Bangkok is a bustling city of convenience, with everything a busy worker or excited tourist could possibly need accessible within a few paces; but where every now and then you stumble across a historical pocket of beauty, peace and serenity that reminds you what Thailand is really about.
On the drive back to Bangkok, we stopped briefly in a village where I was able to stretch my legs and…of course…have a look around. There was a small cluster of food stalls that smelt absolutely divine, but unfortunately I was still full on pineapple and watermelon (see previous page)!! Walk slightly further away from the road and you come to a network of pathways built across smooth rock formations with water flowing over them. Further still and I came across a waterfall and natural pool. Beautiful, I thought…but so did the many other tourists there. Never mind! Nearby there was an old train track from the War, complete with train engine! I wish I had more time to explore this area, but I was meeting Nam in Bangkok that evening…priorities!! That said, I did have time to stumble across a food stall selling dried pork ❤ Thailand what are you doing to me?!
There was one more stop to make en route to the city. Well, if you spend time sleeping in a hotel on the River Kwai, it’d be a crime not to visit the bridge as well!
Steeped in history, it was a fascinating place (again, somewhere I would return to). I always find it strange when standing in such places, to think of what happened there less than 100 years ago, the people who lived there, worked there and died there. Fascinating, but strange. The bridge itself is eerily incredible. Built by the Japanese during WW2 using prisoners of war as a means of accessing India, the railway itself is known today as the Death Railway; more than 100,000 prisoners died during its construction – 1/3 of the total who were forced to work on it.
Though only for touristy purposes, it remains in use today. One minute you are walking along quite happily, the next you’re making room for a carriage as it carries people across. All the while, you are consumed with a subtle feeling of sadness as you remember the reality of the structure you are standing on.
My driver told me about a war cemetery nearby where some 7000 prisoners of war who were lost to the construction of the bridge were buried. Amongst those lost souls were more than 3000 British, 1800 Dutch, 1300 Australian, 12 Indian, 2 New Zealanders and 1 Canadian soliders. It was a peaceful place, each grave maintained beautifully, but still the numbers shocked me; and to think this is just one such cemetery.
It was early evening before I met Nam. Checked in to the hotel and witnessed a snippet of the Thai protests; far more peaceful at the time than Western media would have you believe.
I spent three nights in Bangkok, taking time to enjoy the top-floor swimming pool, a brief browse of a nearby shopping mall, exploration of the flower market, a flying encounter with “backpacker street” (not somewhere I ever need to go again, though I did try the famous Thai coconut ice cream there – it didn’t disappoint) and a trip to a well known street market in the evening. Even managed a trip on a Tuk Tuk…definitely the most exciting mode of transportation in the capital!
Without a doubt though, the gem of Bangkok is its grand palace. A short trip on the metro before boarding a tour boat. This provided the opportunity to capture a glimpse of some of Bangkok’s other treasures whilst learning a bit about them. When we reached the assigned pier for the palace, I hopped off the boat before being led through yet another food market. I hadn’t seen so many people in one place this entire trip! Understandably, the palace is very popular.
Dressed modestly, so as to respect Thai customs (of course, I hate seeing barely-clothed men and women walking around in countries like this just because it’s warm…you want foreigners to respect our culture when they come to the UK, you do the same when you visit their countries!) – there was an opportunity for people to hire appropriate clothing at the entrance to the palace grounds. I say opportunity, they had no choice. Guards stood firm, only allowing through those who were deemed appropriate, whilst pointing the rest in the direction of the clothing booth.
No words will do the Grand Palace justice. It is a majestic work of art, again saturated in history and preserved perfectly. Exploring each of the buildings and temples that were situated within its walls, the first thing I thought of was the 1956 film The King and I. For a brief second, I was Anna. The detail in every pillar, every roof tile and every sculpture was exquisite. Beautiful. Thai people are very proud of this place and rightly so. I’ve always been extremely passionate about architecture, but had never witnessed first-hand any authentic South-East Asian works. This place was heaven. I doubt I’ll see another building in my life that comes close to the perfection of this one. Obviously the Grand Palace is more than just a building, but you’ll have to visit it yourself to truly understand what I mean.
Met up with Nam for dinner, before heading back to the hotel. I’ll miss my friend and I’ll miss this place!
Final morning in Thailand – woke up and got a taxi at ridiculous o’clock (4am) before heading to the airport. I won’t go too far in to this day as it was nothing but stress, re-booking flights, purchasing Thai sim cards and anti-vomit tablets (typical, ey?).
All I will say is this: airlines will unlikely tell you, but if you are offered a flight with two connections in India – DON’T DO IT. If you do, you need to apply for an Indian tourist visa. Yes, you read that right, an Indian tourist visa. Because apparently staying within the airport whilst waiting for your ongoing flight counts as visiting the country and you will be denied access to the first leg of that journey and end up having to pay for a new flight with only one connection in India and then spend all day waiting at your departure airport having woken up unnaturally early before later spending six hours at Mumbai airport which, on this occasion, was a few days from closing its doors and relocating to a newly built terminal resulting in nothing existing to be open. Just don’t do it. Or do, but apply for your Indian tourist visa first.
Thailand, you were beautiful ❤