After spending a week in paradise, our journey through Southeast Asia continued in Bangkok. This megacity with a population of more than 8 million people contains a number of really impressive sights. Probably the most important is the Wat Phra Kaew, which is considered to be the most sacred Buddhist temple of the country. The ornamented buildings (most of which covered in gold) are situated within the walls of the Grand Palace, the official residence of the King of Thailand. A visit will easily take a few hours and is going to leave you speechless considering the beautiful architecture, intriguing murals, and spellbinding statues (without mentioning the accumulated wealth of gold, jewels etc.). Further temples well worth a visit include Wat Pho (with a 46 m long, gilded statue of the Reclining Buddha), Wat Arun, and Wat Traimit.
Apart from these great sights, Bangkok with its bustling street life is a great adventure in itself! If you are lucky enough to get a driver who does not constantly urge you to visit the next souvenir shop with him, a tuk-tuk-tour through the megacity is the best way to experience the madness. Although prominently featured in many guide books, we did not visit the thriving red-light district of Bangkok with its bars and brothels – as I actually pity the people who have to work there and do not want to support the whole industry by elevating the area to a “tourist sight”… Instead we opted for a day trip out of the city as we wanted to see the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market. A maze of intersecting canals are used by lots of merchants sitting in their small boats and selling everything you can imagine. Although there are many tourists around, most of the sold goods are for locals. The organized tour also included a visit to the bridge spanning the river Kwai which became famous through the novel and movie with the same title. A small museum included information on the history of the area during World War II. The last stop was another popular sight: the “tiger temple”. At this place, monks keep a number of tigers which can be pet by paying tourists. Although the monks state that they rescued the tigers from poachers or illegal owners, the “temple” has been criticized strongly by a number of organizations. Rumours include that the tigers are drugged in order to be more relaxed with the hundreds of visitors each day. Of course we have not seen any explicit abuse of the animals, but the conditions are surely not appropriate to the species.
After these few days in the capital of Thailand, we left Bangkok and took a bus to the border of Cambodia. But this part of the story is covered in the next post.