| Amazing Thailand
A Day in Bangkok
Any traveller anywhere in Asia will talk about getting into a “comfort zone” on arrival in Bangkok or anywhere in Thailand for that matter. There is really a friendly air about the place. The Don Muang Airport, which will soon be handed over to the airforce for an even better airport, puts all visitors in holiday mode. Many nationalities get a free visa for thirty days; Russians and Indians get a two-week visa for around 25 dollars at the airport. The immigration officers were reasonably friendly with us as they processed our visa. We’d heard that Russians were given a bit of a hard time as a large section of tourists were “gangsters.”
The arrivals hall turns out to be a bit of a disappointment for the hordes of western travellers who expect to enter the “third world.” Unlike popular belief, the airport has no tourist touts, aggressive taxi drivers or scam artists. Bangkok is first world in every sense of the word. We took a train to Hualamphong, Bangkok’s main railway station, a great way to beat the legendary Bangkok traffic. The friendliness around the city can be overwhelming. Every official at the station speaks good English and is ready to help a tourist. We reserved train tickets to Chiang Mai, the northern capital and checked our bags into the cloak room.
We had seven hours to discover Bangkok. The Hualamphong station is connected to the newly-opened metro. The metro is extremely efficient and was designed to reduce traffic congestion. The Thais have every reason to be proud of their metro and sky rail which we took next. The sky rail is absolutely the best way to see the modern metropolis that Bangkok is. From a good height, we could see Bangkok’s green areas (yes, they do exist), the skyscrapers and Wat (Thai Buddhist temples). We received an unbelievable number of smiles from the locals. The Thais definitely know how to make people feel welcome!
The sky rail terminates at the Om Nut station, which has an ultra-modern mall. The “Lotus” Mall has just about anything from instant noodles to tents and skis. The best thing is that like in most retail outlets in Thailand, the prices are rock-bottom. Bangkok definitely warrants a shopping-only trip, with its abundance of options. The mall also has food courts and a multiplex cinema theatre. They sure don’t leave any stone unturned!
Down in the streets, we saw a spotlessly clean city, where a good and hygienic meal costs just half a dollar. The food options are unbelievable. Besides the noodle soups, there is tom yum soup, different varieties of fried rice and of course phad thai noodles! Thailand is one of the few countries where it is cheaper to eat out than to cook. These food stalls are located on every corner of Thailand at just about any time.
With enough time on our hands, we took Bangkok’s famous river ferry. This is another wonderful way to see the city. There are very few remnants of the old Bangkok village and canals, instead modern buildings and progress seem to be stamped over the city. A one-hour ride took us all over the city and we even saw the Royal Palace and the famous Aruna Wat. The relaxing boat ride is a complete contrast to the hectic road transport options of the city.
We just had to take on the Bangkok traffic while getting back to Hualamphong. Much to our surprise, rows and rows of flyovers made road travel in the city extremely smooth. The bus ride helped us see ordinary Thais travelling home from work. The pleasant smiles were abundant. Smiling must come easily to them! The bus ride to the railway station crosses the famous Siam Square, the notorious Khao San (famous for the flesh trade) and the Thai Victory Monument.
We had enough time for a delicious Thai dinner near Chinatown, before we boarded the train for Chiang Mai. A few hours were enough to feel totally at home in probably the friendliest country on earth. The “Real Thailand” awaited us as we travelled up north.
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Ajay Kamalakaran is the Editor of the Sakhalin Times, a weekly newspaper published in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, Russia.
Ajay is also the author of Sakhalin Unplugged, the first English-language guidebook to Sakhalin.
You can follow Ajay's activities on ajay78.livejournal.com.
| Jul 14th, 2005
What a way to spend your day, I sure would love to visit Thailand one of these days. I think if i had the chance to study abroad and its in Asia, I would hope they have a program at Thailand =)
| Sep 4th, 2005
That would be a wonderful choice Aubrey :) Thailand can be a really enriching experience and you can't meet a more friendly set of people.
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