The streets of Bangkok are noisy, busy, and vibrant. I am a city girl at heart so I LOVE noise and color and chaos and exploring the streets, temples, parks, markets, and unique places of Bangkok was such a blast. I spent a lot of time just wandering and observing and asking questions. Oh, and eating street food. I ate ALL the food. One of my favorite things about Thailand was the amount of life lived out on the street. Food being made and sold from a small cart that beats most restaurants!
A trip to Thailand is incomplete without a Tuk Tuk ride- the local small public transport is cheap (after bargaining) and the drivers are pretty skilled at weaving in and out of the dense city traffic.
We decided to explore Chinatown one morning. I'm not sure this cat was praying or bringing offerings as much as stealing the food left for the gods but I loved that she was not intimidated at all when people came to pray.
The market in Chinatown was an assault on the senses in a great way. These men were piling bags of potatoes for sale and thought it was so amusing that I was so interested in what they were doing. When I joined in and helped lift a few bags they could not stop laughing. Being able to sleep through this market is truly amazing!
Every kind of bootleg toy you can imagine are sold in the narrow streets of Chinatown, Bangkok.
The street food rivals restaurant food and Thai folks seem to eat a lot of small snacks all day instead of a couple big meals. We decided to follow the culture and ate our way through Chinatown. The spicy friend bananas above were amazing.
I removed my shoes and just observed at this temple while many folks came in for prayers on their way to work. Many of the older women welcomed me and grabbed my hand to show me what they were doing. This little boy made a quick stop at the temple with his mother before heading to school.
Offerings made to Buddha during morning prayers.
The incense and fresh flowers are thick in the air inside and around the temple.
This is FAST food.
I wanted to capture the motion and the juxtaposition of Old World and New World- with this man selling veggies in the modern city using baskets that have been used to carry goods for generations. Chinatown shops about to open and some children enjoying their breakfast and finding the time to giggle at me making funny noises.
The flower district was spilling out onto the streets with fresh flowers being prepared for temple offerings and decorations at events.
Thai coke in a bag is cheap and cold and when it is 96 degrees it is fabulous. We were amazed by all the drinks offered in easy to-go bags, cups, and containers. The Thai iced tea is a must try!!
Temples, pagodas, and shrines are everywhere in Bangkok and because Thailand is 90-95% Buddhist you see the religion deeply connected to the culture around you. You cannot walk more than a block without seeing places to offer prayers. It is an integral part of daily life for most Thai people. I spent a lot of time in and around temples just taking it all in and talking with anyone that was willing.
We had to explore on of Bangkok's oldest temples; Wat Pho and the very well known massive reclining Buddha. This temple was built by King Rama 1 and has the largest collection of images of Buddha in all of Thailand.
There are certain hand positions and body positions all statues of Buddha must follow and each has it's own meaning. The reclining Buddha is always depicted as reclining on the right side and this posture tells the story of the Buddha towards the end of his life when he was believed to have reached enlightenment and was nearing nirvana.
The most common pose you will find in Thai temples is with the legs crossed, the left hand in the lap, and the right hand pointing to the ground with the palm facing inward toward the Buddha. This posture is known as Calling The Earth to Witness.
It is the story of how the Buddha was at the verge of enlightenment after six year when Mara, the Demon of Illusion, tried to keep the Buddha from the final last steps. The Buddha was said to have meditated all night to overcome the fears and temptations sent by Mara, and then called the Earth Goddess to witness that the Buddha had indeed achieved enlightenment. Witnessing that, the Earth Goddess wrung her hair, releasing flood waters that swept away the Demon Mara and all the temptresses he had released. There are so many unique and ornate images in each temple that taking them all in would take days.
Each temple has many rooms that visitors can pray and offer gifts to the temple and the monks.
This couple had traveled hours to pray and make offerings at this well known temple. They allowed me to capture their prayers and offerings they said were made on behalf of their family.
We also visited the famous Grand Palace which housed many kings of Thailand. The Grand Palace is made up of numerous buildings, halls, gardens and courtyards that now are open to the public for tours. The Grand Palace has many differing styles that tell the story of it's completion over hundreds of years beginning in 1782. The additions were made by successive reigning kings over 200 years of history so some building seems to have other buildings almost staked on top because the styles are so different.
We also toured Wat Phra Kaew.
it is all about the art of the selfie at the Royal Palace!
Just outside the temples there are sidewalks lined with food vendors and people selling trinkets and souvenirs.
One of my favorite mornings in Bangkok was spent waking through Lumpini Park after getting some local snacks at a market for breakfast. We saw people exercising, just sitting and chatting, and making their way to and from work. In the middle of the park we stumbled upon a senior center. They invited us in for free haircuts and to join their workout.
Bangkok is so alive at night! The lights, shops, and night markets are going late into the night. We visited Thailand during the rainy season and storms were frequent. We went to a rooftop restaurant to catch a view of the skyline and after much patience with my finger on the shutter I caught an image of the lightening over the city.
I'm not gonna lie I had to close my eyes a few times on this late night Tuk Tuk ride home.
Bangkok was an amazing city. I'm so grateful for the opportunity to travel there and explore.
“I am not the same, having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.” – Mary Anne Radmacher