centuries old amulet market. Amulets play an important role in Thai society, because people believe in the power of it. Thai men, armed with magnifying glasses, stroll over the market in search for a powerful copy. This seems to be a difficult task to us, because most of them look like they just left an assembly line somewhere in China. Subsequently, a short walk brought us to the palace area of Bangkok. The difference with the rest of Bangkok is astonishing. Thousands of tourists, brought in by touring cars, visit this part of town as an important stop on their itinerary through Bangkok. And that is understandable because the palace area is brilliant. But the huge number of tourists also has a darker side. They attract many scammers who try to rip off tourists, by misinforming them about tickets or by selling them inferior products or services. It is so bad that the Thai authorities decided to warn the tourists. Big loudspeakers on the palace area walls warn tourist to trust nobody. So that’s what we did.

Tremendous Thai street food
The buildings in the palace area are beautiful. The complex houses loads of gold coloured stupas, temples with inlaid glass and mirrors, and a surrounding wall whose inside shows old paintings from the Ramakien (paintings made during the reign of King Rama I). One of the highlights of the visit to the palace complex is the sighting of the Emerald Buddha, one of the most holy statues of Thai Buddhism. But don’t expect to have the area all by yourself. Many others are interested in these buildings too, so expect to share the place with many others. Another short stroll brought us to What Po, the temple that contains the huge reclining Buddha. Also this sight is awesome, but again, be prepared to ‘fight’ for a good place to make a decent picture.

Halfway the afternoon, we decided to walk to Khao San Road for a drink. This is the place where most backpackers stay during their visit to Bangkok. Bangkok is for many backpackers the start or end of their longer backpack trip through South East Asia. It is not so hard to identify these two groups. The travellers that are at the beginning of their trip, still look decent and are often walking around somewhat confused, absorbing all the new impressions. The ‘experienced’ backpacker has black soles, a 6-month old beard, often a fresh tattoo, and worn t-shirts with prints showing the places where they went. Especially the t-shirts of Bintang Beer (Indonesia), Chang Beer (Thailand), Tubing in Vang Vieng (Laos) and the t-shirts with communistic symbols (Vietnam) are extremely popular. The terraces of Khao San Road are a great place to watch people. Khao San Road is a tourist sight by itself.

During the last day of our visit to Bangkok, we went to a less touristic area: China Town. It seems that Bangkok’s China Town is one of the few China towns left (outside China) with the real Chinese atmosphere. And indeed, the area has loads of alleys where you can walk around for hours without getting bored. We saw shops where they make Buddha statues, sell traditional Chinese medicines and markets where unidentified products are sold. This is a great area to stroll around. At the end of the day we went back to Khao San Road for another drink, after which we took the public River boat back to Siam Square. This was the end of our visit to Bangkok. Philippines, here we come!

A lunch on Khao San Road
Jorn poses with a beer tower
The reclining Buddha of What Po
Posing with the skyline of Bangkok
Ivonne has a 'meet and greet' with Britney Spears

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