Having been to 200 over cities around the world, lived in 6 cities over 3 continents. I would say Bangkok is still ranking quite high up on the list of my favourite place. It has a special charm to it not because it is well developed but on the contrary, because it is gritty, edgy and a confuse city. One minute you are on a roof top bar and thinking the city is very modern and advance. The next, on your way back walking pass street vendors selling papaya salad from his modified bike with sidecar next to the gutter.

Diversity

You can argue that any city in the world is like that. But I think what distinguish Bangkok from the rest is that, there is still a healthy mixing between classes in the society. You can still see office executives eating at these roadside food stalls on friday night along with their colleagues. Inside a temple, you can meet people from the opposite side of the polar backgrounds, coming to pray together. Whereas other cities in Asia, especially in China, the desire for separation between the rich and the poor has become so great that it creates such a strangely isolated and oppressive cities. Looking at it the other way, I guess we can say that there are still many cultural, customs and institutions in Thailand that helps binding people together. I think Food is one of the big players in doing this. Every where you go in Bangkok, you can see rows and rows of these food stalls – and people do not mind pulling their sleeves up to join the herd for a good grub.

 

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Yaowarat

Yaowarat street during the day is quite different to its nighttime version.  This is the trading hubs for the local and chinese communities. Jewelry and goldsmith shops lined both sides of the street. Some of these gold shops has been opened for 140years and has earned the reputation for their craftsmanship and reliability. After the jewelers lock up their shops for the day, the vendors, like working ants, come out from the side streets with their cart fully loaded with food and start to occupy the prime spots. The street become even more alive with noise, colours and smell. You can find anything from seafood, chinese noodle to thai dessert and even imported fruits. The food here is generally of high quality than anywhere else around Bangkok. The competition is also very high. If you are very good, people will come from all over Bangkok to try out. Some of these stalls can easily make $1000-3000 a night.

 

 

 

 

 

Another spot that is equally alive is Khaosan road. Known as a place to find cheap guest houses and hostels for the backpackers, Khaosan road is packed with young travellers arriving from all over the world. It is a half way house between east and west  where the fresh travellers head over and first get themselves adapted to Asia before heading off to a remote island or jungle somewhere. In the early 90s, it used to be a very hip place to come for clubbing. There were only 2 clubs on either end of the road, owned by the same guy. It was considered to be quite grunge but in a cool kind of way. Most of the people who came here for a night out then were more interesting and probably have Bob Marley as their idol. The posh kids would stay away and head to the RCA.
Having not been back for some 15 years, I think Khaosan road has now become very seedy with bars that shoot laser and blast techno loud music out on to the street. However, after exploring around the area, I found that the street next to Kaosan road held the similar atmosphere of what Khaosan road used to be like – chilled and friendly. Instead of inaudible music from broken speakers, this street was filled with acoustic music and lively chatter.

 

 

Bangkok is really a 24 hours city. When an area closes down, another part of the city would begin their trading. Pak Klong Talad, a wholesale flower market, is a good example of this. At night, the place is vibrant with packs of colourful flowers that are being sold en mass. Modified pick up trucks and tuk tuks line up at dawn to deliver these flowers bundles to florists around the city and nearby provinces. The beauty of the place is you can see various flowers being made into object like garlands, wreaths, and various thai culture and Buddhist offerings. The market is actually very big but you need to make your way into a little alley towards Chao Praya river. In there, you will find 3-4 markets, selling more flowers, fruits and vegetables.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The clearest physical indicator of how developed a city is, is its construction. In recent years, Bangkok has witnessed an upsurge of construction whether it is the extension or sky train tracks that weave around the fabric of the city or the modern condominiums that mushroom up around the stations. Yet, its growth doesn’t seem to undermined its character. If anything, it adds to the existing diversity of Bangkok. If you happened to go to the Grand Palace or Rattanakosin island, you can see traditional thai building with European or Chinese accent on it. That is Bangkok Architecture which has always been a melting pot of other civilisations since the ancient time.

 

 

 

I enjoy observing life of the people in the city, seeing how they live their daily life. Normally, I would be too busy and probably being observed myself. The trip like this helps get the runaway thinking back into perspective. People who have a lot less can still live a happy life. So then the happiness is not about how much you own but feeling content of what you have.

 

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Among all the things, Buddhism plays a key role in holding the society together. All the temple in Thailand used to be the heart of each and every community. Historically, it is a school, a place for worship, a place for family to gather, a museum , a gallery and a vault – all of these in one place. All the important documents and valuables used to be kept on the temple grounds. Master craftsman would put all of their skills into making the best works for temple. Lives basically used to revolve around this institution. There is at least one temple at every 100m radius in some parts of the city which demonstrates its importance to the city.

These photos are from Wat Sutat on New year eve which they held night chanting and praying event over to the new year in order to divert people from drinking themselves to oblivion at the pub. Wonderful event and had a high turn out. Hope I will be there  in Bangkok again next year.

More to come.