Monday, April 23, 2012

10 Things I Like About Bangkok

Over the course of three visits--once to obtain a visa for Burma, and twice as a stopover to other destinations--we spent ten days in Bangkok, Thailand.  During the past ten years, I have visited Bangkok ten separate times.  In honor of my tenth visit, click the link to read my list of ten things I like about Bangkok.

10. The Unexpected
Every time I go to Bangkok, something unexpected and interesting happens.  For instance, one day we returned to our hotel from the Burmese Embassy to find a man in a tree with a gun.  It turns out, a monkey had escaped from a zoo, and this zookeeper was trying to hit the monkey with a tranquilizer dart.  Watch the video below to see what happened.

After being shot, the monkey ran off, and as far as we know, it's still roaming the streets of Bangkok.

Another unexpected occurrence: we were walking to one of our favorite restaurants and right next to a Buddhist shrine (the gold, house-like structure in the foreground) and a shopping mall, a full boxing ring had been erected, and a Muay Thai match was underway.  As you can see from the photo, in Muay Thai, boxers are allowed to hit each other with elbows as well as knees.  When we walked by this area after dinner, the ring and all the people were gone.

9. The Wai
The traditional Thai greeting, known as the Wai, is the same as the traditional position of Buddhist prayer, palms touching, fingers upward, usually accompanied by a slight bow.  The Wai is seen all over Thailand--even Ronald McDonald does it!

8.  The Movies
Bangkok has state of the art theaters showing Hollywood movies at a fraction of the cost of the United States--a typical movie costs around $3 and popcorn costs around $1.  During our latest three short visits to Bangkok, we saw Martin Scorsese's Hugo (in 3D, hence Beth's glasses), The Descendants with George Clooney, and The Hunger Games.

7.  The Temples
Bangkok features many, many Buddhist temples.  During our latest visit, we saw a few of them.
The temples are usually populated by devout worshippers, including monks wearing robes.
Sometimes, the people at the temples seem to be less than devout.

6.  The Malls
The newest "temples" in Bangkok are the giant shopping malls located throughout the city, where you can find for sale seemingly any item of clothing, electronics or food.  They are almost as spectacular as the real temples.  And seemingly everywhere you go in Bangkok, you can spot a photo of the Thailand's beloved King--his photo is at the top of the photo above, keeping a watchful eye on the shoppers.

5.  The Skytrain
Bangkok features a speedy and inexpensive skytrain system that makes traversing the city a breeze.

4.  The Hotels
Bangkok features some nice hotels for a fraction of what a similar hotel would cost in another large city.  Here I am in the rooftop pool of our nice, centrally-located hotel, which cost around $24 a night.

3.  The Street Food
In Bangkok, every walk down the street is a feast for the senses.  The sights, sounds and smells of delicious food greets every pedestrian.  And Thais are known for their high standards of cleanliness, so even a borderline germophobe such as myself feels comfortable dining on the street.
Above are a couple of dishes I enjoyed on the streets of Bangkok.

2.  The Restaurant Food
The only food I enjoy more than what I find served on the streets of Bangkok is the food I find served in the restaurants of Bangkok.  Above are three of my favorite dishes from our last visit: fried noodles with chicken, shrimp pizza, and massaman curry.  Just because the food is served in a restaurant doesn't mean it is expensive; the meals pictured above cost $1.50, $4, and $2.70, respectively.
This is one of my all-time favorite meals, served at a single-employee restaurant I've patronized each of the ten times I've been in Bangkok.  It's chicken and vegetables in an oyster sauce.  Somehow, the oyster sauce in this particular dish tastes just like the delicious broth in my grandmother's gumbo!

1.  The People
Thailand is known as "the land of smiles."  The friendly people in Thailand make sure the country lives up to its billing.

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