Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Bangkok- A New Chapter

India had been the experience that it was supposed to be. Whilst we did certainly fall in love with the country, after over 2 months of thalis, trains and constantly being the centre of attention we were ready for a change of scenery and culture. So the final chapter of our 6 months began with a flight from Delhi to Bangkok with Indigo (just £80 for the flight).

The first thing that struck us in Bangkok was just how comparatively clean the city was in relation to everywhere in India. Pavements were wide and you could actually walk down them, the roads had crossings (in places) and despite some of the news stories about the protests, the majority of the city was still in full working order.

Our first night was spent in a really trendy hostel in the quieter more business district area of town, unfortunately for the price we were paying as 2 people we could get far better value moving closer towards the tourist beacon of Khao San Road and so on recommendation from friends we moved to the Nat 2 Guesthouse. The hostel itself was cheap and simple, full of  young Japanese tourists smoking themselves silly, must be in their Lonely Planet as a ‘top thing to do’- smoke a whole pack in the lobby/bar of Nat 2.
Khao San Road itself was hands down my least favourite part of Thailand. It’s brash neon lights, in your face hawkers, constantly heaving with sun burnt Brits and Aussies in day-glo vests all come together to make it feel just far too tacky and over done. Two Burger Kings, a McDonalds, and a KFC just compound the turn of events that this most famous of roads must have seen. All the same some of the more low key roads around the area were far more pleasantly buzzing with travellers and backpackers instead of the Full Moon Party faithful warming up their livers for the big night on Koh Phang An. It also made up our mind as to whether we were going to attend the famed event, instead we chose to avoid the crowds on neighbouring Koh Tao and booked our train down there to dive in peace instead.

The city was covered in cool street art. 


While we didn't actually venture in to the Royal Palace, the Thai architecture with the iconic spires is clear from over the wall.


As many times as we were told to avoid the protest areas in the end we stumbled upon the protests completely by accident after a look around the brilliant Jim Thompson's House near Siam Square.
The house showcases classic Thai architecture and is intriguing in terms of the history of the American merchant who brought silk weaving to Thailand and then disappeared never to return. A very professionally run museum and the dark wood stilted houses are beautiful.

Just along from here towards Siam Square was the famous MBK mall which also happened to be the central location for the Blue shirt protestors. Far from the imagery of burning tire walls and cars on fire we’d been told to expect these protests shared a much closer resemblance to a festival.


Tents littered the streets around the centre piece of a large stage right underneath the Sky Train station, directly outside one of the biggest and most popular malls in the country. 

Whilst we were there we saw a rather ropey Thai pop band perform and a very passionate figure head of the protests make a speech met with waving flags and cheers from the faithful supporters camped in the road. It was by no means a huge event, I would estimate maybe a few hundred tents were pitched, how many were actually being slept in is also up for debate. In terms of the politics of it all though, it was quite clear that these were the far more affluent side of the divide, the middle class anti-government protestors, not the rural pro-Thaksin 'red shirts'. Its a complicated and interesting political divide that is still developing. 
We spent a lot of time walking around Bangkok and the city itself felt so delightfully clean compared to India. The backlash from the protests and civil unrest in the city was evident in several spots around the city. On a few occasions the profusion of barbed wire around government buildings and on certain roads acted as a reminder that politics is certainly anything but stable in Thailand. 
After a few days in the busy city we were ready for sun, sea and sand so we hopped on a train to the south and the famous Thai islands. 


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