Monday, September 20, 2010


The next stop in Thailand was Bangkok. A month or so before we arrived, there had been some violent protests in the city, with even some foreigners getting killed, so we weren't sure if it was going to be safe or not. However, just before we were planning to go to Bangkok, the protesters seemed to have been dispersed and some level of peace established. I wasn't that familiar with the politics of the situation, I was just worried about being in the wrong place at the wrong time. During our time there, though, we didn't have any problems and things seemed to be back to normal, except that the city seemed pretty empty and a lot of the infrastructure built up for tourism was deserted. For a city so reliant on tourism, it must have been a big hit to their economy. Looking on the bright side, it meant for us that we had a lot of the places to ourselves and didn't have to worry about fighting any crowds, although being one of the few tourists around also made us a bigger target for scammers and the like.

Our first night in Thailand, we decided to check out Thai kickboxing, or Muay Thai. It had come highly recommended and despite being a little expensive, was very worth it. The ticket sellers try to push the ringside seats onto foreigners and charge a hefty premium for them, but Phil and I elected for the upper bowl, which in a small stadium offered nearly as good of a view as the ringside seats. The best part of the upper bowl, though, was being in mix of things with the locals and noise of the crowd.

Lumpinee Boxing Stadium

Phil Choosing a Dish from the Sumptuous Bounty

Previously, I didn't have any exposure to Muay Thai, which made things all the better since everything was new to me. I found the whole atmosphere to be very cool. When the fighters first came out, a small band would start playing music that seemed to come straight of a Hollywood kickboxing movie. The fighters would go through a set routine of stretching and dancing before each fight, which was really interesting at first, but after several fights became monotonous to watch.

Opening Routine Known as Wai Khru Ram

During the fights, the fighters would lock up and knee each other in the sides. Each knee would bring an "oomph" sound from the crowd and set off a big round of betting among the locals. The bets were for a surprisingly large amount, but there never seemed to be any trouble with people not paying up. Phil and I tried to figure out how the betting worked, but left as confused as we started. Either way, it added quite a bit of entertainment and made the Muay Thai more exciting.

Fight and Waves of Betting

There were a couple good fights, but most of the fighters were pretty young and small. One of the fights was between a couple of foreigners, a guy from France and a guy from Spain, but that match wasn't as good. They mostly reverted to western style boxing, instead of using the kicks and knees that the Thais preferred. Regardless, it was a lot of fun to watch and we had a great time.

Young Fighters

Betting in the Stands

Wai Khru Ram Opening Routine

Foreigner Fight

The next day in Bangkok was the day I will always remember as the scam day. It really seemed we went from one person to the next who was trying to scam us or sell us something we didn't want. We started off walking towards the river area and an old, kindly looking man chatted with us for a little while as we were walking, then after establishing trust, started pushing a boat ride through the canals. We bit and decided to take the boat. Despite seeing some slightly interesting things in the ramshackle houses built along the canals, there wasn't too much to see and it seemed like we might have gotten ripped off.

Houses Built Along Canal

Floating Market of One Woman Selling Overpriced Goods

Monks Sitting Along Canal

Giant Monitor Lizard on Banks of Canal

The Everlasting Love for the Thai King

At the end of our canal ride, and after an attempt by our boat driver to pilfer a little more money from us, we went to Wat Arun, one of the main temples in Bangkok. 

War Arun

Steep Stairs Up Temple

Gargoyles Holding Up Temple

Wat Arun

View of National Palace from Wat Arun

After Wat Arun, we were planning to go to the Grand Palace, but a policeman told us that it was closed that day and directed us to some other temples. At first, we thought he was being very helpful and were happy, but it turns out we had fallen for one of the classic Bangkok scams. We were taken to one of the main temples, the Golden Mount, but after that, we were taken to jewelry and clothing shops, all trying to push crap on us and scam us. While we didn't lose any money, we did waste our time and it was quite frustrating. If you can't trust a police officer in the capitol city of a country, then there's a problem. Despite being frustrated, we still went around and saw some of the sites of the city, but this time completely ignoring anyone who tried to talk to us, no matter how friendly they seemed.

Market and Street Food

Riding in a Tuk Tuk

Ascending the Golden Mount

Top of the Golden Mount

Metropolitan Bangkok

Traffic Near one of the Protest Areas

Victory Monument

On our last day in Bangkok, we finally saw the Grand Palace. The Grand Palace is the highlight of all the tourist sites in Bangkok and contains Buddhist temples, government buildings, and other interesting sites. 

Inside Grand Palace

Thai Children Doing Thai Greeting


Strong Gargoyles

Government Hall

Change of Guard

We also went to the nearby Wat Pho, or "Reclining Buddha", which contains the largest reclining Buddha in the world. Not sure why he's reclining, but maybe he just likes to relax. The Buddha is about 150 feet long, which makes for one big reclining Buddha indeed. There are some other interesting Buddhist sites in the temple and we spent some time checking everything out.

Reclining Buddha

Mother of Pearl!

Line of Buddhas

Phil with Buddha

I have to admit that even after seeing so many Buddhist temples and sites, I am still not much closer to understanding what it's all about or the significance of many of the features. However, it's still interesting to see and a nice change of style from the Chinese Buddhist temples I've seen so often.

That wraps up our time in Bangkok. While it might not be my favorite place to visit, it still has enoughto make it worthwhile seeing at least once. We might have had a better experience if we didn't visit right after protests had nearly shut down the city or if we had managed to avoid some of the scams, but what can you do. For now, I'll check it off my list of places to see and leave the pollution and traffic to those who wish to stay longer. And here's a farewell by a well known character:

Thank You, Come Again