14 Things You Probably Do Not Know About Bangkok
Bangkok is worth coming to. It is a robust, full-bodied city with a lot of fascinating places, people, customs and quirks. The following are just a few of the myriads of surprises and novelties awaiting you in this singularly beautiful city.
1. Bangkok is a melting pot. Twelve million people and a steady stream of visiting tourists makes Bangkok a cauldron of culture and a beehive of human activity.
2. Thai food is amazingly complex. Thai cuisine is said to be very complex—marrying no less than 5 of the food tastes such as salty, spicy, sweet, bitter and sour. Yet the wonder of it all is that it comes across the palate as balanced. It’s as if the food is a reflection of everything else that is elaborate in Thailand—from the ornate Thai temples to the delicately-embellished artwork.
3. Bangkok restaurants are high in decibel. Brace yourself for hyper-amplified music when you dine in Bangkok restaurants. It’s definitely not the place for lovers to whisper sweet nothings as you probably have to shout to each other to be heard.
4. Bangkok food is for the gustatory acrobats. Bangkok is a haven for the culinary adventurists. Fried bugs and scorpions are commonplace in food stalls along Bangkok streets. If you’re fond of salad bars, then you simply must try the Bangkok version—the noodle bar-- where you can jazz up your noodles with different sauces and seasonings.
5. You need not worry about spelling in Bangkok. The Thai alphabet is so elaborate, even Thai kings misspell their words. So don’t worry too much about spelling everything right, as the locals are quite forgiving.
6. Khao San Road is the backpacker’s mecca in Bangkok. Visit Khao San and you sniff a whiff of real Bangkok. Here merrily coexist the honest-to-goodness vendors and pickpockets as well as wide-eyed tourists and the totally-immersed expats.
7. The Temple of the Dawn is the dawn of vertigo. If you are a little scared of heights, do not ever attempt to climb up the dizzying heights of this temple.
8. Not all that comes in uniforms are police. There are “tourist police” who will “guide” you to “vendors” in some supposedly scenic tourist spots. You will find out much too late that the spots are not scenic at all and the fake tourists and vendors split their proceeds out of your purchases.
9. The lovely Thai temples are lovely indeed. The places worth your time are the Grand Palace and the Temple of the Golden Buddha. The otherworldly feel and heavy spirituality of the place will leave you awed.
10. Bangkok will rice you to death. Everything in Bangkok comes with rice. In fact, if you need respite from rice, foreign restaurants are the only options.
11. Do the elephants a favor by not giving to elephant-draggers. The sight of a Thai with an elephant tag-along may be so fascinating that you’re tempted to give a tip. Yet it’s animal cruelty personified and should not be encouraged. To view happy and cared-for elephants (not tired and scared ones), go to an elephant sanctuary.
12. Taxis, unlike their drivers, are feminine. Many Bangkok taxis are—of all colors—hot, flirtatious pink. Maybe it’s supposed to soften the arduous trip through jampacked streets.
13. The most-visited museum in Bangkok is a house. Yes, the house of Jim Thompson--the ex-CIA agent and renowned Thai silk merchant—is one of the must-sees in Bangkok. It’s a very Thai, yet elegant wooden house that you would so want to live in.
14. The Floating Market at Amphawa is better than the one advertised for tourists. The Amphawa floating market features dirt-cheap souvenirs, lots of food, fairs and fun—definitely better off than the one at Damnoen Saduak which is cheesy and too touristy to be authentic.