I had no idea what to expect of the city of Bangkok except the facts that it is HUGE (population of 11 million), that is has a killer metal scene and… that its “real” name is unusually long (Krung thep mahanakhon amorn ratanakosin mahintharayutthaya mahadilok popnoparat ratchathani burirom udomratchanivetmahasathan amornpiman avatarnsathit sakkathattiyavisnukarmprasit) meaning “The city of angels, the great city, the residence of the Emerald Buddha, the impregnable city of Ayutthaya of God Indra, the grand capital of the world endowed with nine precious gems, the happy city, abounding in an enormous Royal Palace that resembles the heavenly abode where reigns the reincarnated god, a city given by Indra and built by Vishnukarn”!!!
So… anyway, the first thing we did arriving here was to travel to the embassy of India to get our visas – but we found out we were far away from any metro/sky train station (we were located near the Grand Palace and Khao San road)… therefore, we had to take a bus. So, the first thing I experienced in Bangkok was its massive rush hour traffic jam, and we had to take a bus in it… arghh! I admit it was a very chaotic and stressful experience, but starting with the worst only meant one thing: everything was going to be better!
Beside the visa run, we started with our favourite thing ever; record shopping!! We discovered two killer record shops; Triple Six records, and Record Hunter. Triple Six is quite varied, and has an amazing selection of underground CD’s/LP’s/tapes/patches and ‘zines from all over the world. I was surprised to find IRON DOGS’ demo there (Ottawa heavy metal) as well as our very own CD! Their prices were around $7-$15 per CD, $25-$35 per LP and $3 per tape. Pretty good! I bought the new IMPIETY, the TORMENTRESS (Singapore all-female thrash!) CD and the most recent Burning Churches fanzine.
Right beside Triple Six is a shop called “Record Hunter”, which specializes in second hand importation LP’s of all genres. Little did I know that the owner was a huge metal LP collector! He had a kickass selection with records that you’d normally see in European metal markets. I was tempted by a few LP’s but ended up buying the Darkside Records (Greece) “Beyond the Grave” compilation, which features obscure tracks from early 90’s death and black metal.
On Saturday night, I was taken for a visit of the city by Bangkok’s Thai metal inquisition. Actually, it was my friend Jerasak and his metal friends who took me around – and it was one hell of a ride!
We met together at a coffee shop, and there, a monk started staring at my friend Jerasak’s jacket. We all thought he was going to come and criticize us or something but from his monk bag he took out a metal magazine!!! He showed us that he was a big “Dimmu Borgir” fan! Then he kept on staring at us!!! My friends found that very unusual (it’s the first time they ever see this) and that he is perhaps breaking one of the Thai Buddhism rules by enjoying metal (which is entertainment). Anyway, it was quite a weird experience! I took a photo with the monk:
We then headed for the JJ market – a huge market that has everything from animals, to souvenirs, bags, food and vintage clothing. It was funny to shop with a big bunch of metal guys, but we had alot of fun! I bought a vintage 70’s Zeppelin shirt for François as well as some bootleg metal patches.
After the market, we went to a food court to have lunch. In Thai food courts, you have to put money into a card, and then use it to buy food. I had my first real green curry, as well as some pork ball skewers.
But the best was something Jerasak gave me… holy shit, I seriously had tears in my eyes when I ate it. They were crispy pancakes covered with thick meringue and a sweet grated coconut (?) topping. I need to find these again, they are so good!!
We hung out a little bit, and then headed for KTK – a “secret” metal meeting spot located in a local night market. Basically, it’s two friends that for 5 years have been setting up a table for selling records… but really, it’s just an excuse to meet up, drink beer, exchange metal information and swap albums. That night, tons of people came out and we had one hell of a party! I think we were around 20 in a small, black alley street of that night market. We seriously looked like a gang or something haha
One of the two guys selling records, Metalsavage, is the Thai equivalent to Neal Tanaka (a famous Japanese metal collector). He has thousands of LP’s, a gigantic VENOM collection and about 50 jackets with all original and hard to find patches that he has been collecting for the past 30 years! I was absolutely blown away to find an original 80’s VULCAIN patch on his jacket that night. WOW!
When the night market closed, 15 of us moved and invaded the local backpacker street Khaosan Road, where we consumed beer intensely until the wee hours of the morning. It must have been weird and unusual for tourists to see us!
On the street were many lady boys (some kind of third gender here in Thailand…) and one of them was dressed up horribly as “mother Christmas”. Ayayay! I absolutely HAD to take my picture with “it”!! Haha
As you could probably tell, the next day was a brutal hangover… But I slept it off and was fine after a while haha!
Now, about my other favourite thing ever… FOOD! Thai food is well known and popular everywhere, and for a reason! There are only two other countries that I have visited with such an amazing variety of food, and that is Mexico and Peru. Over here in Thailand, people have kickass food, and are PROUD of it. On top of that, you can eat amazing freshly cooked meals in the streets for REALLY cheap ($1 – $1.5, depending on how fancy you are).
For one of my first breakfasts, I had a very typical Thai breakfast – Congee with chicken. It’s actually a kind of thick rice porridge where they add chicken pieces, green onions and sesame oil… but it’s really good and starts well a day!
I also HAD to try the famous Pad Thai – which are fried rice noodles with sauce, veggies, egg, peanuts and lime juice. I ate plenty of ‘em in Montreal and Ottawa, but this one in particular was even better!
Like in Laos and Cambodia, Thailand have their own version of Green Papaya salad. I really hope to find green papayas when I come back to Canada because I am seriously becoming addicted to these things:
And finally… we had something that was absolutely unthinkable in Bangkok. …POUTINE! Yes! After finding poutine in Chile, we found some in Thailand! It is actually owned by the girlfriend of a famous Quebec author/comic/traveler called Bruno Blanchet. The poutine itself tasted exactly like in Canada, except for the cheese that was not squeaky and kind of melted into the sauce. It actually made me think of the poutine my high school used to serve:
Oh yeah, we also had a minor culinary escapade in Bangkok’s Chinatown with some friendly people we met. The street where they sold food was all illuminated and it looked really cool!
We did quite a lot of sightseeing as well. It would have been super awesome to stay in Bangkok longer than a week before there was so much to see, but we did manage to visit some amazing places like the Grand Palace, the Wat Phra Kaew, Wat Pho, Temple of Dawn and the Ayutthaya ancient city. We spent an entire morning at the Grand Palace grounds… it really held its name, as all the buildings there were absolutely huge and heavily decorated.
Beside the Grand Palace is the Wat Phra Kaew, a really big temple which houses the most sacred Buddha statue in all of Thailand: the emerald Buddha! This Buddha statue is actually made of jade, but is very old and quite a long history… it came from Chiang Mai (north of Thailand) and was in the hands of Laotian kings for more than 200 years, but has been taken back by the Thailand kings a few hundred years ago. Anyway, the temple itself was pompously decorated with glittering pieces of mirrors, and is a masterpiece just by itself:
Around the temple is a large enclosure that features extremely detailed paintings telling some ancient Thai legends and folklore (I think!) They were really impressive:
There was also a garden with a super cute frog… haha I couldn’t resist taking this picture:
We then went to visit Wat Pho – which is just an excuse to see the gigantic reclining Buddha – a statue measuring 53 meters long! It’s so big, I couldn’t get a picture of it. Only it’s head… sorry!
Outside the Central Palace group of buildings is a really cool amulet market. They sell rare Buddha figurines, phallus shaped amulets, bracelets made out of teeth, yant cloth, but the weirdest thing are these replicas of famous monks… they looked so real, it was the creepiest thing ever!
What is cool about Bangkok is its canals and rivers. If there is a traffic jam at rush hour, everything stops and it makes traveling around a pain in the ass if you’re not using the metro or the sky train. Luckily, there is an awesome “bus-boat” system that takes you to many places by water! It’s much more fun and only costs a little bit more than taking the bus. Our local “boat station” still had debris and remains of the floods that happened only a few weeks ago.
But yeah, Bangkok itself was absolutely dry and that is the only thing we saw that was left over from the floods. Anyway, back to the canals and rivers… we tried their bus-boat system, and it proved to be really cool! We used it to visit the Temple of the Dawn (Wat Arun), located on the other side of the main river.
We could climb on the top of the Stupa and see the city from it. The climb was ok – a bit steep, but not that much… but the resulting view was outstanding!
Ayutthaya, another site that we visited, is actually the ancient capital of Thailand. It was influenced by Sri Lankian, Indian and Cambodian architecture, but has been violently destroyed by the Burmese in the 1700’s (hence relocating to Bangkok). We took a tour for this one, as it included transportation, English guide, entrance to the sites and an all-you-can-eat buffet lunch (for 15$ each!)
The tour started weirdly though, as it stopped on the way to Ayutthaya to drop us off at a strange monastery under the name of Wat Niwetthammaprawat. What makes this monastery so strange? It was built under the orders of the eccentric King Rama V (we are now at Rama IX if it gives you an idea) to look like European buildings! It was unreal, we really didn’t feel like we were in Thailand.
But the weirdest was a church, which served as a Temple with buddhas and everything! So it was build exactly like a basilica but it served for Buddhism and had none of the “normal” Jesus statues and stuff.
Anyway, after this we went to Ayutthaya, for real. The first site we visited was called Wat Mahathat, and was in total ruins. The buildings were made with bricks and some of them are leaning dangerously towards the ground – as if they were falling (just like mini towers of Babel!)
The Burmese destroyed all the Buddha statues and stole their heads and arms:
But I think some heads were too big or too heavy, so they just left them laying around… one of them was left beside a tree, which has slowly taking it over with its roots! It looks really really cool – check it out:
This area of Ayutthaya was cruelly flooded for 5 months… (usually the floods lasts a week or two?) and you could see the trace that the water left on the ruins:
The next site we went to visit was Wat Phukhao Thong (Golden Temple), which was built in 1387. You can also climb the Stupa of this one, and see a nice view of Ayutthaya:
After this, we went to another ancient site, whos particularities featured many bell-shaped Stupas. They apparently contained some relics like the king’s ashes and the ashes of his many, many wives. There was also a palace I think, but the Burmese once again destroyed it!
Right next to this site is a temple called Thanon Si Sanphet, which houses a very famous and revered bronze Buddha. It survived all the Burmese attacks!
And finally, we visited YET another ancient ruined temple (Wat Lokayasutha) which had almost nothing left except for this other big reclining Buddha. Apparently, it represents the moment at which a giant was unwilling to pay respect to the Buddha because he was proud of his huge body. The Buddha desired the giant to be less arrogant, so he turned himself as much larger than the giant!
It’s now midnight and I’m on a shaky night bus to Chiang Mai. It’s Thailand’s biggest city and apparently home to its best food… I’m very excited to try some of it, it’s going to be KILLER!
OH! It will be Christmas in a few days. Hope you guys your food and gifts and party time! Cheers and have a drink for me!!!!!