If you’re sick of Koh San road like we were and still want to see if both you and Bangkok still have a soul, see what we found dardy;
Riot hunting kept alluding us. Every time we planned to go they moved location. So we decided instead to go beer hunting. The beer here is average to poor to be frank. Occasionally, and I’m not using that word frivolously here, you can find a place that might sell something different from the watered piss they call Chang, the only slightly maltier Leo and the better marketed, ‘upmarket’ piss Singha. So after some asking and googling we head to the Irish bar in dire hope. They’ve got a pool table, a dart board and Irish stew on the menu. We’re getting close. Guinness, Miller, Heineken, Kilkenny and the locals on tap. Pretty warm now. Please step in beer of the month: India pale ale from the one and only Brew Dog. The boys from Scotland do it right. A 5% IPA with German malts and a few American hops doing their citrus, passionfruit, piney, grapefruit thing they had me in an atmosphere of pure sublime & grandeur. Even if it was $9 a pint, nearly half our daily budget, i was fresh out of fucks to give. And with that in mind and being on Koh San rd the night turned into a lot of mingling, sheisha, buckets, beer towers, scorpion eating and laughing-gas inhaling with a torrential storm of thunder and lighting only 2kms away to top it off. Well, Koh San you were great but it’s time to move the hell away from you. Bring on some unknown suburb north of Sukhumvit. A lot closer to a central transportation hub (MTR & BTS) here we explored what Bangkok had to offer. What for you ask? More like;
A beautiful temple grounds with 3 large stupas- all tiled to a degree of detail I’ve yet to see surpassed- in dedication to the last 3 kings and a fourth for the current king Rama-the longest serving monarch who has ever existed. All hail the king (if I don’t say this I will get deported). Beautiful meditating grounds underneath a Bodhi tree and a large Buddhist deity scatter the surroundings but the creme d’lay crop -pardon my french, literally- was the 10m high, 32m long sleeping Buddha covered entirely in gold leaf. They love their gold here as you will soon find out. It was magical inside the huge temple that housed this sacred statue; the walls and roof from ground to apex were painted in the most amazing detail of Buddhist stories and folklore.
The north Bangkok food markets.
After taking a serene public boat with monks up the main canal past a brewery, nuclear power plant, advanced infrastructure in the making, stilted houses and about 100,000 catfish you will arrive at the end of the road, or designated canal route, where hardly any tourist seem to go. Nonthaburi stop. Unlike most of touristy Thailand, the locals here are genuinely surprised to see you out these parts. Here we decided to try a plethora of street, market and shop food. Dried goji berries, crab lattices, banana-wrapped-cabbage-curry-packets, fresh rambutan, southern thai fried chicken, dried mystery meat, sweet-coated-custard-lolly-things, pork paos, croissant wrapped bacon stick, sour drops, pork and chilli bread loaf. We were full. I highly recommend the trip up here for atleast half a day. They say the fresh food market is a lot better in the early morning so best bet would be head up via boat in the early morning to see what tickles your fancy then head back down the river to Wat pho and the Grand Palace for lunch (they shut at 3pm, hop off the boat at Tha Chang. Entry 100baht).
On the far eastern side of Chinatown this miracle of a stupa houses the golden Buddha. Being moved from Northern Thailand (the old kingdom) after the capital was ransacked the 4m high, 6 tonne plaster & gold leafed Buddha was moved to the soon to be capital, Bangkok. Housed next to a Dutch saw mill in the 1930’s the Thai decided to move it to an actual temple. Here it was housed temporarily for 50 odd years after being left to the side and shadowed by another relic. In the 80’s (says Jesse) after finally deciding to put the plaster Buddha in a stupa they were using a crane to move the relic to its new home. A terrible storm rolled in out of no where -this seems the norm in Bangkok- and as you can imagine all the workers abandoned the site which included leaving the Buddha 2m above the ground. To their dismay they arrived the next morning to a snapped chain and relic over 800 years old with a huge chip out the base. On closer inspection it seemed the gold leafed plaster was hiding something. A certain 3.5 high, 5.5 tonne solid gold Buddha something. They had just stumbled across the ‘worlds sacred object with the highest intrinsic value’ to quote a 1999 Guinness world record book at the museum there -which is well worth the 100baht entry – £30M at the time of writing. Hands down one of, if not the best temple in Bangkok I would say.
While in the area this is well worth a look and a nibble; just head west. Bird nest drink, shark fin soup, dried everything and delicious street food with fiery theatre to boot. Lots of brass, jewellery, flower and trinket markets line the streets and alleyways. Street skylines are swamped with neon lights and Chinese signs. (Like China funnily enough) Night time a smorgasbord of street vendors border the main road and I highly recommend eating at a few a night and getting a real taste for what’s up. I recommend the fried fresh fish 3 ways; best meal I’ll had in Asia.
Jim Thompson house.
The military sergeant turned exotic silk trader’s gardens are worth a gander at for some silk making, relief from the hustle and bustle and an insight of traditional thai housing -Get here using the BTS, stop at National Stadium.
After Bangkok Blue Steele, Karl with a K and myself travelled down south to a beach side town called Hua Hin. After a 5 hour local train for $3 we were glad to be in the town that has given us more stories than most of Thailand so far…