Bangkok’s Not so Hidden Treasures

Bangkok’s Not so Hidden Treasures

Naturally, when the mind looks to something it may soon experience, all our understandings stir up an idea amid the base of our unbound imagination. A curious, healthy, and attentive mind subconsciously creates this image. Not a mega pixeled one, simply one of synapses and cells. Now when my mind was introduced to the idea of Bangkok (Or in it’s full: Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Ayuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasi), a whole load of misinterpretations came to play.

On any given day, 16 million people frolic about here, making it home sweet home to 14 million Thai people. While I was still home sweet home in California, my mind was convinced that Bangkok was going to be a swarm of utter chaos. Complete with insane tuk tuk drivers, a cigarette in every other hand, hustling bustling and distracted locals, and a place where places of peace would be hiding far and few. But man, was I wrong. Despite the smog, which was really no worse than Los Angeles, this glowing city was a beautifully orchestrated work of controlled chaos. What would be a chattering, playful, and active classroom, with a balanced teacher that allowed grace and enthusiasm to take care and control. I heard no sirens, I saw no accidents, and everyone around was happily ready to make sincere eye contact and SMILE. After living in San Francisco for five years, a city of only 1 million, I was shocked at how different this all was from my own understanding of how a metropolis thrives.

With my initial flights out of SFO cancelled and a whole day lost to United Airline’s lack of professionalism, tears to the outsider looked like my best friend. But I pressed on, said my goodbyes to the pug muffin and family, and finally wiggled my way out of my shell and flew out of the Bay Area’s little cage. With a dear friend made on the way and many other single serving friends too (Fight Club, anyone?), I finally made it to Bangkok by way of Narita, Japan.

The clouds welcomed us with their fireworks of lightening and blessed us with buckets of heaven’s holy water. Passport check, check. Baggage, almost not a check, but check. (After some guy began carting off with my luggage, as ours were identical) Customs, check. Gate 3 with a sign with my name on it, check. Phew! “Sawat dee ka!” and I was welcomed with a smile. Naiusha from London, Canada was my first new teacher friend and together we shared a van to our hotel and marveled with bright eyes at this new world. Despite the fact that it was 2 AM, we still found complete joy in pointing out all the little details. We lost count of 7/11’s after 15 and could not get over how the streets and steering wheels were all on the wrong side. The sprawl of Bangkok was massive, and there were no bundled collection of tight knit high rises, they were simply everywhere. There were more mopeds than cars and traffic followed no American-like gridlock style roads. Kaeo Saan, a bar block, was pouring out the Saturday night party scene and street meat stands were of no shortage. The city was well, and we were both certainly feeling alive.

Day1Bangkok-(2 of 44)

The next morning in Bangkok, I awoke in my charming and modern H-Residence Sathorn hotel room alongside the beautiful and vivacious Paulina from Delaware. We together went downstairs and met a ton more Xplore Asia/Greenheart Travel soon-to-be-pro English teachers. So much laughter, egg-fried rice, and new friends were had. Once our bellies were full and the proper amount of caffeine was consumed, a group of 11 of us ladies headed out for the Grand Palace, home to the Sacred Emerald Buddha.

Day1Bangkok-(7 of 44)

The journey began with a short walk to the Sky Train, an even more modern and much more affordable version of San Francisco’s BART and underground MUNI pub trans. The air conditioning on our salty, soaky skin felt like a 5 year old’s first ice cream of the summer. And now for the fun part, the WATER TAXI! We all ungracefully stepped onto this very traditional looking and long canoe-like taxi. Floating past daredevil fishermen, shanty houses on eroding stilts, numerable uniquely gilded temples, and cargo ships just barely gracing the bridges’ bottoms. Yes, the water was very obviously polluted, but what would you expect from such a gigantic city? New York’s Hudson has forgotten what blue was decades upon decades ago. As life swirled all around, I couldn’t help but sit quietly and peacefully. Nothing my eyes had ever seen looked even merely like this.

Once we reached the shaky dock and unloaded, we made our way through a small market when Thailand let us know, “It’s monsoon season, yo!”, and the buckets once again came toppling down. Of course none of us brainiacs came prepared for such an event, so we had to be patient and work on our “Thai time” pace. Some killed the time with coconut water straight from the nut itself, others looked at all the little and big Buddha’s you aren’t really supposed to sell. According to the Thai government, the tattooing or selling of Buddha as a decoration is illegal….but they’re everywhere, like seriously, EVERYWHERE. And since all that my 4 year old niece asked for as a gift was a big Buddha, I might be breaking some laws too. But after about 20 minutes of downpour the clouds cleared and let us pass to the Grand Palace.

Day1Bangkok-(22 of 44)

The 30 feet white walls that scoped the perimeter of the ginormous temple grounds were proudly protected by London-like uniformed men with semi-automatic weapons. No biggie. And since dress code is immensely tight to enter any temple, especially this one, a few ladies in our group had to rent out jail-style button ups for 200 baht ($3.50) a piece. No shoulders, no shorts, no V-necks, no skirts or dresses above the knee, no fun…haha just kidding! Sanuk, or fun in Thai, is never ever missing from any event in Thailand. Now that we were all properly dressed respectfully, we entered the palace gates…  ~Ommmmm~ … A lightness of peace swept across my heart, and the energy so pure whispered in my ear, “It will all be well”. I asked around to see if it wasn’t just me who felt that sudden presence, and I was not alone.

Day1Bangkok-(37 of 44)

Looking up, the pointed temples rose high above all of our heads and their numbers were nearly uncountable without a 30 minute walk. Tiles of every color and shape graced the intricate patterns of all exterior walls, and those bare of porcelain radiated true with incredibly detailed paintings. A visual storybook of Buddha’s teachings and other elements of Thai’s rich traditions. As we all agreed on a meet up time, we wandered off with our cameras in hand to various corners of this nearly endless sanctuary. I was pulled internally to find the right place to sit, to soak up, to meditate on all that was now. I stumbled upon a perch at the top of 4 stairs that was guarded by two bird warriors statues, I knew this was the spot I was seeking out. It’s hard to write about meditation, it’s a bliss discovered within that can only consciously be achieved. Our messy minds carry around so many worries and lies, so that when you cover your eyes and dive beneath the mind and splash into your heart’s core, all this stuff is so irrelevant. Focusing on my third eye, my breath, and the chanting of hundreds of Buddhists currently in religious ceremony, I became entranced by the purity so obviously present amongst this palace. My posture wanted to send my heart high, my heart open and the minutes passed by with such ease. At one point I heard a little girl’s voice speaking in Hindu just inches from mine. I couldn’t help but open my eyes for a split second to take a peep, I’m not sure why she gravitated so close, but I felt so special that she was comfortable enough to do so. Even with my eyes closed and in complete stillness, the children find a way to come to me. I’m not sure how much time passed, but upon opening my eyes hazily and slowly I wandered the rest of the palace with such a divine energy inside my soul. It was happy, it was simple, and it was calm. The temple housing the Emerald Buddha demanded we remove our shoes, and I was delighted as this is an opportunity I never try to deprive myself of.  The Emerald Buddha itself was so tiny compared to the temple and mountain it was built upon. Gold statues, sacred statues, candles, incense, and lotus flowers to be dabbed with holy water on Buddhist’s heads were of no shortage here. Although I wanted to pitch a tent in those quarters and dwell in these grounds for days on end, it was time to go. Whispering my last few oms to myself, we headed out just as another rush of rain blew overhead.


After a short lunch of chicken, noodles, and a fresh mango smoothie, we made a pilgrimage to Wat Pho temple, a short 10 minute walk away. Monks, peddlers, pop up shops, and children playing were a commonplace passerby that each seemed so natural and comfortable in their place. Upon entering the gates of Wat Pho, we were greeted by one of the many stray cats of Thailand. He just sat there and took tabs on who was entering his righteous and blessed mini kingdom. Upon looking up from Mister Security Cat, I literally jumped and my hands shot up to support my chest. I thought we were just entering a random temple, but when I looked up I caught a quick glimpse at the largest Buddha and most golden statue I had ever laid eyes on. It gave me the chills instantly and I’d never been so excited to simply go inside. This Buddha was the whole length of the temple and it was so tall! It was constructed during the mid-1800’s when King Rama III was in power. It’s kind of like the pyramids in the sense that you can’t stop asking how? So much for my misconception of not finding places of peace in Bangkok, they were seriously readily available and welcoming all over the place! The day rolled on and the bliss carried its way throughout. I will never in my life forget this first, tantalizing, and magical day in the land of smiles.

Day1Bangkok-(8 of 34) Day1Bangkok-(14 of 34)


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *