Bangkok was our first major Asian city in our travels so far. I think we all had different expectations before arriving. I was prepared for a densely crowded, dirty, dangerous place where we would have to be super militant as we navigate the streets. Well I was absolutely wrong. Yes it was crowded and polluted but the city had a very friendly and safe atmosphere about it. Bangkok is a city of 12 Million people which is half of Thailand's population. When we arrived at the airport, we did not have a hotel booked, but we read a good review in the LetsGo Thailand book the gave us a name and address of a hotel in downtown Bangkok. The key to getting a taxi was to make sure it was a metered taxi, which meant that before we got in we had to make sure the driver knew we wanted to pay the metered rate, not a pre-negociated price. As it turns out the Hotel was better than expected because the price was right and it was close to the river and walking distance to the palacial and temple grounds. Yes! We successfully found a decent place to stay and paid the metered rate for our taxi ride into town.
The first thing we decided to do . . .
on our was visit a huge market just 10km from our Hotel called JJ Market. This was an adventure. JJ Market is one of the biggest markets found in Asia. It has hundreds of stalls hocking everything and anything. Off we go to flag down a taxi and make sure we pay the metered rate, NOT. The driver sets a price and Carolyn says NO, meter, then he goes down a little, NO meter, he goes down by half and we decide that it is a fair enough price. This was just a pre-curser to the skill of haggling required to ply the waters of the market. Haggling is a must. You should never accept the first price given and never engage in haggling unless you are a serious buyer. Also it is a good idea to ask around and find out what the starting prices are from vendor to vendor. Equipped with this knowlege we enter the market and employ our skills of haggling. We each had something in mind that we wanted to buy and were more than happy to try and get the best price. After hours of walking and exploring we did make a few purchases, which probably could have been bargained down further but we felt the prices were fair. We spent most of the day there and we only saw a small fraction of the market. Basically JJ Market is a shoppers dream and a hagglers paradise.
The next day we decide to walk around the temple and palace grounds. We leave our hotel and make our way to the busier streets and notice that streets are lined with a variety of vendors, food, clothes, watches, gems, carvings and the list goes on. It seems that every available sidewalk space is taken up by someone selling something. This makes walking to any destination quite interesting and time consuming, you are constantly looking side to side, making sure you don't bump into someone or step on some vendors merchandise.
We arrive at the palacial grounds and walk around the perimeter. You had to pay in order to get into the main entrance and we decided we would rather spend our time at the neighbouring temple. Off to the temple we go. The grounds are huge and there are numerous temples housing the different Buddha Gods. Since these temples are quite old, the effects of pollution can readily be seen and they are slowly restoring each temple to their original brilliance. All the roof tiles are getting replaced and the choffas (the antler shaped objects at each corner of the roof) were painted in gold. Over half of the temples were restored allowing us to appreciate their original splendor. The main God at this particular temple is the reclining Buddha. The Buddha is gigantic (at least 100m long and three stories high) painted gold and at the bottom of his feet (which are taller than me) was a mural of various patterns inlayed with mother of pearl on a black background.
We had a great day taking in all the different sites whether they were temples or the various vendors along the streets. The entreprenurial spirit is alive and well in Bangkok.