Bangkok is truly the most amazing city. Filled by the chaos and cluster of 14 million bodies going about their hectic daily routines, the juxtaposition of the utter calm given through its religious focus provides a simply sensational assault upon the senses.
Having graduated from St Andrews in June, I am currently living in the rural town of Lat Ya, in the Kanchanaburi Province of Thailand, undertaking a two-month English teaching internship. Given the intensive workload during the week (I can’t complain – the children are absolutely adorable!), we escape to the bright lights of the nation’s capital during our weekends to pound the streets by day and dance them away by night. Always opting to stay around the backpacker-haven of Khao San Road, we spend hours walking amongst the street stalls, haggling down bohemian-styled clothing purchases, daring each other to try some of the rather unusual culinary delights (deep fried scorpion and maggots pop to mind) and collapsing upon strategically-placed futons and melting into hour-long foot massages.
Of course no trip to Bangkok is complete without experiencing several near-death collisions, which can be proved quite readily by hopping aboard an awaiting tuk-tuk. For ease and pure nippiness, these battered vehicles zip you around the craziest road system you will ever have the pleasure of travelling, getting you between sites in record time – always a bonus when there are an infinite number of attractions to visit. An absolute must-see is the city’s Grand Palace and the adjoining Wat Phra Kaeo, which, built by Rama I in 1784, has not been home to royalty since the early 20th century. The Palace is a visual masterpiece, an effortless marriage between religious art and architecture, on such a scale that it could, in its entirety, define the word grandeur.
The striking Wat Arun is a short walk from the Palace and can be best viewed from across the river. For an added sprinkling of magic, one can wake early to see the Wat as the sun rises (fitting, because the name Arun derives from the Indian God of Dawn).
A final site to behold is Wat Pho, a temple that boasts the country’s longest reclining Buddha image – a serene golden figure with beautifully intricate mother of pearl feet. In fact, any temple that you stumble upon is certainly worth a visit; we were made welcome into all that we visited by simply removing our shoes and wearing respectable clothing. A cliché it may be, but there is something very calming about tucking yourself away into the corner of a beautiful building and taking a quiet moment for reflection.
Bangkok is a city that deserves to be explored, as it orchestrates your every sense – colours captured in decorative displays; smells inhaled from its street stalls; confusion created through a ceaseless city chorus; a final refrain tasted in experiences gained by a well-seasoned traveller.
Caitlin Hamilton was The Saint‘s Features Editor from 2012-2013.
Photo: Caitlin Hamilton