Riding the Sky train in Bangkok
Whenever I go to a new place I find things to do cheaply or free because I am on a budget. I had read about the Sky train somewhere so decided to give it a go, it seemed to me to be a bit like the DLR in London so I got the 14baht boat from pier N13 down to the Central pier at Saphan Taksin which takes you directly to the train terminal.
It costs 120 baht for a day ticket on the Sky train and you can get off and on as many times as you like, there were a couple of places on my list to go on the route of the skytrain and I decided to just get off where I felt there was something interesting to see.
My first stop was at Bang Wa, which was the final station on the Chit Lom line, there wasn’t much of interest to me at this stop so I just jumped back on and went all the way to the other end of Chit Lom stopping at Chong Nonsi for some lunch and to see the Manhanakorn Cube tower because it looked really interesting, very artistic, I love tower blocks especially the more unusual ones.
The beauty of the skytrain as opposed to the underground is you can see where you want to get off as you travel without planning your journey, because it travels above the road and above the buildings, brilliant idea.
I had some lunch from a street vendor for about £1, walked around the cube tower taking photos, sat a while watching the world go by then jumped back on the train, on to my next stop which was planned at the Paragon shopping and entertainment complex with Imax, I thought about going to watch an Imax movie but realised after getting off the train that it would probably be in Thai language (how stupid am I lol) so I stopped a while in the lounge at the Imax and charged my phone then on to Erawan Shrine.
I had read about Erawan shrine which was a welcome oasis in the middle of a concrete jungle right in the middle of an intersection, with roads, train lines and buildings completely surrounding it. It is very much a place for worship even more so now that the King has died, lots of people go there presenting flower garlands to Buddha, there is also a holy water well where people cover themselves in the holy water and one of the main things that drew me here was the Thai dancing, which takes place throughout the day by traditional Thai dancing girls. I’m glad I found it, it was lovely to just sit in the small garden and enjoy the peace and tranquillity even though the hustle and bustle is still going on all around there is something special about this place and watching the dancing was a wonderful bonus.
After the shrine I decided to go to another shopping place called Terminal 21 because I had read that there are special photo opportunities there because of the themed shopping experience, I didn’t really knew what was meant by this so decided to investigate. Terminal 21 is a massive shopping multi floors complex with a different theme on every floor. The themes are based on capital cities around the world. The ones I stopped at were London, Tokyo and Paris and on every floor there were special landmarks or giant sculptures associated with that city, I was mainly interested in the London floor, where they had a huge red double decker bus serving a shop, the benches were painted in union jack colours, they had a sculpture of a bobby siting on one of the benches with an underground station train as another shop and an old red phone box.
While I was in the shopping mall I needed to charge my phone again so I stopped in Starbucks and while I was sitting there having my soya decaf latte I was joined by a wonderful man and his daughter from Pakistan, we got chatting and soon his wife came and joined us, I spent about an hour or more chatting to the lovely Nosch and Imran, exchanging blog details and generally getting to know each other. One of the main things I love about traveling is meeting different people all over the world and having the time to sit and chat with them. I am in no rush to go anywhere; it was one of those special moments which make it all worthwhile. I am traveling to experience different lifestyles and cultures and meet new people not just to see the sights.
It was getting late when I got back on the train but I still wanted to go all the way on the Sukhumvit line, it was dark by this time and the train is designed in such way that it is difficult to see out because everything is a reflection of inside so I spent the next part of my journey pressed up against the window so I could see the city all lit up which always looks fab.
At the end of the Sukhumvit line I got off because I had stumbled upon another market, Chatuchak weekend market. It was huge and I just couldn’t believe how far it covered, you could get lost within the complex, rows and rows of tiny shops, some, under a tin roof and others outside under canopies. It is the largest flea market in the world covering 35 acres with about 15, 000 traders, you have to see it to believe it, and needless to say I didn’t see it all. You can buy anything at all there, and I mean anything, things you didn’t even know existed are being sold there. It is estimated that 200,000 to 300, 000 visitors trawl the market every day looking for bargains and you will surely get them here, already cheaper than anywhere else in Bangkok you won’t get the prices down much here but it is always worth a shot.
I forgot to mention that during my journey I saw lots of temples, I stopped at a couple of them because they were near the stations, all of the temples in Bangkok are very much in use by the locals so you will always see people praying to Buddha inside, you are allowed to go in but you must remove your shoes. You find these temple in the most unusual places which I suppose means the temple came first and the tower blocks grew up around them. Bangkok is a very crazy interesting city with cultural contrasts everywhere.
At the end of my journey I got back to the river at about 10 pm at night, by then the boat taxis had stopped because of the death of the King everything was closing early. So I didn’t think about getting a taxi but when I looked at the map there were plenty of places of interest en route so I decided to walk. It was a very long way, much longer than I though and it was pretty tiring, but I stopped on the way at the monuments and temples just to take some pics.
While walking through the city you see how the city really is, the people sleeping on the streets, the people working through the night, the dilapidated houses and rubbish filled waterways, it is not always pretty but no city is. Bangkok have a lot of people sleeping on the street, they are not begging they just work all day then curl up on a mat on the side of the road and sleep, I saw some families sleeping this way with young children curled up next to their parents. Some people who own food stalls just sleep behind their stall. Not many people cook their own food at home here, they eat out because there are so many places to eat and I don’t mean in a fancy restaurant with air conditioning a glass of wine, I mean on a street corner where someone has set up a small cooking pot and provides soup or pad Thai for about 20 baht, equivalent to probably 50p for us Brits but cheaper to the locals, and this food is full of vegetables chicken, rice, noodles etc.
I was talking to someone about the economy and he told me that since the military junta kicked out the government 20 years ago and ruled themselves, they have kept the economy low by not allowing the people to advance, keeping control of them. It is not a democratic country; I don’t follow politics and am just repeating what this man told me.
On the way back I was crossing the memorial bridge which is a big steel structure, I found many of the youngsters of the city just sitting around on the bridge, chatting, eating their food, playing guitar, just generally hanging out, I really needed to sit by this point so I joined them on the bridge watching the world go by, it is so lovely in this country because of the weather to just do this, it is so warm at night, it was lovely sitting on the bridge watching all the traffic whiz past, watching the kids meet up, listening to the guitar, when it wasn’t drowned out by the traffic noise because I kid you not the traffic never stops, it is hectic nonstop all day and all night, beeping, whistle blowing, motorbikes, noise noise noise!! Crazy crazy city, I love it so much.
I passed the main flower market by chance, it was on my list of places to go but I didn’t realise it was on my route, until I passed it, this was after midnight and they were working away, busy, busy, busy, making garlands for the King, also preparing all the flowers for sale the following day, every flower you can think of, wrapped in bunches ready for the retailers to come in a few hours. They let me wander around taking some photos; the smell in there was wonderful. They have some very exotic flowers in Bangkok that smell amazing.
I finally got back to my hotel about 2am, I was pretty worn out but it was all still happening on Khao san road, quieter since the king died but still plenty going on. I went straight to sleep, completely done in. It turned out I had walked 3 miles back from the station. What a mega day and I had already been to the National Art Gallery before I went on the boat taxi, Pheww what a wonderful day with wonderful people.