September 20, 2011

Stop Over 2 – Bangkok – Part II

It must really be unfair if I talk about a city without talking about how lively its night markets are, how innovation spills out from the imagination of its street vendors, how the food that get served on the streets attacks all your senses at once.

KSS typically puts us up in decent hotels, allowing us easy access to the city centre and for Bangkok, it must be Sukhumvit. From the Sukhumvit Station, down to Chitlom and onwards to the National Stadium, the streets are as close to heaven as it can get for a shopaholic. From the glittering malls of Paragon, Siam Discovery, Central World, to the Indian favourite MBK, all that you can ask for, is under a few roofs.

I remember when I was still in Pilani, Tantra T shirts were a rage. And then like all industrious Indians, the shops in Palika BAzar started hoarding up on T shirts that proudly proclaimed – “Beer Belly” or “My Dad is an ATM”. However, they were still very expensive for a college kid who had spent up all his money buying T shirts from every department in his college.

As I walked around Erawan, I realized that same kid had grown up just a bit. His T shirt collection had changed to a much sober, much branded and completely collared version of his former self. He had the means now, but not the heart to wear T shirts which said, “King Size” with an arrow pointing downward!
And I sighed and walked on.

But surprisingly, a few shops down the line I was thrilled to wear a strange shop, selling a Brand of T shirts called “No problem”. Somehow, it resonated instantly. You see, my teeny tiny ego always refuses to accept that there might be a problem. So for me it has always been “No problem.” But the catch lay elsewhere. This shop was made for well nourished people. The Large T shirts that they had were the ones that typically would go for a XXL in other countries and brands. What followed is easily imaginable.

The street food in Bangkok is something to look forward to. Where else will you have bananas in a stick, fried over the fire and then beaten down to release the aroma to lure the passer by? And it does not end in just that. Take a walk in the wet markets of the city and you will find exotic fruits and vegetables you probably would never had thought of, if you were from the Western World. The vegetarian in you will shudder to see the variety of meat on display and the Bengali in you might just want to kiss the vendor, not only because she’s super cute, but also because she has the most amazing variety of fresh Fish.

Madam Tussad’s is something perhaps best seen in London, but if you have never been to Europe, you might just head there like I did and click a photograph with Mr. Gandhi who you meet as soon as you would have bowed to the King and Queen and yeah, perhaps sit at the Oval Office with The First Family in Washington looking at you.

Strangely the roads in Bangkok are broad but the traffic is worse than Mumbai, so it’s always a great idea to take the trains or walk. You will come across the huge statue of Rama I and the beautiful Lumphini Park. It’s a peaceful area and you will find the Thais coming there after a hard day’s work or to jog in the mornings. And in the evenings if you have some spare time, you might want to head to the Erawan Shrine (named after the celestial elephant) where the Four Headed Buddha (Actually the Hindu Deity Brahma) watches silently as devotees pour in. The faces are the “Face of Peace and Health, Face of Good Fortune, Face of Good Relationships and Face of Protection against Evil.” It’s also the place where probably you will find the traditional dancers helping you to make a connection to the World beyond, helping you get your prayers be heard. It apparently is sort of a customized prayer service that you can request for. Bangkok is also the place where I have seen devotees place bottles of Fanta as offerings along with traditional coconuts. Maybe because a lot of shrines were traditionally spirit houses which protect the land and its inhabitants.

Music fills you as you walk the streets of Bangkok and you realize that there is so much to see and so little time that you will yearn to be back... soon.

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