Category Archives: Thailand

Kanchanaburi – Peaceful Thai Solace

After visiting the enticing Floating Markets of Damnoen Saduak in Ratchaburi, I jumped on one of the local buses passing me by on the roadside to head towards my next destination of Kanchanaburi – a small town about 150 km north and capital to its very own Province. The town is located on the borders where the Khwae Noi and Khwae Yai Rivers converge into the Mae Klong River – a crossing where the Bridge on the River Kwai can be found forming part of the infamous Burma Death Railway – a project that was built by Asian Prisoners of War under the occupation of the Japanese in 1942.

Sunset at the Bridge on the River Kwai - Kanchanaburi, Thailand

Sunset at the Bridge on the River Kwai – Kanchanaburi, Thailand

As I’d started the day at 5am, I fell asleep on the bus within a matter of minutes. After what seemed a brief spell, I was then suddenly woken up by the ticket inspector shouting at me to get off the bus. I thought I’d arrived in Kanchanaburi, when in fact I’d gone back on myself and ended up in the middle of a bus depot in Ratchaburi – about an hour and a half back towards Bangkok. After wandering around the bus station, I finally managed to find the right bus and swiftly got back on my way in the right direction.

Ratchaburi Bus Terminal, Thailand

Ratchaburi Bus Terminal, Thailand


Bus Dwellers, Thailand

Bus Dwellers, Thailand


Thai Bus, Thailand

Thai Bus, Thailand

After another 2 and a half hours, I finally arrived in Kanchanaburi after watching the beautiful green countryside pass me by. I jumped straight into a tuk-tuk and headed into the centre of town, dropping my bags off at the quaint Sugar Cane Guesthouse which was home to a number of shacked bungalows serenely perched at the sides of the Khwae Yai River – or what’s better known as the River Kwai.

As it was only around 3pm, I took a quick wander around the town, which didn’t take too long as it was actually quite a small village. There were also very few people around which set the perfect scene for a much needed relaxing couple of days ahead of me.

Kanchanaburi is a town unfortunately tied to a dark and torrid history. In 1942, during the Burmese conflict of World War II, the Japanese seized control of a British Colony in Burma and initiated the construction of a railway network between Bangkok and Rangoon to support its forces. The railway ran roughly 415 miles to the West and was built using forced labour – around 180,000 were Asian labourers and 60,000 Allied Prisoners of War. The working conditions were horrific, with many of the labourers put to work in some of the most treacherous conditions on some of the most lethal terrains. The brutality, torture, starvation, sickness and death led to the Burma Railway come to be known as the Death Railway, for around half of the Asian Labourers and a quarter of the POW died during its construction. This meant that much of the surrounding area of Kanchanaburi was dedicated to those who died in its construction, with two huge cemeteries at its border – the War Cemetery in Kanchanaburi which contains 6,982 personnel and the Chungkai War Cemetery on the outskirts with a further 1,750 graves.

Kanchanaburi War Cemetary, Thailand

Kanchanaburi War Cemetary, Thailand


Kanchanaburi War Cemetary, Thailand (2)

Kanchanaburi War Cemetary, Thailand (2)

The Bridge on The River Kwai, also located in Kanchanaburi, was made famous mainly due to the 1957 film by David Lean which depicts the perils of the construction of the Burma Railway, and what you can see today is the steel bridge that was reconstructed after the Allied Bombing in 1944.

Death Railway - Kanchanaburi, Thailand

Death Railway – Kanchanaburi, Thailand


Death Railway - Kanchanaburi, Thailand (2)

Death Railway – Kanchanaburi, Thailand (2)


Close Quarters - Death Railway, Kanchanaburi, Thailand

Close Quarters – Death Railway, Kanchanaburi, Thailand


Death Railway Train Ride - Kanchanaburi, Thailand

Death Railway Train Ride – Kanchanaburi, Thailand


Thai Schoolboy, Thailand

Thai Schoolboy, Thailand

Most of my time spent in Kanchanaburi was in relaxation, reading and listening to music whilst tucking into a few Lassies – a tasty fruit milkshake that originated from Punjab, India. Otherwise, I had a chance to experience the not so relaxing Thai massage, which was a mix of euphoria when the masseurs went to work on my back, to excruciating pain when they started to pull the bones out of my sockets!

On another of the days, I headed out to the beautiful setting of the Erawan National Park in the nearby Tenasserim Hills. Its Thailand’s twelfth National Park that covers an area of 550 square kilometres and is home to a stunning 7-tier waterfall – one of the most perfect examples of natural beauty in Thailand. The falls sit in a deciduous forest that covers about 80 % of the park with some stunning tree species that create a perfect sanctuary for all kinds of wildlife. There was an abundance of birds and lizards, with the beautiful turquoise pools home to spectacular colourful fish. As I was determined to get to see the majority of the falls on all seven levels and experience the tranquillity of the Park, I bolted my way to the top as quick as I could to try and avoid the tourists that were arriving in their droves behind me. At the top, a beautiful waterfall cascaded down a huge bright orange rock face into a crystal clear pool beneath it. I had managed to get to the top in about half an hour, about 20 minutes ahead of the next person, so I jumped straight in the pool to relax whilst listening to the falls and wildlife around me.

Level 7 - Erawan Falls, Thailand

Level 7 – Erawan Falls, Thailand


Me at Level 7 of Erawan Falls, Thailand

Me at Level 7 of Erawan Falls, Thailand

This is when I discovered that some of the fish in the pools were of the Garra-rufa species – the species now famous for Feet Pedicures all around the world. As I sat there relaxing, the fish then formed all around me taking shots at biting at the skin on my feet and back, with one mole on my back getting a particular mauling.

Foot Massage - Erawan Falls, Thailand

Foot Massage – Erawan Falls, Thailand


Foot Massage Fish, Thailand

Foot Massage Fish, Thailand


Jumping Fish, Thailand

Jumping Fish, Thailand

After about an hour at the top, I then headed back down towards the bottom, stopping by for a quick dip in the many falls en-route.

Level 1 - Erawan Falls, Thailand

Level 1 – Erawan Falls, Thailand


Level 2 - Erawan Falls, Thailand

Level 2 – Erawan Falls, Thailand


Pools of the Erawan Falls, Thailand

Pools of the Erawan Falls, Thailand


Pools of Erawan Falls, Thailand

Pools of Erawan Falls, Thailand


Seclusion at the Erawan Falls, Thailand

Seclusion at the Erawan Falls, Thailand

There were also heaps of Macaque Monkeys jumping round the trees, but many of them congregated around the tourists on Level 3, scampering around for any bits of food or ice cream. I just swam around the pools beside them, watching them play and lure their prey into giving up the tasty snacks.

Turquoise Erawan Falls, Thailand

Turquoise Erawan Falls, Thailand


Onlooking Macaque Monkey - Erawan Falls, Thailand

Onlooking Macaque Monkey – Erawan Falls, Thailand


Hungry Macaque Monkey - Erawan Falls, Thailand

Hungry Macaque Monkey – Erawan Falls, Thailand

After a delicious lunch of Cow Pat Gai (Chicken Fried Rice), I then headed to an Elephant sanctuary for a quick ride around the jungle. It was the first time I’d ever had an Elephant ride, and to be honest, if I had another chance again, I would probably turn it down!

Parked Elephants, Thailand

Parked Elephants, Thailand

I was teamed up with a young mischievous elephant which added a bit of an edge to the whole experience, but the ride was just so uncomfortably bumpy. As the sitting position is poised high on the back of the Elephant, every time the Elephant took a step, you’d feel like you were constantly going over speed bumps as its leg joints would move up and down like a set of slow engine pistons.

Elephant Ride, Thailand

Elephant Ride, Thailand

I had the chance to sit on the Elephants neck which didn’t help the situation, its coarse hair scratching at my legs with every move. The Elephant kept on defying its keeper, running off in the opposite direction in search for some fresh greenery to eat, with me clambering on for dear life in protest!

Masked Elephant Keeper, Thailand

Masked Elephant Keeper, Thailand


Riding Neck Side - Thailand

Riding Neck Side – Thailand


Holding On - Elephant Ride, Thailand

Holding On – Elephant Ride, Thailand


Banana Munching Elephants, Thailand

Banana Munching Elephants, Thailand

In the evening, with the town quiet, I sat around the Sugar Cane bungalows with a couple of other guests who were staying there. One was an interesting Iranian guy who after a few beers started to talk about the political situation in his country. He became very animated in what he had to say, but what was interesting was how he confirmed proudly about how Iran was amidst a massive weapons expansive program to protect itself from the conflicts of the region – but, he was quick to advise that any nuclear activity was solely for industry and not for war. As we discussed the possibility of construction of nuclear weapons, he became much more aggressive in his manner, maybe as I probed him for the finer details. I let him be at around midnight, and slipped off to sleep listening the the Geckos that protected me from the mosquitos buzzing around the bungalow.

The next day before heading back to Bangkok to meet Matt (the guy I met off my flight from Kolkatta) and head to Koh Phangan, I hired a scooter to go for a quick whizz around the local area. The area was quite flat with miles and miles of farming leading off into the distance where the higher mountains sat.

Corn Fields, Kanchanaburi, Thailand

Corn Fields, Kanchanaburi, Thailand

After checking out the Chungkai Cemetary, I headed onto the Khao Poon Caves next to Wat Tham Khao Poon. These are a fascinating set of underground caves carved out of limestone where monks used to take regular worship. The caves are constructed out of a labyrinth of beautiful stalactites and stalagmites, with nine chambers interconnected together.

Stalagmites - Khao Poon Caves, Kanchanaburi, Thailand

Stalagmites – Khao Poon Caves, Kanchanaburi, Thailand


Khoa Poon Caves - Kanchanaburi, Thailand

Khoa Poon Caves – Kanchanaburi, Thailand


Blue Caves of Khoa Poon - Kanchanaburi, Thailand

Blue Caves of Khoa Poon – Kanchanaburi, Thailand

Each were named based on their apparent features or functions – for instance, the Phra Buddha Saiyas Room is home to a huge Reclining Buddha, the Mai Dern Room represented a Walking Stick, the Soi Yoi Room a Weeping Fig Tree and the Jorrakae Room a Crocodile.

Plastic Buddhas - Khao Poon Caves, Kanchanaburi, Thailand

Plastic Buddhas – Khao Poon Caves, Kanchanaburi, Thailand


Reclining Buddha - Khao Poon Caves, Kanchanaburi, Thailand

Reclining Buddha – Khao Poon Caves, Kanchanaburi, Thailand


Buddhas in a Line - Khao Poon Caves, Kanchanaburi, Thailand

Buddhas in a Line – Khao Poon Caves, Kanchanaburi, Thailand


Buddha - Khao Poon Caves, Kanchanaburi, Thailand

Buddha – Khao Poon Caves, Kanchanaburi, Thailand


Silenced Statue - Khao Poon Caves , Kanchanaburi, Thailand

Silenced Statue – Khao Poon Caves , Kanchanaburi, Thailand


Crocodile Room - Khao Poon Caves, Kanchanaburi, Thailand

Crocodile Room – Khao Poon Caves, Kanchanaburi, Thailand


Religious Shrine - Khao Poon Caves, Kanchanaburi, Thailand

Religious Shrine – Khao Poon Caves, Kanchanaburi, Thailand

As I wandered through the caves, I realised I was the only person there. The place was eerily quiet. As I went further and further in, the caves got danker and colder, with echoes of wind coming from the distance. Drops of water could be heard in the distance, with the flutter of bat wings high above. I squeezed my way through some tight passages as I moved onwards through the maze, and I couldn’t help but build up a pent up fear inside me. I was all alone. The cold air that passed through me unnerved me. The heavy silence almost deafened me. I just hoped that no one appeared out the corner of my eye. As I quickened my step, the fear built inside me like a ten year old child fleeing something petrifying. But I loved it. Fear is one of the greatest feelings that actually make you feel more alive. After venturing through a couple more chambers, I finally saw a tiny light shine through a gap in the distance, and after another five minute fast-paced walk, resurfaced.

Quickly jumping on my scooter whilst glimpsing over my shoulder to ensure I hadn’t disturbed anyone’s grave, I raced off into the farmlands around me. I managed to go round the back of the caves to find myself on the Death Railway again, the tracks splitting the hills in two around me. I headed down the tracks for about ten minutes before coming across a small village sat by the Kwai Noi River.

Small Village - Outskirts of Kanchanaburi, Thailand

Small Village – Outskirts of Kanchanaburi, Thailand

As I wandered through the village, I could feel a sense that I wasn’t the most welcome here. There were only a few people around, but I could feel their piercing eyes upon me. A toothless dog even came out to warn me off proceeding further, but was quickly called back by her owner.

Toothless Dog - Kanchanaburi, Thailand

Toothless Dog – Kanchanaburi, Thailand

As I walked on, I then got myself into a spot of bother. Round the back of the village sat a huge mansion, similar to a plantation house, with expensive 4×4 cars parked up outside. With an increasing unease building up inside me, as I turned around to head back through the village to my scooter, my heart sank as I turned to see a dozen dogs behind me. They were a mix of all shapes and sizes but all had their teeth bared with saliva dribbling out their jaws and an evil growl in tow. I’ve always been told to hold my ground to dogs and show them who’s boss, but twelve against one was completely outnumbered. I started to slowly walk backwards and out of nowhere, the smallest of the dogs charged at me, leading to a surge from the rest. In blind panic, I turned on my heels and ran as quick as I could, grappling my camera in the hope I wouldn’t drop it. As I rounded the corner kicking the dust up behind me, I managed to find a couple of big branches to pick up to try and defend myself. But, as I took position for a pre-empted strike, the dogs didn’t appear. They had stopped outside the mansion. It was like they were trained to defend vampires from any intruders whilst they slept. With adrenaline pumping in my veins and the two branches in my hand, I slowly crept past the pack whilst keeping eye contact with its leader. With no sudden movements from the hounds, I then darted off through the village as quick as I could.

Guard Dogs - Kanchanaburi, ThailandBack at the scooter, I whizzed off down some country lanes en-route back to town. I managed to luckily stumble across some corn farmers who in complete contrast to the previous village, greeted me in with open arms and offered me some juice whilst we tried to chat. They also showed me how they worked the harvest briefly – mainly of how they stripped the crops for packing.

Corn Farmers - Kanchanaburi, Thailand

Corn Farmers – Kanchanaburi, Thailand

After an hour or so, I then called it a day and headed back to the Sugar Cane on the scooter, dropping it off in time for sunset and a much needed beer after an eventful day.

Perfect Thai Sunset, Thailand

Perfect Thai Sunset, Thailand


Sunset Over River Kwai - Kanchanaburi, Thailand

Sunset Over River Kwai – Kanchanaburi, Thailand

Further Reading on Kanchanaburi

 
Kanchanaburi Info
http://www.kanchanaburi-info.com/

Erawan Falls
http://www.thailand.com/travel/natural/natural_kanchanaburi_erawan.htm

Bridge on the River Kwai
http://www.bridgeriverkwai.com/

The Burma-Death Railway
http://www.war-experience.org/history/keyaspects/thai-burma/default.asp/

More Photography :

 
“The Thailand Collection” by Antematters

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The Floating Markets of Damnoen Saduak – Thailand

Thailand is famous for the numerous floating markets throughout the country, with the majority of them surrounding the provinces around Bangkok. The visit to Bangkok’s Soi 3 in Baan Silom was my first glimpse at the beautiful meandering canals that can be found just about anywhere in Thailand, but when I escaped the metropolitan life of the country’s capital, I was lucky enough to stop off for a day at the country’s most famous floating market – Damnoen Saduak.

Entrance to Floating Markets of Damnoen Saduak, Thailand

Entrance to Floating Markets of Damnoen Saduak, Thailand

Damnoen Saduak can be found about 100km southwest of Bangkok in the picturesque province of Ratchaburi. In 1866, King Rama IV of the Chakri Dynasty ordered the construction of the canals to help facilitate waterborne travels between the Ratchaburi and Samutsakhon Provinces, and work was completed two years later. The canals have helped simplify transportation to the area and have also provided local farmers with adequate irrigation for their crops. As the land around Ratchaburi is extremely fertile, the canals were a perfect setting for the growth of a variety of fruit and vegetables and gave birth to the famous floating markets we can see today.

Entrance to Floating Markets of Damnoen Saduak - Thailand

Entrance to Floating Markets of Damnoen Saduak – Thailand

As the reputation of Damnoen Saduak has grown over the years since tourism opened up in Thailand from the mid-70s, it has become one of the most popular destinations in the country. Upon visiting the markets, you can see why it has become such a prevalent destination; however, in order to see the more traditional side of market life in Thailand, it’s best to visit Damnoen Saduak in the early hours of the morning before the huge crowds descend at around lunchtime.

I headed out of Bangkok from the South Bus Terminal on Borommarat Chachonnani Road at around 6am to try and get to the market as it opened; the plan then to move onto Kanchanaburi further West in the afternoon. Upon arrival, I hired a canal boat for around an hour and a half for a few baht. It was a beautifully cool start to the day, the morning sunshine providing a perfect backdrop to coasting around the canals taking in the surroundings.

View from the Canoe - Floating Markets of Damnoen Saduak, Thailand

View from the Canoe – Floating Markets of Damnoen Saduak, Thailand

As I approached the main entrance to the floating market, I even had a chance to spot a local Monitor Lizard venturing out on a morning swim. The beautiful creature was about huge at around 2 metres long and was completely unfazed by our intrusion into its waters.

Leisurely Water Monitor Lizard, Thailand

Leisurely Water Monitor Lizard, Thailand


Good Morning Water Monitor Lizard - Damnoen Saduak, Thailand

Good Morning Water Monitor Lizard – Damnoen Saduak, Thailand

Moving on peacefully, I then had a chance to sit back and relax whilst we quietly cruised past the stunning housing that decorated the Damnoen Saduak banks. It gave me the opportunity to witness the early morning life of the locals – from hand-washing clothes in the canal and hanging them up to dry in the early morning sunshine, to the preparation of breakfast for the family. The dwellings on first glimpse was very basic, but as you took a closer look, the buildings were purpose built to withstand the strong elements, erected on very sturdy foundations, with the framework constructed out of strong bamboo and finely crafted wood. They were built to match the neighbouring environment, structures that blended perfectly into the beautiful natural surroundings. They also reflected the non-money oriented ways of traditional Thai people. The whole way of life in the area is completely focussed on agriculture and basic comfortable needs, totally absent of the material luxuries we may be used to in the West. Looking at the sturdiness and quality of the housing, this was not down to the lack of wealth, but simply by choice. The foundations of life they had built here were extraordinary, everything tailored for an easy, fit and healthy way of life.

Housing on Banks of Damnoen Saduak - Thailand

Housing on Banks of Damnoen Saduak – Thailand


Early Morning Cleaning - Banks of Damnoen Saduak, Thailand

Early Morning Cleaning – Banks of Damnoen Saduak, Thailand


Motorised Canoe - Floating Markets of Damnoen Saduak, Thailand

Motorised Canoe – Floating Markets of Damnoen Saduak, Thailand


Canoe Storage - Floating Markets of Damnoen Saduak, Thailand

Canoe Storage – Floating Markets of Damnoen Saduak, Thailand


Canoe Maintenance - Floating Markets of Damnoen Saduak, Thailand

Canoe Maintenance – Floating Markets of Damnoen Saduak, Thailand

At around 9am, we arrived at the main market canal areas, a perfect time to appreciate the initial buzz of the market sellers setting up for the day to come. It also gave me a chance to see the contrasting morning and afternoon life before the influx of tourists. Hundreds of canoes would be parked up or paddling around selling all kinds of fruits, vegetables, rice, spices and other produce from the local area – others would offer refreshing fruit drinks and snacks.

Tranquility of the Floating Markets of Damnoen Saduak, Thailand

Tranquility of the Floating Markets of Damnoen Saduak, Thailand


Rice Seller - Floating Markets of Damnoen Saduak, Thailand

Rice Seller – Floating Markets of Damnoen Saduak, Thailand


Vegetable Seller - Floating Markets of Damnoen Saduak, Thailand

Vegetable Seller – Floating Markets of Damnoen Saduak, Thailand


Spice Seller - Floating Markets of Damnoen Saduak, Thailand

Spice Seller – Floating Markets of Damnoen Saduak, Thailand


Fruit Seller - Floating Markets of Damnoen Saduak, Thailand

Fruit Seller – Floating Markets of Damnoen Saduak, Thailand


Corner Shop - Floating Markets of Damnoen Saduak, Thailand

Corner Shop – Floating Markets of Damnoen Saduak, Thailand


Floating Market Sellers - Damnoen Saduak, Thailand

Floating Market Sellers – Damnoen Saduak, Thailand

The colours on show were fantastic, reflected in the fresh produce that was on sale. Most of the canoes would be driven by Thai women wearing bamboo hats to protect them from the sunshine. Some would have their sons in tow to help them throughout the day. Most of what I saw being offered in the morning was to sell other locals, so I was fortunate enough to quietly witness the market bartering between them.

Two Women Floating Market Sellers - Damnoen Saduak, Thailand

Two Women Floating Market Sellers – Damnoen Saduak, Thailand


Mother and Son - Floating Markets of Damnoen Saduak, Thailand

Mother and Son – Floating Markets of Damnoen Saduak, Thailand


Family Outing - Floating Markets of Damnoen Saduak, Thailand

Family Outing – Floating Markets of Damnoen Saduak, Thailand

As I moved around, I could feel the atmosphere start to wake up as the morning matured into the day. The number of canoe boats increased significantly by mid-morning, just like the high street shops back home would start to open up.

High Street of the Floating Markets of Damnoen Saduak, Thailand

High Street of the Floating Markets of Damnoen Saduak, Thailand

The vendors began coming out in their droves, fighting their way through any gaps they could find. The early morning calm would start to change as midday approached, replacing itself with a heightened clamour of chattering vendors.

Chitter Chatter - Floating Markets of Damnoen Saduak, Thailand

Chitter Chatter – Floating Markets of Damnoen Saduak, Thailand

As I finished up on the canal boat and took to the pathways that intertwined the canals, the buzz of the market was at full throes as it started to welcome in the afternoon crowds. The canals that were previously filled with the locals were now bursting full of foreigners. The market changed from a peaceful scene into a theme park for tourists. Tours would start to intrude on the scene and the vendors would start bartering with the visitors, often holding strong on the prices they were offering. The whole market ethos transformed from the provision of basic necessities to locals to foreign economic opportunities.

View From Above Floating Markets of Damnoen Saduak - Thailand

View From Above Floating Markets of Damnoen Saduak – Thailand

As the heat bore down on the market at lunchtime, the stuffiness of the situation made me glad that I had a chance to experience the markets at the crack of dawn. The glimmers of tradition in the early hours instantly lost its authenticity.

Further Reading on The Floating Markets of Damnoen Saduak

 
Thai Ways Magazine
http://www.thaiwaysmagazine.com/bangkok/floating_market/floating_market_damnoen_popular.html/

Bangkok Tourist Guide
http://www.bangkok.com/beyond-the-city/damnoensaduak.htm

More Photography :

 
“The Thailand Collection” by Antematters

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Bangkok – Where East Greets West

Hundreds of cars, buses, tuk-tuks and bicycles rushed past me as I stood bewildered in the middle of a busy thru-fair in the middle of a daunting metropolis. The sky was painted an angry red as the sun set in the distance, leaving behind a heavy moist heat, hanging amongst the afternoon smog that had been kicked up throughout the day. As my sweat started to build up to cool down my panic, I finally managed to hop into a cab to the centre of town with a guy I had just met off the plane called Matt. We’d both just jumped off a flight from Kolkatta in India – the dusty, dirty, poverished streets now replaced by beautifully clean sweeping boulevards. The hydro-powered cab we hailed down was a heavily supped-up Honda best compared with the the Gran Turismo series on the Sony Playstation. As we were dropped off at our destination, the excitement all of a sudden changed to a more defensive despair. The streets were packed full of tuk-tuks (the 3-wheeled motorcycle taxis I previously mentioned in Amritsar, India) whizzing around the hordes of tanned guys in sleeveless t-shirts, holding a beer in one hand and a bronzed girl in the other. Above head height, fluorescent lights would glow in the dark, many signs decorating the sky to try and beckon people inside. Food stalls would line up down the side streets in between tens of bars and restaurants. The locals wouldn’t give you an inch, attacking you with a mix of bad souvenirs ranging from croaking frogs to t-shirts and glow-sticks. Loud cheers and wolf whistles could be heard in the distance amongst the heavy background music beats. This was Bangkok – where East Greets the West.

Thanon Khoa San Road - Bangkok, Thailand

Thanon Khoa San Road – Bangkok, Thailand

Owing to many of my friends’ commentary of Bangkok from their visits, my perceptions of the city were slightly tarnished before I arrived. Many would remark that Bangkok was far removed from the rest of Thailand, a dystopian city hidden amid the lush green paradise that surrounded it. The first couple of hours of life here had already affirmed those portrayals and my biggest fears. But, to some extent, for all the negativity associated with the city, it’s understandable why it is the way it is. Bangkok is the primary city where tourists travel to in order to venture round Thailand and the rest of South-East Asia. It’s a city at somewhat of a crossroads, one that’s been twisted over the years in the face of increasing tourism and the influx of riches from all over the world. It’s a city in paradise, far away from home, where westerners and Europeans in particular can come to experience escapism – for many, a chance to abandon everything and start again, or simply to leave behind their normal lives for a short period of time. Thailand started to take advantage of tourism back in the 70s as long distance flights became a reality with the arrival of the Boeing 747s, but really started to emerge as a travel destination in the mid-to-late 90s as barriers to entry were further reduced due to increased political stability. Since then, tourism has become one of the major powers behind Thailand’s economic growth. Unfortunately, the obsession with money seems to have poisoned many people of Bangkok, removing them from their previous peaceful existences, a city whose luxuries now come at a cost to all. From the outside, those that stay here seem to thrive on these indulgences. The site and nature of the majority of what goes on here can unfortunately be compared to the most disconcerting pieces of history as a white Caucasian; but, in amongst it all, I was determined to defy all critics and find some hidden treasures amongst the tourist chaos that ensued.

Rama VIII Bridge - Bangkok, Thailand

Rama VIII Bridge – Bangkok, Thailand

As with many travellers, I settled down in the central Thanon Khao San Road area. Here, the small intricate streets are lined with the main tourist bars, restaurants and clubs. It is an area desolate of any real local life, a place where many Thais would come to coax westerners into investing in gems, alcohol or prostitution. The whole area replicated a stereotypical Euro-pop styled resort. So far, a lot of what I say may seem negative, but it does have its attractions and does fulfill some needs – it’s a place to let your hair down and have fun, a place to forget about the bad weather and stress of home. A place to indulge cheaply. But it just seems to be a strange place to do it. Or, it is a place that has unluckily been converted into this crossroads, a type of huge Terminal where people stay briefly in order to get in or out of the country. And whilst you’re there, you can’t help but join in the melee. Whether you are there to experience the delights of the rest of Thailand or neighbouring countries, you also can’t help experience Bangkok’s raw attractions. The couple of days I was there saw me enjoy the treasures it has to offer, whilst dipping into the late night partying in the streets, meeting and drinking with all kinds of people, each with their own objectives and destinies. Aside from the bars, massage parlours would invite passers-by to a cheap alternative activity. Food stalls would also fill the streets day and night with amazingly cheap local delicacies; so cheap that you couldn’t help but buy a plateful every couple of hours or so. Other stalls would serve up the cockroaches and insects as an alternative attraction.

Street Food - Bangkok, Thailand

Street Food – Bangkok, Thailand


Street Juices and Food - Bangkok, Thailand

Street Juices and Food – Bangkok, Thailand

But Bangkok isn’t simply lost to this world of decadence. Escaping the perimeters of the Khoa San Road also dishes up some delights which serve up a brief introduction as to what’s to come in the rest of the country. Upon wandering the streets of Bangkok in the day, I managed to stray across countless temples.

Wat Bowonniwet Vihara - Bangkok, Thailand

Wat Bowonniwet Vihara – Bangkok, Thailand

One was the city’s most famous and most striking – the Grand Palace, which is located to the South of the Khoa San Road bordering the Chao Phraya River. The architecture is simply stunning, the saturated blue, yellow and red colours some of the most perfect examples of Thai construction. The Grand Palace still to this day remains central to the Thai religion and was the official residence to the Kings of Siam until 1925. Many temples and palaces throughout the country exhibit the same characteristics, with the reclining Buddha also a prominent feature.

Traditional Temple, Thailand

Traditional Temple, Thailand


Grand Palace - Bangkok, Thailand

Grand Palace – Bangkok, Thailand


Striking Colourful Roof of Golden Palace - Bangkok, Thailand

Striking Colourful Roof of Golden Palace – Bangkok, Thailand


Grand Palace - Bangkok, Thailand

Grand Palace – Bangkok, Thailand


Inside a Thai Temple, Thailand

Inside a Thai Temple, Thailand


Monk at Golden Palace - Bangkok, Thailand

Monk at Golden Palace – Bangkok, Thailand

On the outskirts of the centre of Bangkok, I had a chance to visit the Soi 3 area of Baan Silom, a place where you could find escapism in the tranquil backstreets of a local Thai neighbourhood, one of many that were built up around the canals of the city.

Soi 3 Streets - Baan Silom - Bangkok, Thailand

Soi 3 Streets – Baan Silom – Bangkok, Thailand

It was here that I had a chance to take a breath of fresh air and browse around the local boutiques offering all kinds of electronics, textiles, food and sweets. The streets were typically paved in concrete, the small two-storey blocks lining the sides making you feel slightly taller than normal. Above your head, the complicated danger of the electric and telephone lines would criss-cross the street chaotically. Scooters would zoom by frantically. Cyclists would instead calmly pass you by.

Girl On Bicycle, Thailand

Girl On Bicycle, Thailand

Within the tiny thin stretches of the canal streets, startled locals would greet you with warmth, unfazed by your intrusion. The beautiful canals would be lined with vibrant saturated colours of hand-built housing, pulled together to beat away the seasonal monsoons and harsh sunlight.

Colourful Banks of Soi 3 - Bangkok, Thailand

Colourful Banks of Soi 3 – Bangkok, Thailand


Banks of Soi 3 - Bangkok, Thailand

Banks of Soi 3 – Bangkok, Thailand

Other housing would lay crumpled in defeat.

Collapsed Housing - Soi 3 - Baan Silom - Bangkok, Thailand

Collapsed Housing – Soi 3 – Baan Silom – Bangkok, Thailand


Washing at Soi 3 - Baan Silom - Bangkok, Thailand

Washing at Soi 3 – Baan Silom – Bangkok, Thailand

A brief pause in one of the smaller village squares would see me tuck into some Pad Thai cooked from the porch of a local’s house. The children and villagers would all gather round for a simple welcoming and discussion.

Lunch Friends - Soi 3 - Baan Silom - Bangkok, Thailand

Lunch Friends – Soi 3 – Baan Silom – Bangkok, Thailand


Playful Thai Child - Soi 3 - Baan Silom - Bangkok, Thailand

Playful Thai Child – Soi 3 – Baan Silom – Bangkok, Thailand

Moving on round the corner, a huge local marketplace stood selling everything from raw fish and chopped-up butcher meat, to watches, sweets and clothing. Hot food stalls would also cook up some fresh meat skewers or fried fish. Others would serve up tasty soups and noodles. I was actually so engrossed by it; I hardly even picked up my camera, which was a rare occurrence.

Soi 3 Butchers, Thailand

Soi 3 Butchers, Thailand


Chicken Meat - Soi 3, Bangkok, Thailand

Chicken Meat – Soi 3, Bangkok, Thailand


Local Thai Fish Delicacy - Soi 3, Bangkok, Thailand

Local Thai Fish Delicacy – Soi 3, Bangkok, Thailand


Thai Skewers, Thailand

Thai Skewers, Thailand


Sweet Stall - Soi 3 - Baan Silom, Bangkok, Thailand

Sweet Stall – Soi 3 – Baan Silom, Bangkok, Thailand

As I ventured back into the Khao San Road ready for my final night before leaving Bangkok, I realised that I had learned something very important at an early stage – much can be gained even from the most uninviting of places – you just have to go out and look for it…

Chilling on Banks of Baan Silom - Bangkok, Thailand

Chilling on Banks of Baan Silom – Bangkok, Thailand

Further Reading on Bangkok

 
Bangkok Tourist Guide
http://www.bangkok.com/

Grand Palace Bangkok
http://grandpalacebangkok.com/

Bangkok Cuisine – CNN’s Guide to the Best Street Food
http://www.cnngo.com/bangkok/eat/40-bangkok-foods-we-cant-live-without-342900/

More Photography :

 
“The Thailand Collection” by Antematters

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