Exploring Bangkok: A Morning of Striking Contrasts

We battled traffic from the Suvarnabhumi Airport (pronounced “su-waan-na-poom”) all the way to our hotel, and the closer we got to our downtown digs the more pedestrians filled the sidewalks. Motorcycles sped by in-between the bumper-to-bumper traffic as our taxi moved at a snail’s pace to the next stop light. With each new block, we marveled (and cringed) at the mess of power lines strung between the impressive highrises, and I curiously peered down the small, hidden alleyways wondering what adventures would be found down each path.

Bangkok

Sukhumvit District, Bangkok

I knew that Bangkok would feel overwhelming after reading about the city and its 6.4 million residents, so to minimize the anxiety we decided on a short stopover to give us enough time to check out the highlights without getting too overwhelmed by our surroundings. In order to maximize our time in the capital I turned to Viator.com to scope out the recommended activities, and after a little bit of review Cody and I decided to book the Viator VIP Exclusive: A five-hour tour including a Morning Almsgiving, a visit to the International Flower Market, and a tour of the Grand Palace.

We began our tour bright and early dark and early on our last day in the country–I’m talking out the door at 5:30am, early--and as we drove to our first destination our tour guide, Jeerawat, introduced himself and gave us a rundown of our day. Along the route to our first stop we discussed Thai history, the larger-than-life-sized photos of the Thai Royal Family that were prominently displayed throughout the city, and as we drove by yet another group of soldiers–guns in hand–standing guard in the capital our conversation turned to the current military coup and its impact on daily life. Which, for the record, didn’t seem to have much of an impact at all. 

We pulled up outside of the Marble Temple and Jeerawat explained the meaning behind the daily Alsmgiving–simply, every morning before sunrise Buddhists present daily offerings to the monks which provide the monks with sustenance and in turn, those giving will receive blessings and good-will in their own lives. Residents from all walks of life pulled up in front of the temple gates to give Alms–one by one they would remove their shoes and present their offering always followed by the traditional wai.

As an introvert, I prefer to sit back with my camera and observe the shenanigans as they unfold around me, however on this morning I felt immensely grateful for the opportunity to experience and participate in such a sacred ceremony.

Grand Palace-Marble Temple8

Grand Palace-Marble Temple12

Marble Temple, Bangkok

After participating in the Almsgiving, we walked the immaculate grounds of the Marble Temple and Jeerawat explained that almost all Thai men become a monk at least once in their life; some serve for only a short period of time and others decide to serve for life. His insight into the daily life of these monks was fascinating and quite interesting.

The peaceful feeling that surrounded the temple was contagious and I was surprised to find a moment of tranquility in the middle of this bustling urban city.

Marble Temple, Bangkok

Wat Benchamabophit

Marble Temple, Bangkok

The traditional “Thai style” of Buddhist temples

Marble Temple

Marble Temple CollageMarble TempleAfter our peaceful morning at the Marble Temple we were off to explore the massive and slightly chaotic 24-hour International Flower Market. These two stops were complete opposites from each other–peaceful and serene followed by extremely busy and chaotic–and during our two weeks in the country I realized that Thailand is not only the land of smiles, but also the land of striking contrasts.

We worked our way through the market and browsed hundreds of different flower venues all while dodging delivery men, bicycles, vehicles, and other shoppers. Vendors worked on their displays, while others created beautiful leis and jewelry to sell, and in the middle of it all a group of women gathered to complete an early morning cardio workout. My favorite part of this stop was sampling the sweet Thai coffee from one of the vendors and finding a small bakery for a quick snack.

Now, to be honest, if I were planning a day trip around Bangkok I would have probably skipped the flower market entirely, however, it fit nicely within the schedule of this half-day tour and it was an interesting stop full of photo ops. After our pit stop at the bakery we climbed back into our private car and drove the packed, narrow, streets to the prized highlight of the day. And what a delight the next stop would be.

International Flower Market

Flower Market Collage

Flower Market

Flower Market

Flower Market

International Flower Market, Bangkok


Before I go, I wanted to remind you about my previous Thailand post where I dished about our contemporary Bangkok hotel and shared a discount code for you to use on your next booking with Travel Pony. The discount code is still valid and can be used at hotels around the world, so don’t forget to check it out as you’re planning your next trip.

Rooftop pool in Bangkok

Rooftop bar in Bangkok

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14 Comments

  1. October 13, 2015 / 8:25 AM

    wow, never knew that about Thai men, how interesting!

    • October 14, 2015 / 11:14 AM

      I learned a lot on this tour. I’m so glad we booked it. 🙂

  2. October 14, 2015 / 1:33 AM

    Really nice photos! It’s great you got to experience a side of Bangkok that many Western tourists overlook.

    • October 14, 2015 / 11:15 AM

      Hey! Thank you. 🙂
      It’s a shame that so many people overlook this area. We really enjoyed our time exploring the temples and learning so much about the rituals.

  3. October 14, 2015 / 10:31 AM

    Amazing pics. this place is on top of my bucket list, i was at the airport on my way back from Shanghai…just loved the place…..but never had a chance to visit. Specially wanted to go the floating market……loved each and every pic, specially loved the flowers…simply superb!!!!!

    • October 14, 2015 / 11:16 AM

      Raastha,
      I can see why it’s on your bucket list. The temples were incredible. We didn’t get a chance to go to the floating market–we’ll go next time (hopefully). 🙂 The flower market was great for photos, so many beautiful flowers everywhere.
      Thanks for your nice words!!

      • October 15, 2015 / 8:45 AM

        Do let me know in case you are vising India, I live n Blore. i will show you around, in case you need assistance. 🙂

    • October 19, 2015 / 5:46 PM

      Thank you! 🙂 Bangkok was an experience. So glad we were able to spend a few days soaking it all in.

  4. December 6, 2015 / 3:17 AM

    wow looks like a great tour. I am looking forward to flying into Bangkok, but at the same time worried to be overwhelmed by this city, but like you say, we need to find a few activities to minimize the anxiety and just go with the flow. I think trying to run around too much is when people get overwhelmed and come back with negative comments about this city.

    • December 8, 2015 / 9:50 AM

      I felt the SAME way. A few activities gave us a small glimpse of the city and left us wanting to explore more when we return. I wish I was going in February. That will be the perfect time to visit!!

      • December 10, 2015 / 12:14 AM

        We are planning to stay in SE Asia for some time starting with Thailand 🙂 We bought a one way ticket and now trying to pack/sell/give away our things 🙂 I can’t wait 🙂

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