Bangkok is a city that feels both incredibly familiar and unfamiliar. Wealthier districts have McDonalds, shopping malls, movie theaters, advertisements for American products, clean streets, and massive sky scrapers. Yet other areas, like the one where we stayed, seem completely separate from this westernization apart from the 7-11s on every corner, of course. Here, development seems a lot more evenly spread across the country than in India. Even the rural parts, which I saw from my train window, seem further along that places like Varanasi. So I would say that Thailand, especially Bangkok, seems to better fit the newly industrializing category that I had in my mind before coming to Asia. And the two countries definitely seem incredibly distinct from one another with far more differences than similarities. I'll be interested to see how Cambodia compares to what I've seen thus far.
Politically, Thailand is also an incredibly interesting country. It was never colonized by a European power; although, I do think that the British were somewhat involved here. Today, Thailand's government is a constitutional monarchy whereby the head of state is the king and the head of government is the prime minister. It's difficult to walk more than 20 feet without seeing a large picture or painting of the king; they are all over Bangkok. And while the country seems stable and this structure seems to work, Thailand has changed their constitution many times, and just a couple of years ago a military junta took over the country. It seems that democracy still has a long way to go here, but I feel like I need to do some more research/nerd out to really get a sense of what's going on.
Anyways, Katie and I spent our second day on the river, exploring the Grand Palace, Wat Phra Kaew, and Wat Arun. Here, there are all sorts of canals and waterways throughout the city, which is why some people call in the Venice of Asia.
These are some views from our river boat trip that Khoar and I took on a little boat that is essentially a taxi--very cool. I absolutely love being on the water in the same way that people like to hike or climb mountains or whatever. And so, while I could have been happy as a clam riding the boat up and down the river all day, Katie wanted to see some temples and the palace so we got off at pier number star?? All the others were numbered except for this stop.
The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew were so incredibly beautiful! Just the detailing on all the walls and the ceilings were so unreal. I can't even really begin to explain it, but walking along these huge buildings painting with gold and tiled with mirrors made me feel like I was in a movie. Cliche, I know.
These last two photos are from Wat Arun, which is also known as the Temple of Dawn. You can climb up the temple, and the steps are INCREDIBLY steep. I almost fell quite a few times, but there is a beautiful view of the city from the top.
Later that night, Katie and I went out with some new friends to dinner with the owner of our guesthouse, which was great. Her name is Joy, and she's been pretty instrumental is showing us what living is like for the majority of Thai people in Bangkok, taking us to food markets and ordering us local dishes. And instead of taking it easy the night before our journey southwards, we went out to see what the nightlife is like in the city. I tried some rice wine, which I probably will never drink again, and the local beer, which was pretty good.
That's all for now. Had a stressful day of getting scammed. No fun. As soon as I left India, I let my guard down. But tomorrow it's off to Ko Phi Phi and the beach!!!