aboutWe are Akila and Patrick. Our minds (and waistlines) expand as we travel, cook, and eat our way around the world with our two dogs.
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just another city
bangkok

Wat Arun at twilight

 Wat Arun at twilight

I have been putting off writing this post on Bangkok, instead writing about our Kindles and stupid tourists and such, because we struggle to describe our thoughts on the city even to each other. 

Wat Arun Wat Arun
Wat Arun Wat Arun

Wat Arun

Sweat rolled off our shoulders, foreheads, and noses at all hours.  Gasoline fumes clogged the air and the calls of “tuk-tuk, tuk-tuk” followed us wherever we went.

wat pho

Wat Pho

At the same time, the stupas and prangs of the vast temples glimmered in that searing sun.  The 46-meter (150-foot) gold Buddha at Wat Pho reached and reclined above us and we stood like insects at his feet to meditate upon his mysterious smile and aura of purposeful contemplation.

Hanuman in Ramakien at Royal Palace
sita in ramakien gallery wat phra kaeow

Ramakien gallery

At Wat Phra Kaeo, gold paint traced the mythological Ramakien, the journey of the exiled princes Rama and Lakshman, with the white monkey god Hanuman, in their search to rescue Rama’s wife Sita from the demon king Tosakan.  These intricately painted murals were perhaps my favorite attraction in Bangkok. 

Wat Phra Kaeo

Ramakien gallery, Wat Phra Kaeow

On another day, we escaped the heat by fleeing to the air conditioned comfort of the movie theater at the MBK Plaza.  We watched 32 tanwa, a Thai comedy about a guy who needs brain surgery because he cannot remember something important and then, finally, realizes that he and his step-sister are in love with each other.  The plot was odd, to say the least and, when we laughed, the Thai moviegoers didn’t laugh and when they laughed, we didn't.

Wat Pho Wat Bangkok
Bangkok boat Royal Palace

Wat Pho, Wat Phra Kaeow, Bangkok boats, Royal Palace

At night, the crowds pack the markets and streets, standing around the multi-hued blooms at the Chinatown Flower Market.  One night, we went to see Thai dancers perform stylized feats at the Khon, a royal performance of a traditional Thai dance, featuring the life of Hanuman. 

Flower market, Khon performance

We did not love Bangkok but we did not hate it, either.  We ate street food, saw the city, and lived amidst the throng and the chaos. But, despite eight days spent there, it did not impact us like Chiang Mai or Lampang because we were never able to figure out its underlying personality.

Bangkok at sunset

Bangkok at sunset

Instead, it has settled in the back of our minds in a wash of color like circles of paint streaming together from an artist's palette.

03/09/2010 20:19
Interesting that you thought that. My friend, also a travel writer, is in love with that city (she grew up in HK and Singapore) and tried to convince Scott and me to go there en route to Borneo. (We chose Saigon instead, as we're using miles.) I'm supposed to go to Bangkok later this year, but now I'm hoping I'll get to spend more time in other cities/areas based on your thoughts.
Camels & Chocolate's recent blog post: Well All Float On
03/09/2010 20:38
Interesting thoughts. I was there about 6 years ago and also didn't have a strong impression of the city. I'll be going back there in a month, so hopefully my perspective will change...or maybe not :)
Kyle Crum's recent blog post: Get Your Fingers Away from my Bum-hole!
03/09/2010 21:46
I've never quite managed to love Bangkok. Like you, I fell for Chiang Mai and surrounds. But these photos? Gorgeous. Truly. Maybe it's time I went back for another look...
Lisa Baldwin's recent blog post: Hush
03/10/2010 01:36
I echo the sentiments. Although I didn't spend much time there, I was glad to leave.

Your photos are in contrast to the post. They're stunning, and can easily convert anyone with doubts :)
03/10/2010 10:50
I totally hear what you're saying about Bangkok. :) Tim took to it straight away, while I definitely did not! Then again, it always felt like we were doing a lot of "admin tasks" while we were there - filing taxes, going to an embassy, etc - and, for me, that might have been part of the reason I wasn't crazy about it at first.

It was during our fourth time through Bangkok when it finally clicked for me. By that point we had spent about two months in Bangkok, so perhaps the city just wore me down far enough! So yeah, now I'm at a point where I miss its paradoxes and chaos....though I am still befuddled by them! :)
Jessica the hedgehog's recent blog post: In Five Years
03/10/2010 11:07
Your report stands in solitary contrast from pretty much every other post I've read on the city, and I have a feeling I'd have the same reaction as you two. Not sure why, but yes. Very interesting and thanks for sharing!
Keith's recent blog post: Chile: Wise Words and Ways to Help
03/11/2010 09:12
But what about the food? I want to hear more about what you guys thought of the food in Bangkok. Where did you eat? What did you like? What surprised you? I think there is another post here... :-)
03/11/2010 14:11
I think that maybe our problem is that we just aren't big city people. We spend so much time struggling to identify the singular personality of a large city even though every big city has multiple personalities. It's the same reason that we will never love New York but we are absolutely enamored with small cities like Asheville and San Francisco. I think, Jessica, you are right --- to really understand and love a city like Bangkok, you need to spend several months and let the city's soul seep into you.

Keith, food was another problem we had with Bangkok. We weren't wowed. We ate a lot of street food and at a few restaurants, but overall, we thought the quality of ingredients and food wasn't as good as in the north. Pineapple wasn't as sweet, coconuts didn't taste as fresh, and I was especially appalled by a vendor in Sukhumvit who served us mango with sticky rice and the mango wasn't ripe. Similarly, we ate at the Suan Lum Night Bazaar and both of us had very mediocre noodles that weren't seasoned properly. We were staying outside the main touristy areas in the Thonburi area and most of the street food in that area looked like it had been sitting in the cart for days on end.

The best food we had was the night we wandered to Chinatown and ate on the street. I had fried water spinach and Patrick had a crab curry dish and both were delicious. We followed it up with some gorgeous pineapple and mediocre durian. Unfortunately, we didn't make it out to Chinatown until our last night, so we missed out on some great food in that area.
Akila's recent blog post: just another city: bangkok
03/12/2010 20:05
Wow - these photos are incredible! I almost took a face dive into my computer screen! I wish I could jump in right now and magically be in the world where you took these photos.
Monica's recent blog post: Photo Friday: Sunset In Xian
03/13/2010 00:48
We loved Bangkok, but then again, the last time we were there was in 2004. Asia changes so quickly that it might have a completely different energy now. We have a friend traveling Thailand right now and he hates the entire country. We were also there in 2000 and found the changes in just those 4 years at the dawn of the millenium amazing. It was a completely different city than our first meeting with it. I can't imagine what it looks and feels like now. But I did love your photos!
Dave and Deb's recent blog post: Hampi Ruins, a Photo Story
03/13/2010 09:25
Loving me some Bangkok. Great pics and bonus points for the cool shot of the Reclining Buddha -- almost impossible to get a photo there without a fellow tourist's head in the shot.
johnnyvagabond's recent blog post: The Red Shirt March: Poor Planning on My Part
03/16/2010 07:24
I heart Thailand.
Thank you for bringing back beautiful memories
Amy @ cookbookmaniac.com's recent blog post: Ichi Ban Boshi My search for the best ramen in Sydney
03/21/2010 05:00
I just read a book about bankok, and the author talked a lot about the red light district there and all prostitution that was impossible to avoid. Is this something you noticed?
03/22/2010 13:12
Thanks Monica!

Dave and Deb, we actually heard from several people that they feel Bangkok has significantly changed in the last five years, becoming more cosmopolitan and urban than it used to be. I don't know if that was the cause of our dislike but it definitely may be something to keep in mind next time you go there.

Thanks johnnyvagabond! Patrick has this incredible trick for getting tourists out of pictures --- basically, he stands still staring at people until they finally get kind of irritated that he is staring at him and then they move so he can take the picture. It works really well!

Thanks Amy!

Sofia, honestly, we didn't see much prostitution except on Khao San Road and even then, it wasn't awful. At the same time, we also avoided all of the red light districts because we knew what we would find there. We found the prostitution to be much more unsettling and prevalent in Cambodia than in Thailand, actually.
Akila's recent blog post: donegal: breaking hearts
03/23/2010 14:31
I'm not surprised seeing how much you love Chiang Mai. Bangkok is a totally different beast than Chiang Mai. :) It will take a while to get used to. I still need a few days whenever I go back to get used to Bangkok. And the city is changing all the time.

Love your pictures!! :)
Amy @ The Q Family's recent blog post: Los Angeles With Kids: Taste of Thailand
04/08/2010 14:31
I LOVE Bangkok! it is an intense, passionate, lively, at times too crowded and dirty with ridiculous traffic, but amazing city!
05/27/2010 13:54
These photos are impressive. The statues are all designed with so much detail.
06/30/2012 09:49
I'm currently living in Bangkok, I've been here 4 out of the 9 months I plan to be here. I thought it was me, but I've not taken to the city at all, but take it all in it's stride. I've not been able to shake the internal misgivings of the place. Have just returned from a week in KL, Malaysia and found myself loving the place. So go figure. I'm grateful I've traveled up the country and as you found, I loved the cities further north with more natural surroundings. KL offered more in that area also. ANyway my 2 cents.
07/05/2012 08:13
Tania, I know what you mean. I've ultimately come to decide that every city has a unique rhythm and the rhythm that works for some people doesn't work for others. I never quite felt the rhythm in Bangkok --- either I was moving too slow or other people were moving too fast or vice versa --- while in the northern cities, I felt the rhythm almost immediately. I hope that you eventually start to feel Bangkok's rhythm since you have 5 more months left!
Akila's recent blog post: grilled meats of turkey

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