2015-04-06 15.56.47

Bangkok sits on the Chao Phraya River.

 

Bangkok is an assault on the senses. If you have never been to Southeast Asia, then the humidity that will hit you upon exiting the airport will force you catch your breath literally. The heat is unrelenting. The infamous traffic jams will be apparent as you make your way into the city center.

Someone who does not fully explore what Bangkok has to offer may mistakenly dismiss the metropolis of 8.3 million as a dirty third-world city. I have known even people who are not fond of cities to enjoy Bangkok because of the variety and culture is nurtures. Bangkok can serve as an exaggerated proxy for all Southeast Asia big cities. The insane motorcycle drivers, the street hustlers, the stunningly glittering malls are part of an eccentric combination that draws tourists from all around the world.

In my life, I have made four different trips to Bangkok, totaling two weeks. I am likely to return because the city is that entertaining, and there is still so much I have not done. There are a number of Buddhist temples that I want to visit. These temples are unavoidably surrounded by commercial activity, sometimes with a large KFC or McDonald’s sign looming overhead. Buddhist temples are known as “wat” in the Thai language, and there are more than 40,000 in the country! I have been to fewer than 10 total in Bangkok and Chiang Mai.

I visited at least seven different shopping centers in Bangkok. As I have repeated in my previous post on Kuala Lumpur, these shopping centers are better than just about anything comparable in the United States. There are tons of 7-Eleven stores in the city. In Malaysia and Thailand, by my count, I visited at least 10 (4 George Town, Chiang Mai 3, Kuala Lumpur 2, Bangkok 1).

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I wish more customer service numbers were more honest, “Service staff are not polite.” This is the official card placed in the taxicabs.

 

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Shopping malls in Thailand are gargantuan and spread out over many floors. Terminal 21 has nine retail floors. The crowd below is due to the free performance of a Thai heartthrob singer.

 

2015-03-15 18.21.09 Bangkok eclairs

The basement floor of Terminal 21 features stores like this éclair shop. I tried the sea salt caramel. These pastries were among the more expensive purchases in Bangkok, at approximately US$3.23 each.

 

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For a reason I have yet to pinpoint, Kit Kat is universal in Africa and Southeast Asia. Moreover, the Kit Kat brand extends to a variety of products, including ice cream and pictured here, green tea!

 

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Durian is a large fruit that is native to this part of the world. It looks like a spiky coconut or melon. Its smell is so pungent that mass transit and hotels ban its presence! Without exaggeration, it smells like sewage. I have not tried it yet.

 

 

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Crossing the Chao Phraya River costs only US$0.09. Why do they even bother charging? The river is narrow so it takes only a couple of minutes.

 

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View of a side street.

 

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Some chedis of Wat Pho, arguably the best sightseeing attraction in Bangkok.

 

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More Wat Pho

 

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Wat Pho in Thai is วัดโพธิ์

 

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This looks like a fancy hotel bar, a luxury casino lounge, or maybe even a jazz venue. Nope, it’s your typically opulent Bangkok movie theater entrance.

The movie cineplexes in Bangkok are among the best I have ever experienced. They are always conveniently located within a mega-mall, not as part of a desolate strip shopping complex. The concessions are so affordable that I do not necessarily feel the urge to sneak food in. The ticket prices are reasonable. I paid US$6 for a 3D viewing of Furious 7. Ticket prices on Wednesday are always cheaper. While even the cheapest seat has a quality that is comparable to a premium space in the U.S., there are higher offerings. One can purchase an even bigger, cushier seat. You can also buy a ticket for a couch for US$14.

Thais revere their king, so prior to every screening, EVERYONE must stand for an extended tribute montage or risking being accused of lèse majesté. A foreigner would probably not be persecuted for disrespecting the king, but it is common sense simply to stand and to seek another forum to demonstrate against monarchies. The tribute intersperses various images of the king with extreme reactions of devotion and joy by his people. Not to pick on Thailand, but even such esteemed countries as Canada, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand have monarchs.

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I spent one evening at the Bamboo Bar at the Mandarin Oriental to listen to jazz. A drink was less than $11, perhaps the cheapest Mandarin Oriental drink in the world. The property is stunning, on the river, with gratuitous amounts of outdoor space to drink, smoke cigars, and lounge.

 

2015-04-04 20.40.08

View of Thanon Ratchadamri