Our flight was as newly planned and arrived in Bangkok around midnight. We took a taxi to the hotel in Sukhumvit 15 for less than 10€ (320 b). We were surprised to see so much activity on the street that late so Ling and I went out after the check in. We soon figured out there were only girls or lady boy in the street, looking for some customers…
In 2012, the rainy season begins on the 2nd of August according to the Buddhist calendar, and this is a holiday: a good opportunity to meet my cousin Hervé who also gets this day off. I got very lucky since Hervé, Punkgy and their 3-month-old son David live also in Sukhumvit, only 500m from the hotel Anna and Ling booked. So I moved to their place, and stayed almost a week there!
Sukhumvit is indeed a popular location within expat as it is the close to the business centre and it is on both Skytrain and subway lines.
A particularity of Bangkok is indeed their mass transportation systems: they have 2 rail-systems run by 2 different companies: the Metropolitan Rapid Transit authority (MRT) run one subway line and connect to the main railways station, and the Bangkok mass Transit Skytrain (BTS) run 2 lines over the roads. As in many other millions cities visited earlier, the trains are modern with air conditioned and have electronic tickets, the MRT having plastic coin instead of a card (credit card form factor): the coin makes it probably even easier to reuse, they probably get less damaged over time than card. Anyway, it is far better than the paper tickets we still have in Europe!
However, the mass transportation systems do not reach (yet?) the historical and touristic centre of Bangkok. The easiest way is to change the line of the BTS until the river, and then take a public boat along the river. A pretty nice drive between the modern hotel tower and traditional simple houses! You also cross huge barges, I saw until 4 linked together and pulled by an extra boat! From Sukhumvit, the ride takes about ½ hour BTS and ½ hour.
This route was my start of my touristic days in Bangkok: Friday was my “Big Buddha” day: first visiting Wat Pho with its 46m long lying Buddha and later Wat Intharawihan with its 26m high Buddha. Wat Pho is actually a huge temple complex, an impressive introduction to Thai temples! Walking through the streets the whole day was amazing: from the huge audio system market to the hindi temple in the middle of the area, I did not enter to Chinatown this time but walked towards the north until the canal and the United Nations building (which remains me Vienna, another major city for the UN regional HQ) and then in the direction of the river to reach the Wat Intharawihan. The Buddha there is not that nice, but the view around is in I later jump into a bus to the main railways station and then the metro back to Sukhumvit…
In Thailand, Buddha is everywhere, and each temple has a huge statue of the Buddha, mostly in gold. Like the beautiful mosque in Iran or some huge Christian cathedral years ago, I got once again impressed how much energy and time the human beings invest in their religious buildings. Those temples are or used to be the centre of the society, where people meet and share their knowledge! The Thai’s Wats are thus very colorful and charged (almost kitsch). The same argument could be used for the rococo churches in Europe.