Bangkok, Thailand: The Sights and Smells of Southeast Asia

From the moment you leave the airport, the familiar sights and smells of Asian life envelope you.  Bangkok is a bustling city where people are friendly, the food is good and the dollar is still strong.  At night you can ride through the crowded streets and see men, women and children at storefront shops, socializing and shopping.


Where To Stay:

If you’re traveling to Bangkok, may I suggest The Regent Hotel as your starting point.  Internationally known and full of Asian charm, every suite is positioned so that guests can walk out of their rooms and see the grand atrium along with the perimeters of other floors.  You’ll need a special elevator key to get past the 5th floor and I understand why.  People there were asking about riding the elevator to higher floors just to see the view.  Open and spacious, there are plenty of niches and seating to accommodate everyone in the lobby, under the ambiance of plants, water and serenity.

Eating and Shoping:

A friend of mine had heard about The Hard Rock Cafe Bangkok and wanted to get a t-shirt L.  Needless to say we ended up eating there and the food was actually really good.  The rock and roll memorabilia items on the wall consisted of some pretty well known artists such as Janet Jackson and Elvis Presley.   However inside the restaurant, it felt as if we could have been anywhere in the world.

Later, we decided to venture into an old building that looked like an industrial complex or factory that had been turned into a shopping mall.  It was four or five stories tall, similar to what we would call a swap meet in the U.S.  It was well lit and the everyday household items such as men and women’s clothing and jewelry were the hot items.  From there, we took some kind of a catwalk into a grocery store on the other side of the building.  It’s amazing how many people walk around and shop at night.  The next day we did more shopping for traditional Thai merchandise and found great bargains depending on the amount of merchandise purchased.  Thai merchants typically won’t go as low on their prices as Indonesians and I found the merchandise to be less artistic, but the craftsmanship was just as good.

A lot of foreign visitors end up going to the red light (sex) district to see the more infamous side of Bangkok.  This is the city’s more notorious side, often seen as a playground for older western men who enjoy the “company” of young girls, or boys, or boys pretending to be girls.  I opted out of this tour.  If you’ve seen one red light district, you’ve seen them all.

Traffic:

One thing that flabbergasted me was the traffic.  At traffic stoplights, all the bikes and mopeds move ahead of cars and buses so they can take off first.   There must have been a couple hundred bikes in front of cars at any given light.  A lot of the mopeds carry two passengers and it seems so dangerous to me, but apparently it works!   Try to get back to your hotel before dark as there may be cultural dancing and juices served in the lobbies of the finer hotels.  The dancers are very gentle, colorful and gracious, as are the Thai people in general.   Photo opportunities are abundant.   I was only in Bangkok for a few days, but enjoyed every minute of it.  You will too!

July 30, 2010

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