Bangkok

Picture of skyline Our time in Bangkok was.. sporadic. We flew in and out four times while we were in southeast Asia and mostly used it as a transport hub visiting both airports multiple times as well as the train station. We stayed in three different parts of the city and generally managed a day or most of a day sightseeing each time we were in town. This is picture is from our hotel in the 'downtown' section of Bangkok which is a mass of new looking skyscrapers, gigantic malls and of course, traffic.
Picture of chao_phraya This view is from one of the transit boats that travel up and down the Chao Phraya river through Bangkok. The river isn't really all that central to most of Bangkok. Most of the city is on the east side of the river but only the older section of town is generally along the river. This part of town has no service from the skytrain or underground train so the boats are the best way to get around.
Picture of palace_from_river We were here to see the Grand Palace which is perhaps the single biggest attraction in the city. It's a complex of temples, pavillions, green spaces and of course, palaces. It was a hot and hazy day when we visited so the colors just don't seem as vibrant as they might be in bright sunlight.
Picture of yaksa This is a yaksa or yaksha. They guard some of the wats (temples) in the Grand Palace. They're important enough in Thai history and folklore that they represent one of the letters of the alphabet which seems to usually get translated as 'ogre' into English. This one is in front of Wat Phra Kaew in the temple section of the palace. The temple section is probably the most impressive for visitors unless maybe you're actually invited inside the royal palaces.
Picture of guardians There are a slew of mythological creatures around the Wat including the yaksha, kinnara (half bird, half human), Tantima birds and of course all the naga (half human half snake) you'd ever want to see.
Picture of stupa What is all this about? Well besides being the center of Thai Buddhism, the Emerald Buddha is housed here. You can visit it (you'll need to dress modestly and remove your shoes at the entrance) but you can't take pictures or really even see it all that well. It's way up on top of some other structures in a central building. We heard legends about the Emerald Buddha in Thailand (of course) but also in Laos and Cambodia. They vary significantly and we are pretty sure we can't repeat any of them without offending someone from one of the other countries involved. You'll have to look them up on your own.
Picture of flower_roof We really wish it had been better lighting on the day we visited. The colors and the buildings here are really quite fabulous but the pictures don't do them justice. The Wat and the palace in general were crowded during our visit and the space they had made for lines to form were not even remotely full. It was quite hot (this is always true in Bangkok as far as we know). They do sell bottled water within the Wat.
Picture of palace This is Chakri Maha Prasat, the throne room of the actual palace. Nothing here is really all that old - Bangkok became the capital in 1782 a few years after the fall of Ayutthaya. The palace buildings are generally newer than that - this dates from the late 1800s. There is also a museum on site in the Grand Palace. The rooms are a bit spartan but it does have an interesting collection.
Picture of mall This picture features the two main components of most of Bangkok from our perspective: malls and traffic. The malls are enormous and are practically small cities by themselves. You may be thinking.... malls? Yes, malls. We have a natural aversion to even hearing the word normally but they have a role in Bangkok life and they tend to be kind of interesting. Beyond the shops and large number of restaurants, they also have cinemas, aquariums, playgrounds, skating rinks, TV studios. Really you have no idea what you might find inside. As for the traffic... well it's as bad as everyone says and yet it didn't really impact us much. We planned our cross-city trips such that we took the sky train when traffic was bad and otherwise traveled early in the morning or late at night.
Picture of in_night_market This is a so-called night market. They are generally open from dusk until late at night. There's still a bit of daylight in this picture but this is just shortly before a torrential rainstorm arrived and we don't have any pictures from afterwards because we were hiding in a nearby mall. Of course a mall. This is Rod Fai, the 'Train Market', one of the largest in Bangkok. There is a lot of street food at the night markets. If you're visiting Thailand, and particularly Bangkok, street food is essential. For one thing you can try far more items than you could at a restaurant. Some places sell food by the bite - like the fried insects we paid a few Baht just to sample. Probably one was enough.
Picture of night_market Here's another picture of Rod Fai Market after the rain arrived. Rain sort of kills the spirit of the market a bit, all the tents close up partially and while you can eat inside some of them, you lose the ability to see rows upon rows of interesting food.

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