Thursday, November 28, 2013

The first post - Bangkok

I was having a chat with my friend, Tauseef and we were recounting some old memories. Most of them were related to trips we had taken together.

I always wanted to get back to blogging and what better to do it about than the experiences of my travels. Over the past couple of years, I feel that I have traveled more than a decent amount - both in India and internationally. So, there is a fair bit that can be shared.

I would start off this hopefully continuous series of posts with my trip to Bangkok.

Whenever anyone talks about a trip to Thailand, the images that come to mind are beaches, markets, massage places etc. However, my trip was very different from these cliched images that Thailand is connected to. That may partially be due to the purpose of my visit - watch Liverpool in action for the first time in my life, but even in my free time it was a different kind of experience.

I had a total of 2.5 days in Bangkok. I landed at the Bangkok airport around noon, took the metro (which became my primary mode of transport for the next 3 days - very convenient for the places I needed to travel to) and reached my hotel around 3 pm. The hotel was located in Nana, near all the shopping places, so there was plenty of window shopping opportunities for the shopping enthusiasts. I, however was not one of them.

On my way to the hotel, I had seen huge malls about 2 kms from Nana. So, decided to take a walk and spend my evening going around the malls and street shops. One very interesting thing was the presence of worship places right outside malls - and not like in India where it generally is a small structure. It was proper huge statues, most probably maintained by the city or the mall itself.

Temples dedicated to Brahma and Ganesha outside malls

I decided to join in and lit a few agarbattis and candles myself. That is when I actually thought to myself that this trip would be so different to the one that my friends who visited Thailand have told me about.

And as I do with most of my trips, I decided to visit Hard Rock Cafe. I was wearing HRC Tokyo T-shirt and a LFC cap and this deadly combination led to me getting a royal treatment at HRC - due to a waitress there a big LFC fan herself. I got a front row seat to the live performance and had a great time before I retired back to my hotel.

Next day was the D-day - the day when I would watch my heroes play. After taking a boat ride during the day on the river, I reached the hotel where I needed to pick up my ticket (the ticket was arranged through a friend in Standard Chartered). What I did not know was that the hotel was the same place where the team was staying. I got to see the team leaving the hotel for the venue at close quarters before I collected my ticket.

Liverpool team getting on the bus
Transportation to the stadium was also arranged. The second surprise of the day was that my ticket entitled me access to the pre-match hospitality area. I could meet two greats of Liverpool - Ian Rush (top scorer for Liverpool) and Robbie 'God' Fowler. The pictures I clicked with them and their signatures are my most prized possessions now.

With Ian Rush - over 350 goals for the reds
With Robbie 'God' Fowler
Now came the time for the actual match. Enter the stadium - its a sea of Red with all fans singing "You'll Never Walk Alone". I was thinking to myself that if this could give me goosebumps, what would a match at Anfield do to me. Now I have decided that a trip to Anfield is imminent not too far in the future.

The sea of red
The match was exciting with goals from Coutinho, Aspas and Gerrard sealing the match for the Reds. I was thinking of what to do post the match when I received a message from my brother that LFC fans from India and other places are meeting at a pub near my hotel. I decided to join in and spent a great time singing Liverpool songs with members of LFC fan club from Mumbai, Delhi and Hong Kong - some really dedicated supporters and great people.

I had my flight back to India next night and hence had the whole of next day to myself. While taking the boat ride, I had seen the two temples - Wat Pho and Wat Arun and somehow I felt  urge to visit them. So, my plan for the last day was set.

I woke up in the morning, checked out of my hotel and left for the boat station. I took a boat to Wat Pho, which is famous for the largest Reclining Buddha statue. Enter the complex and you feel and instant calmness inside you.
World's largest reclining Buddha
It is a huge complex with a number of temples or praying areas inside the complex. Be it sitting in peace in one of those buildings, being in awe of the huge Buddha statues or dropping 108 coins in 108 bowls, it was an immensely satisfying experience.

I spent 2-3 hours there and then waited for my boat to travel across the river to Wat Arun (Temple of the dawn). I crossed the river and was greeted by this steep temple structure. I thought what a great view awaits me at the top.

So, I climbed the structure and the view did not disappoint. There was the, 'I came, I saw, I conquered' feeling. After clicking some pictures, it was time to get down and that was when I actually realized how steep the steps were - more of a struggle for someone like me who is afraid of heights. I almost literally crawled down the steps.
I came, I saw, I conquered

and then I was overwhelmed by the steep steps 
I visited a couple of praying areas inside Wat Arun as well and got a sacred thread tied by one of the monks there (something I still have wrapped around my wrist).

I had not even realized that it was almost time for me to leave. I seemed to have an inner peace that day after the great day I had spent at the two temples - maybe helped by the fact that for the first time in my life, I was travelling alone.

I reached the to the city center, bought souvenirs for my friends and had to rush to the airport. Sitting at the airport, taking stock of what I had done over the last three days, I was satisfied with the trip I had and had no regrets.

Useful Tips
1. Use the metro and the public boats wherever possible - the most efficient mode of travel
2. Don't get fleeced into entering into massage places - be careful of what you are getting into
3. Bargain while shopping - good bargainers can get really great deals

Must visit places
1. The Grand Palace
2. The temples - Wat Pho and Wat Arun (do take the steps to the top of Wat Arun)
3. The shopping areas
4. The floating market

Photo Gallery

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