After three nights and two full days, we were saying farewell to Bangkok. The Thai Airways flight for Luang Prabang, Laos, had just taken off and Bangkok was quickly disappearing beneath the heavy smog. The plane was a mix of Thai pilgrims going to the spiritual Luang Prabang and international travellers headed for Laos. On the coach to the plane, Alf had given his seat to an elderly gentleman with a bad leg and the pilgrims then seemed to befriend him (we were to see them again in Luang Prabang).
Our second day in Bangkok was a mix of sight-seeing and shopping. We had visited Bangkok’s many tourist attractions on previous trips. We tend to use Bangkok as a convenient hub whilst visiting South East Asia. (AirAsia, the world’s number 1 budget airline has a dual hub in Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur).
In the morning we visited the Wat Saket or The Golden Mount. Trying to avoid Bangkok horrendous traffic, we took the Skytrain to the Victory Monument station and then took a taxi but still spent about an hour in traffic jams. However, the visit to the monastery was certainly memorable. This very important Thai stupa where King Rama 1, builder of Thailand’s new capital Bangkok, performed the Royal bathing ritual here in the 18th century after which he officially became the Kingdom’s new ruler. To reach the top, it is necessary to climb hundreds of steps but the views on the way up and at the top make it a worthwhile effort.
About noon, we took a tuk-tuk to the MBK Center (adjacent to National Stadium Skytrain station) but had to walk the last five minutes because the traffic was gridlocked. Alf was getting distinctly twitchy with the traffic fumes in the stationery tuk-tuk. The MBK Center is probably our favourite shopping experience in Bangkok; it has everything from designer name copy bargains, for example, handbags, shoes, jewellery, mobile phones and cameras all at bargain prices and in the Tokyu department store on the second floor and third floors are the fashions, where amazing bargains are to be had for the whole family (the January sales are unbelievable). The sixth floor is a true Aladdin’s Cave – in the past, we’ve picked up padded winter jackets there, ahead of flying back to a European winter. It is packed with crowded small retail units and stalls selling all manner of clothing and fashion accessories. We usually start on the top floor and work our way down. It gets seriously busy as the day progresses and one often hears Russian, Mandarin and a wide variety of European languages; it’s also a particular favourite with Indian wholesalers, who buy in bulk there and ship back to India (this gives some clues on the price/quality mix). Each floor is distinctly different. The fifth floor has a wonderful selection of camera shops, whilst the fourth is given over to electronics, including computers, tablets and phones. It’s a good place to eat as well, with a wide variety of restaurants and food stalls. We were largely there to see what was new. Marilyn bought a rucksack for GBP 8 and Alf got a few tee-shirt bargains but we’re returning, as we have earmarked various items of interest for when we go back to Bangkok, before catching our flight back to Europe. To get to the MBK Center take the Skytrain to National Stadium and there’s an exit/walkway that leads to the second floor of the Tokyu Store.
This morning at our hotel, we were reminded that Bangkok was just as attractive to Asian visitors and Westerners alike. There was a large group from an Asian country, clearly more used to chopsticks than Western cutlery. It was one of those people watching moments that we will share many times for sure. One particular lady was struggling trying to use a fork to eat a runny fried egg; so she put the egg on a slice of toast, doubled it over, then put her fork right through it – she was actually eating it like a toffee apple with the yoke running down her chin; she just could not work out how to use this thing called ‘a fork’ but I guess we westerners have problems with wet noodles on chopsticks when they slide right off.
Much as we love Bangkok, we realized that after a few days we were glad to be leaving for Laos, an altogether different country.