Although the capital city of Thailand is known to the world as Bangkok, local people refer to it as Krung Thep. This is just a shortened version of the actual name which consists of 169 characters and makes for a challenging tongue twister after a few drinks. The full name is Krungthepmahanakhon Amonrattanakosin Mahinthara Yutthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udom Ratchaniwet Mahasathan Amonphiman Awatansathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukamprasit. This roughly translates to - City of angels, great city of immortals, magnificent city of the nine gems, seat of the king, city of royal palaces, home of gods incarnate, erected by Visvakarman at Indra's behest.
A fun game you can play when visiting the temples in Bangkok is trying to find the locations of the ones pictured on Thai baht coins. All of the temples stamped on the back of Thai coins are in Bangkok and it’s possible to see them all in one day.
According to the World Meteorological Organisation, Bangkok is the world’s hottest city. The average air temperature throughout the year is 28 degrees centigrade, but it jumps to a sticky 34 degrees between March and May. Trust me on this – I live in Mumbai where we don’t know what a winter is, and even for me, it was like a never-ending heat wave!
Along with the usual male and female washrooms found everywhere, Thailand is now one of the first countries in the world to introduce a third gender option for transgender people, most commonly known as ladyboys. This option is rare and it is unlikely you will actually encounter such a toilet, but they are out there and you never know where one might crop up. Thailand, and Bangkok in particular, is a very liberal place in terms of sexuality and tolerance towards gender identity.
Fun fact – Red Bull originated from Bangkok! Explains why we all, meaning me and the group of girls I was with, found it much stronger in Thailand than in India ☺
The first thing that comes to my mind when I think of Bangkok is shopping – and that is how I spent most of my day! The malls are humungous and filled with sale items. Since I come from India, bargaining comes naturally to me, but the malls are full of local Thai salespersons that, although they fully expect you to bargain, can be very rude and are ready to shoo you off when you do! By the end of the shopping trip we were speaking Thai English ourselves just to try to get a better deal. We have visited Platinum mall, Terminal 2 and Central Mall, and each one of them needs a full day or more. We did manage to get some good bargains in most places. The most common form of shopping in Bangkok is street shopping which is quite interesting, but be prepared to bargain hard. All the rage right now is getting everything customized - your name on a bag, phone cover, laptop case, key chains, frames, anything you can lay your hands on.
Another aspect of Bangkok I really enjoyed is the massages! Spas and salons offering traditional Thai massage are as common in Bangkok as fruit vendors and hawker stalls. From an aromatherapy and oil massage supposed to trigger your memory amongst other things, to a facial massage that will make your skin glow radiantly, or a Thai foot massage that will ensure your feet and legs are lavished with the attention they deserve. And they are priced quite reasonably too! After an entire day of shopping a one-hour massage is bliss!
My sister and I practice Buddhism so we ended up going to the Kaiakan (Buddhist prayer house) one day to chant – a 3km journey which took us around an hour and a half! I had never before witnessed traffic like this! Even though I come from Mumbai, where traffic is frustrating, I found the traffic in Bangkok bewildering! We abandoned our taxi and jumped into a tuk-tuk (local rickshaw), which appeared to maneuver quicker, but I would definitely suggest the sky train if you have a deadline to meet.
We visited two places during the night - One of the world's most famous red-light districts, Patpong is where it all started -Thailand's Go-Go culture. Its two parallel side streets, between Silom and Surawongse Roads, house around 100 neon-lit strip bars offering naughty shows and the famous pole-dancing entertainment. A friend of mine had never been to the area before so we went to a pingpong show… It is an unforgettable experience.
Another place we visited was W market. It was amazing – all conceivable types of food and drinks with live music, in the open. We, of course, ate local Thai cuisine as it was our last night there. The food was truly delicious – it had this sweet and spicy smell and a fresh aromatic taste to it.
In fact, I had such a good time there that I can’t wait to go back!