It’s the end of November. I am in Bangkok. It’s hot, bearable until the sun comes out from behind the clouds and then I reach for my cap, and start sweating. ‘This is our winter’, our guide Gigi says, as she takes us through the marvels of the Royal Palace and of the Wat Pho. Whatever time of the year, Bangkok seems to be constantly clogged with tourists, and yet, on this walking tour, I can hardly feel it.
As Gigi explains the meaning behind murals, statues and stupas, the crowds melt away, and it feels like it’s just us and all this beautiful architecture. Later, she takes us on a long tail boat trip, exploring the small canals which twist and turn around houses, both simple and grand,and past temples where monks give you bread to feed to the healthy population of river catfish in exchange for a donation.
I join Gigi’s walking tour pretty much straight after getting to Bangkok – I had flown the night before, and gotten to my hotel so late that all I had time to do was sleep. Later I’d look at the streets around my hotel, filled with western bars and restaurants with their bland Thai food and massacred western dishes and think, is this Bangkok? What about what I had seen with Gigi – the quiet canals where local lived, and the impressive architecture? What is Bangkok really?
Like so many other places where tourism has become one of the most important ways for locals to make a living, Bangkok can feel oppressively tacky and touristy, but I have always understood, and will always understand. And it is almost inevitable that when tourism comes, a country has to sell a small part of its soul to this industry.
I thought I would hate Bangkok.In fact, I had postponed going to Bangkok for a very long time because of all the horrible stories I kept hearing about it. In fact, I ended up loving it, but maybe because I have travelled enough to understand that with tourism, compromises have to be made, and beautiful things are always there to discover, even in the most touristy of place.
Below is a collection of shots from my time in Bangkok. I saw very little as I soon moved on to other parts of Thailand, but there was still plenty for my camera to capture.
Have you been to Bangkok? What’s your overall opinion of it?
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-Text and Photography by Denise @www.theartofslowtravel.com. All rights reserved.