A comfortable place to start our South East Asia journey, with as a bonus some river views and a Christmas atmosphere.
The contrast couldn’t be bigger. Back home it had been snowing, but the day we left the weather got better: it was pouring down with rain, still bitterly cold. When we landed in Bangkok, it was also a bit chilly, but that was from the air conditioner in the airport. Outside, it was a pleasant 30 oC, sunny and humid.
Bangkok is always a good start for a trip in South East Asia. Relatively cheap to get to, and with lots of onward connections, it is a great place to recuperate from the long-haul flight from Europe. Easy going, friendly people, well developed, everything works. We have been coming here on and off for the past 20 years, so our focus is no longer on the tourist sights. Instead, we enjoyed some of the street food markets, and – it being that time of the year – admired the impressive Christmas decorations around the various shopping malls. And suffered every possible Christmas song ever made, inside the malls. If anyone still needs confirmation that Christmas has nothing to do with Christianity anymore, and is merely a commercial concept, come to Bangkok!
With a day spare we jumped on the commuter ferry that ploughs the Saen Seab canal, or klong, in the local speak, and had us dropped at the end of the line, from which it is about half an hours’ walk to the Chau Praya River. Most of which we spent following one of the other klongs, through some of the older residential neighbourhoods of Bangkok. Somehow, it is incredible that this type of houses still survives in between the high-rise of this mega city, but it provides for an entertaining walk, full of character.
The best way to move aimlessly from one side of Bangkok to another, is by river taxi, a fast and relatively comfortable transport form, that allows you to get on and off wherever you choose – as long as it is along the river, of course! Many of Bangkok’s temples and palaces are located at or near the riverside, and are visible from the boat. Having a penchant for markets, we hopped off at the flower market, a key supplier to the many Buddhist temples; lots of women preparing garlands, but also lots of colourful fake flowers and other temple decoration material. Great place to wander around. And casually walk to the next river taxi stop, in China town, and hop-on again!