Bangkok seems to be a city in the process of massive change. On the one hand there are cute little Buddhist shrines everywhere you look, whether it be inside motorbike repair shops, hung in trees or standing in front of buildings. There are dilapidated buildings rotting into the river and tiny laneways where people sell food from karts. There is even a market along the river in Chinatown that is constructed each night and then pulled down during the day. There are even men and women walking their wares on carts and trolleys through the street to sell at market. But if you walk beyond the main tourist areas and into the city centre, there is another equally vibrant side to Bangkok and it is very modern. Modern cars certainly outnumber the old wrecks and we even saw a couple of Lotus cars near Paragon, both parked and being driven.
Speaking of the Paragon Siam, the shopping centres here are massive and glitzy. There are even doormen in uniform to welcome you into the complex. There are massive movie cinemas with different levels of cinema experience available from deluxe seating starting at $5 on a Wednesday through to daybeds and 3D cinema screens starting at about $15 on a Wednesday and increasing in price on other days of the week. The shops here carry normal brands like at home and are not much cheaper.
We explored a few parks here today. They are beautiful and peaceful. It’s difficult to believe that just having a few trees and some grass can change a block of land into a haven when a city of 8 million people is bustling around it. We spent some time sitting under trees in a park and walking through others as short cuts on our way home.
Religion is everywhere here as it is in so many places. Buddhism and Hinduism dominate. This brings an interesting sensory contrast to the Islam-dominated experiences I had in Indonesia. In Indonesia it was my ears that were constantly reminded of the locals’ faith. Here it is my nose when I smell the burning of incense sticks. Like the many stunning mosques I saw in Indonesia, the temples and shrines here are beautiful too. At a time when many Americans and Australians criticise the existence of religion as evil, I personally find it fantastic to see so many people peacefully filling their lives with faith and being unabashed about it. Besides, I like the pretty temples and art works that come with many of the world’s religions.
Naturally, we also enjoyed some of the culinary delights on offer here in Bangkok. We ate bananas barbecued in their jackets, shared a chocolate brownie, dined on noodles with vegetables and chicken for lunch and dinner at street restaurants, indulged in chocolate fondue at Haagen-Dasz and sampled a crispy pancake for dessert after walking more than 20km (11 miles) again today. I don’t know what the highlight of the day was … it could have been the sights or the chocolate fondue or the 60 minute leg massage we relaxed to. Nope – no highlight … just a brilliant day.