International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: Bangkok
a bargain in Bangkok!
Marianne de Nazareth
"Meet you downstairs in the lobby in 20 minutes," said
Jeremy Lovell our media trainer", his familiar British accent
wafting down the phone line. "You must be ready to walk as
thats the best way to see Bangkok."
had only just landed in the hotel for the UNFCCC Climate Change
Talks starting the next morning, so I hurriedly dragged on my trainers
and took the lift down from my 16th floor room to the ground floor
in the Siam@ Siam hotel.
Off we went in one
of Bangkoks famous hot pink metered taxis to see the Wat Pho or
the temple of the reclining Buddha. All along the roads I noticed the
avenues were of feathery tamarind trees and some of them had orchids
flowering on them. For a nature lover this is the ultimate test of the
local population, leaving exotic orchids to bloom in abundance, on their
The Wat Pho was already crowded with bare footed tourists crowding around
the massive reclining Buddha. The 46m long statue makes a majestic sight
covered in glittering gold leaf. His feet are an amazing 3 m long and
the under-soles are decorated with mother-of-pearl inlay of Buddhist
laksanas. These temples or Wats are not just tourist attractions,
but have a lot of devotees in them, making offerings of incense and
lotus buds, while kneeling down in prayer. Every Wat is adorned with
embellishments of glass and pieces of pottery and then gilded with gold.
I have never seen anything quite like it anywhere else in the world.
And beware, knees and shoulders must be covered or you will not be allowed
into the temples. I saw a couple of young tourists been turned away
by watchful attendants.
"Lets walk now," said Jeremy once we had spent time admiring
the reclining Buddha and off we went along the fishy smelling klongs
or canals criss- crossing the city. All over as we walked we noticed
little temples set up like shrines everywhere. Apparently 95 percent
of the population Bangkok is Buddhist the rest are Hindu, Muslim and
Walking down to the Chao Phraya river we took a ferry to the other side
just to enjoy the experience. On the other bank rose the magnificent
Wat Arun with its enormous tower, which is quite different from the
other wats in the city.
could also take a long tailed boat and cruise down the river,"
said Jeremy, but we preferred to hop off and take a long walk down
to China Town. There is nothing you cant buy in China Town
including a lot of gold and electrical goods. In the shadow of the
huge China hotel are fruit vendors selling mounds of pink dragon
fruit, delicious Mangosteen and the smelly Durian. The pavements
are a higgledy piggeldy mass of street food and fake designer brands.
And if you see cameras for a fraction of the price you would pay
in the duty free, check them out, as they are second hand.
UNFCCC had housed us in the designer Siam @ Siam Hotel located in
the heart of the cosmopolitan segment of Bangkok. The sky train
trundles by and all the shopping malls and street food you could
want are within walking distance. The whole building was always,
a seething mass of white bodies, either swimming or going to the
spa. It was like a veritable tower of Babel every time I took the
lift, with French, German, Spanish, Italian and of course English,
spoken in a variety of accents. It seemed like everyone had chosen
Bangkok for a holiday at the same time and over the next few days,
I understood why.
Bangkok is a fun
city and like Amsterdam revolves around its tourist industry. The big
difference in Bangkok, the Euro, the pound and the dollar makes the
white tourist king. Even for me coming out of India, there was very
good value for money shopping everywhere and anywhere. There are bargains
to be had, in every shopping mall including a TESCO Lotus. But since
we were close to the MBK mall, we zeroed in there whenever time permitted,
to pick up fabulous bags, shoes and of course Thai silk cushion covers
and scarves. Bargaining is the name of the game, so never pay the price
on the tag, instead bargain hard, I think its a national pass
I enjoyed all the street food on offer and tried out the different types
of meats and sea food on skewers and of course a variety of sausages
dipped in a delicious peanut sauce. Cut fruit which is an absolute no-no
in India was an absolute yes yes in Bangkok and I feasted on everything,
from enormous guavas to golden pineapple, which are artfully chopped
up and sold with a small packet of flavoured salt. The vendors work
with gloves and the fruit is never handled by hand, in fact every packet
came with a long tooth pick with which to eat the fruit.
The only annoying aspect of Bangkok were the cab drivers who encircle
the city a dozen times if you are not stern with them, just to let your
cab fare double or triple, to what it actually should be. So, its
preferable to walk or use the sky train within the city. Tuk tuks
or the three wheeler transport are the icons of the city, and one has
to hang on for dear life if you are to take them, after verbally fixing
Bangkok is known as the city of angels by the locals and I think it
derived its name from the masseurs touch. They have magical fingers
which kneed and punch out every worrying kink and ache in your tired
muscles. For three hundred baht just give in to their ministrations
for and hour and then go back to your room and fall asleep for another
So, if you have never been to Bangkok, take a trip and enjoy the overwhelming
smells and sensations the city has to offer. I am going back for another
week, thats for sure!
© Marianne de Nazareth October 14th 2009
(The writer is a freelance journalist and a fellow with the UNFCCC.)
lack of urgency in Bangkok?
Marianne de Nazareth
much more devastation does the world need to sit up and realise that
the catastrophic effects of Climate Change are already upon us?
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