Bangkok: Stimuli, Everywhere
Over 8 million people live in Bangkok. Almost 4 million live in LA. 3.5 in Berlin. About 2.5 in Paris. By population alone, Bangkok calls New York City and London peers. It's a force to be reckoned with and a constant onslaught of stimuli in the best way possible. From its traffic and temples to its markets and food, Bangkok amazed and surprised me at every turn.
My first stop was the extravagant Grand Palace & Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew).
A whopping 2+ million square feet, the Grand Palace complex houses tons of temples, halls, and courts built by Thai King Rama I in 1782 after reclaiming the city from 15 years of Burmese reign. The level of detail on every inch of these temples was as humbling as it was confounding (how the F did they even MAKE this?!). Hoards of people visit each day - some to marvel at the architecture, others to pay respects to Buddha.
A 10 cent ferry takes you across the river to Wat Arun, the Temple of Dawn. Personally, this was my favorite, for its more modest, less ornate aire. The climb to the top is not for the weak at heart (VERY steep stairs), but seeing the mosaic up-close is simply unbeatable. The view of Wat Arun at sunset is just a cherry on top.
Capped off the night with a series of Muay Thai fights at the Rachadamnoen Stadium. What a perfect peek into the Thai culture around, and fervor for, boxing. People were standing screaming shouting chanting... Reacting to every punch, kick, and movement of the fighters. They were eating, drinking, enjoying my each other's company. I may have been one of the only Westerners, and certainly one of the only women there, but observing what was going on outside the ring was just as enlightening as what was going on inside of it.
East of the old part of the city, away from the river, is the ever-expanding newer part of town. High rises, malls, and businesses pepper the areas along the newly constructed above-ground subway. Spend some time here - it's a surprising contrast to the architecture of the old part of the city. I spent nearly half a day exploring all the stalls and food vendors at MBK (hundreds of stalls with surprisingly non-aggressive vendors), visiting a local book shop (one of my favorite ways to explore new cities), and getting a much-deserved massage. Feeling rejuvenated and renewed, on my tuk tuk ride home I couldn't help but continue to take it all in - marveling at all the sights, sounds, and smells of every alley of this busy city.