Bangkok, Thailand

Samran, my Thai guide this morning, almost mistook me for another Thai. He was obviously looking for someone in the hotel lobby, his eyes scanning across the room that was almost empty. He was looking for "Mr. Dennis" and he couldn't seem to find a Caucasian meeting his gaze. I stood up from my seat, he gave me a hesitant look, told him my name then he checked the list he had on hand. Yes it's me, the "Mr. Dennis" he was expecting. He was not obviously expecting an Asian. As it turns out, I'm the only tourist he is guiding the whole morning, making the whole experience for me akin to a private tour. I had the van all to myself complete with a driver and Samran!

Like everyone else of Malay descent, Thais look like Filipinos. But the comparison ends abruptly with physique. You see so much progress in Bangkok and you can't help remembering how Manila has been left behind. So behind even our Peso looks like a poor cousin of the Baht. Thai students used to study in Philippine universities and they went home applying what they learned. Even Thai farmers learned a lot from our International Rice Institute and now Thailand is exporting rice all over the world.

There are also more tourists here per square kilometer than all of the Philippine archipelago combined. While Thailand is unrolling the red carpet for 12 million tourist arrivals this year, the Philippines is lagging at only 2.5 million foreign visitors. Just this morning, the venerable Bangkok Post boasted that next to Hong Kong, Thailand is among the world's top-grosser in tourist expenditure. In other words, more money for the Thai economy without having to depend on overseas workers.


Samran brought me for the obligatory sightseeing of the Grand Palace and the Emerald Buddha. Visions of the "The King and I" played in my mind, not minding if Yul Brynner is long dead and not actually the king of Siam (as Thailand was known). We chanced upon the Changing of the Guard as we entered the main gate to the palace. The mid-morning sun was already bearing down heavily on me but we still managed to get ahead of the throng of tourists whose necks were craning in every direction and whose tongues were wagging various languages.

The visual impact of the Grand Palace is truly unforgettable - Buddhist monasteries, ceremonial halls, ornate pavilions, the Royal Pantheon and the reliquay shaped like a golden chedi create a splendid royal compound. Today, the King of Thailand and his family live in another area of the city, using only the Grand Palace for official ceremonies. Good for the Thais that they don't have a Malacanang Palace with nothing to show but Imelda's shoes.

Like all backpackers, I wanted to fit in the picture - I tried sampling local dishes which are served on tables along sidewalks in Banglamphu. The area has the feel of cramped Malate streets. What's special about the cooking is that it's done while you wait.The cook cum waiter will prepare everything before your famished eyes. It didn't take long before I was feasting on stir-fried vegetables with seafood while mopping that sweat off my forehead.

Chao Praya river is something else, a veritable destination in itself. While Manila's Pasig river has become an almost impassable sewer, Chao Praya has afforded Thais and tourists alike a scenic alternative to the gridlock of vehicles on terra firma. Cruising its length aboard the Chao Praya Express Boat is one of the world's most inspiring as wats, temples and palaces parade by.

From Sathorn Pier, I took the SkyTrain for the trip to Siam Square - a hip and happening nucleus in the city. Young Thais abound in this area while newly-built skyscrapers fill my peripheral vision. Here, the mammoth MBK Center lords it over the other malls with everything for sale screaming "buy me! buy me!" in my face. Of course, like the wandering rat that I am, I got caught by the tourist trap. Which means, parting with some of my Baht for those souvenirs to bring home.

1 comment:

  1. "I loved the photo of THE GRAND PALACE in Bangkok city..
    Actually Bangkok is in my traveling wishlist, I am planning to travel Bangkok and some more cities in Thailand after two months which will be a best time to visit that part of Thailand.
    Not sure that I will need how many days to explore Bangkok tourist attractions and let me tell you that I have huge list of and tourist attractions and things to do in Bangkok.
    Please can you help me by mentioning good spa and massage centers in Bangkok city..
    Also any safety tips which will be useful for solo women traveler."


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