SOUTHEAST ASIA BUCKET LIST: BANGKOK
After having toured the big places in Japan, including Mount Fuji, Kyoto and Nara, and Tokyo Tower, I decided that I just had to make a bucket list for things I have to do in Southeast Asia. But deciding where to start is always really hard for me. My imagination takes the possibilities found in this corner of Asia and mates them with the excitement I feel when I travel. Which in turn births a thousand whimsical dragonflies fluttering about madly in my head.
But then Bangkok caught my eye. It’s often called the Gateway to Southeast Asia, though it was the nickname “City of Angels” that firmly decided me. As a native of Los Angeles (City of Angels, USA), inundated since grade school with tours of Casas Adobes and Spanish missions, I can’t help but delve into the claim Bangkok makes to the title. That sort of evocative language really gets me wondering about the historical and cultural beauties found there, so my interest in Thailand’s premier city is primed.
So, without further ado, the 5 things I have to see in Bangkok!
1. WAT ARUN (THE TEMPLE OF DAWN)
When I first heard the name, I had expected it to be found in Japan, the Rising Sun land, but the Siamese built it first! There’s something about the Temple of Dawn that sparks the imagination, and I’d have to try and see this tower at sunrise. Though from everything I’ve seen it looks better lit up at night. Maybe I’ll see it while aboard a Chao Phraya River Cruise...
2. WAT PHRA KAEW (THE TEMPLE OF EMERALD BUDDHA)
For a city overflowing with Wats, I had to choose this one over Wat Pho, since it houses the Emerald Buddha, which locals believe is a guardian of the country of Thailand. Apparently, the king of Thailand changes the clothes of the image depending on the seasons, so which outfit would be the best one? I was born in February, so maybe I’d like the winter outfit... And while I’m there, I should visit the Grand Palace Complex, which surrounds Wat Phra Kaew.
3. GRAND PALACE COMPLEX
So, the king doesn’t actually live there anymore...so what? I want to walk those halls and imagine some royal Rama surrounded by his retinue, some adolescent Siamese princess peeking playfully from behind the columns, some stately courtier rushing about his daily duties...these kinds of monuments are pregnant with such stories of old Siam. Arriving there in a tuk-tuk sounds like a perfect way to kick off my musings.
4. PUPPET SHOW THEATER
I read somewhere that Thailand has been telling stories with colorful action figures at least 300 years before I did. But seriously, Thailand’s puppetry is professional theatre, telling ancient stories of the Hindu Ramayana in an Artist’s House called Baan Silapin. And if I’m going to be told traditional tales, I want it told me via large, glittering, scary dolls. Who doesn’t love puppets?
5. CHATUCHAK MARKET
Going to the largest market in Thailand seems like just the right way to get a finger on the pulse of the city. With over 10,000 tiny, privately owned shops and stalls to choose from, I can spend the day tasting the local pad thai, finding something to wear in blue Thai silk, and seeing what they have in the way of used bookshops. Pairing this massive street market with my already poor sense of direction, it’s the perfect place to get a little lost in Bangkok.
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