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Bankok et Thailande

Bangkok: a sensual city - Bangkok, a city of so many golden temples, with giant Buddhas and their enigmatic smiles, with outdoor markets and shops everywhere, with narrow and winding streets running through neighborhoods.  

It is also a metropolis with high rises, a Skytrain snaking between neighborhoods, numerous parks with lush vegetation, huge shopping centers with designer boutiques, large avenues where thousands of cars, looking new and gleaming, move along in a strangely silent city: horns honking are rarely heard in Bangkok. 

And notwithstanding all of that, the city’s cleanliness surprised us.  It is also a city where the gentleness of its inhabitants and their smiles when they salute you with their traditional “wai” is a delightful experience.  After all, Thailand is the “Land of Smiles” and Bangkok, the “City of Angels!”
 

Its river and canals 

Of course, Bangkok is not Venice. Nonetheless the famous Chao Phraya River that languorously weaves its way through the city to the Gulf of Thailand is a vibrant presence. It is crowded with barges, floating restaurants, ferries, canoes and sampans crisscrossing in front of piers so varied that we become dazed.  Hotels rub shoulders with small individual houses that open on the river and are landscaped with many colored plants, and temples are erected next to condos.  We can even catch a glimpse of gold when sailing in front of the Royal Barge National Museum, those beautifully carved and decorated majestic golden barges which formerly served as war vessels and are now used on official ceremonies. 

The river opens into a maze of canals that are like crisscrossing streets leading to more residential, tranquil and secluded areas. The vegetation grows more freely in the country-like lanes and you can even find fruit tree plantations.  They are only large enough for a sampan to enter and tourist boats seldom sail those small creeks, which are worth a glimpse!

The Taling Chan floating market can be found on one of the “klongs.”  Open on weekends only, it is still a typical market known to few tourists. In this amazing maze of small boats we can buy anything - or almost anything - but most of all, we can taste the food cooked right before us on the boats that sway along the market and stop long enough to serve you.  A real treat for all your senses!

The famous and very touristic Damnoen Saduak market, located at 100 km from Bangkok, was not recommended to us.

The bridge on the River Kwai

You might be tempted to visit this bridge, made famous by the David Lean film.  And when doing so, you will probably be deceived, just as we were, since the bamboo bridge starring in the film was reconstructed after the Second World War and resembles every other steel and concrete one. In other words, it has lost all of its romanticism.  Since it is located 130 km from Bangkok, we would recommend renting the movie at your favorite video store instead!

Its temples, pagodas and museums

We have mentioned the temples (wat) and pagodas (chedi) with their golden spires.  Here are a few that we think are worth visiting.

The Grand Palace with its numerous golden pavilions houses the most revered temple in all of Thailand, the Wat Phra Kaeo, the temple of the Emerald Buddha, a statue carved in jade.

The Wat Pho, the largest and oldest temple in Bangkok is home to hundreds of monks wrapped in their orange tunics living off of offerings from visitors.  In the nirvana room of the temple lies the mammoth gold-plated Reclining Buddha with its inlaid mother of pearl soles, representing the 108 states of the life of Buddha.

The Wat Suthat and its colossal wooden doors are carved with floral motifs and lush jungle vegetation.

The National Museum, most of it housed in a beautiful palace, is where a vast collection of artifacts traces the cultural heritage of the country.  It features art collections and antique artifacts that were found in ruins from all parts of the country.

Food for every sense

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