21st Century
The Future
World Travel
Books & Film
Original Fiction
Opinion & Lifestyle
Politics & Living
Film Space
Movies in depth
Kid's Books
Reviews & stories

The International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: Bangkok

Strike 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 that’s the best way to see Bangkok."

I 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 Bangkok’s 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 pavement trees.

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 Christian.
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.

"You 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 can’t 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.
The 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 it’s a national pass time!

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, it’s preferable to walk or use the sky train within the city. Tuk tuk’s 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 your fare.

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 hour.

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, that’s for sure!
© Marianne de Nazareth October 14th 2009
(The writer is a freelance journalist and a fellow with the UNFCCC.)

A lack of urgency in Bangkok?
Marianne de Nazareth

How much more devastation does the world need to sit up and realise that the catastrophic effects of Climate Change are already upon us?

More travels


© Hackwriters 1999-2009 all rights reserved - all comments are the writers' own responsibility - no liability accepted by or affiliates.