It is one o’clock in the afternoon when we leave the plane and the customs allow us to enter Thailand on a 30-day visa waiver. We get a pack of Thai Baht from an ATM and take the sky train to the heart of the Bangkok metropolis. The metro and sky train in Bangkok are constructed recently and there are only three lines that connect business districts in particular. We hoist our backpacks on our backs and start our hour’s walk in the direction of Khao San Road. A few blocks away from the husstle we discover a colourful guesthouse: The Flapping Duck. After staying in The Sparkling Turtle in Kathmandu, the Flapping Duck seemed exactly the right name for our next hostel.
Soaked in sweat, we throw our backpacks in a corner and decide to stay in The Flapping Duck. We relax for a while in the garden of the guesthouse, which lies quietly along a canal at the edge of a park. In Bangkok all tourists seem to gather on Khao San Road. We went out to have a look in the evening and are flooded with shops, street food stalls, tattoo joins, restaurants and bars. Gazing at an interesting mixture of people and cheap but tasty street food would make us mingle between the farangs on and around Khao San Road a few more nights.
The first full day in Bangkok we spend at the bling bling of the Grand Palace and Wat Pho. After Ayutthaya and Thonburi served as the capital of Siam, in 1785 King Rama I built the Grand Palace and a bizarre complex of large impressive – almost blinding decorated temples on the east bank of Bangkok as the capital of Thailand. Night-time temperatures do not drop below 30C degrees, just imagine the torture of wrapping yourself in a temple suited outfit in the scorching midday sun. Once we arrive at the Grand Palace we are kindly requested to wear a suitable outfit that can be borrowed for free: long trousers and covered shoulders. For hours we wander blinded by the gold leaf, mirrors and gems along the beautiful buildings to finally reach the palace. At Wat Pho we would repeat that, but in our opinion Wat Pho is a bit more subdued and stylish.
The whole of Thailand is under the spell of Princess Sirindhorn’s birthday, which would turn 60 during our stay in Bangkok. More than half of the locals have been walking in a purple shirt for days and all government buildings, schools and large stores are decorated accordingly. When we visit the Dusit region, we really notice the impact of the entire event. The main roads have been closed off and a countless number of stages, shops and stalls have spread in the streets, King’s Day feeling in Bangkok! Funny detail is that at all public places in the capital, the national anthem is played at 9 in the morning and at 6 in the evening. Everyone stays or stands up and the Thai flag is hoisted. Later in the afternoon we decide to climb Phu Kao Thong for a nice view of Bangkok. The city has no clear centre and residential areas and high office buildings seem to sprout randomly, a unique skyline as a result.
Our final day in Bangkok we spent to buy train tickets for the first stage of the Death Railway to Kanchanaburi. In Bangkok boats are an important part of public transport and the express boat takes us to the station in a few minutes, after which we spend the rest of the day in the bustling and noisy alleys of Chinatown.
One more evening of pad thai, spring rolls and changbeer on Khao San Road before the train leaves for The Bridge over the river Kwai, Kanchanaburi.