Thailand: Urban Aerobics and Eating Animal-Free in Bangkok

December 3rd, 2011 · Lisa · restaurant review, Travel · Comments
It is very surreal to stay in a foreign city with friends who live there. The surroundings are different but inside the apartment it feels like home. Being with Jennifer has made it so easy to navigate Bangkok that I already feel incredibly comfortable – although the language barrier creates some communication challenges – Thailand’s most popular tourist destination boasts English signs and descriptions everywhere.On Friday I decided to venture out on my own to put my orienteering skills to the test.I thought it would be interesting to make my way downtown using the khlong boat taxi through the canal system. I stepped down to the dock and jumped into the packed commuter taxi full of well-dressed Thais on their way to the office. We went one stop (after I paid for my ticket) before we were all ushered off. I was told by the ticket-taker (who’s other job is pulling riders from the boat onto the dock quickly from the moving taxi) that the post-flood water levels were too low and the taxi route was closed until further notice. Information I would have preferred before boarding.

That’s how I found myself on a packed bus darting through rush-hour traffic with no English speaking advisors. The woman selling tickets happily took my money and agreed to tell me when to get off. But later when she found a passenger to help with translation she realized we had already past my destination. She was incredibly apologetic and asked me to sit down and relax while the bus started the route all over. I took a deep breath and stifled a giggle. Here we go…

On the second go around I was pushed from the bus (gently) at the right corner and quickly found a sign pointing toward the Golden Mount. I crossed over the khlong – where I originally planned to depart – watched a couple of kids fishing in the murky waters and pushed on toward the golden gleam of my next stop.

The Golden Mount sits high a top the city. I climbed the spiral staircases and stared out at the view of this massive metropolis. There is a temple at the peak where you can pay your respect to the beautiful Buddha and request a fortune. I wasn’t sure I was ready to read what the universe has in store so I passed on the paper and put my own hopes into my heart.

I walked down the winding route and through some of the cities side streets. Took a quick stop in the area where people were pounding steel bowls – but despite the repetitive rhythm there was little activity happening that early in the morning.

I continued on to tour the Wat Suthat a small temple with an amazing collection of Buddhas and massive painted murals. It is a bit off the tourist trail making it a peaceful place for quiet contemplation.

Personally, I find my most moving moments are spent surrounded by nature rather than inside a man-made structure, so I continued on to Rommaninat Park. One of my favourite finds in Bangkok is the way that exercise equipment is installed in all the public parks. I love watching the people making use of the circuit system built around the park’s perimeter – similar to how benches are set up back home. Above is a helpful sign from the park providing an exercise routine for all the visitors. Very thoughtful.

Along the streets lining the park I found store after store stocked full of temple supplies. It is a bit unbelievable to contemplate the amount of industry involved with maintaining the cities spiritual sites. I found it very interesting to see a Buddha gain its golden glow thanks to some yellow spackel.

I continued my urban hike up to Khao San Road. A popular destination for backpackers working their way through Asia. The streets are lined with neon signs selling everything from dirt-cheap guest houses to sensual Thai massages. In contrast to Jennifer’s upscale neighbourhood this area feels a bit chaotic. Shops are piled high with cheap trinkets, drinks flow freely throughout the day and people seem to be dressed in as little as possible. I think I would have loved to spend a few nights here if I was touring through Asia back in my twenties – but now I savour the sweet bliss of clean sheets and ensuite bathrooms.
Close to Khao San Road and across the street from May Kaidee’s is another vegan-friendly restaurant called ethos. I stopped in to refuel with a cool glass of ginger tea and big plate of tropical fruit. The menu is extensive and well labeled! If you’re looking for a place to try typical Thai cuisine without the concerns about the additions of fish sauce, MSG and sugar than this is a great spot to settle on. If it was closer to my home base I would be visiting a lot more often to try all the spicy curries and vegan desserts on offer.
I kept walking for a few more hours, peaking into interesting shops and strolling along Bangkoks busy streets. The whole city is getting dressed up for the King’s birthday, medians are adorned with huge photo bill boards and beautiful yellow floral displays. Eventually I grew tired in the mid-day sun and caught a taxi home for less than $2.
That evening Jennifer and I jumped on the Skytrain to meet her friend Kaitlyn at Rasayana, Bangkok’s raw vegan restaurant. It was such a treat to have a huge menu of Lisa-friendly food. I jumped at the chance to enjoy a kale salad and a bowl of banana macadamia nut ice cream. Everything I tried was delicious and very filling. We pushed ourselves away from the table holding our bellies filled with amazing eats.
Saturday morning I found myself stolling the maze of vendors at Bangkok’s Chatuchak market. I spent a few hours wandering around the stalls, checking out the incredible array of clothing, housewares, antiques, crafts….etc. You can find almost anything you can imagine in the abundant aisles. My biggest goal was not getting lost. I picked up a few small trinkets but kept my luggage total in mind.
Jennifer and I spent a quiet Saturday evening at home – catching up and chatting well into the night. Sunday we’re hosting a potluck group – where I’ll share my talk on the Healing Power of Plants.
p.s. I’ve started planning my visit to Australia. It looks like I’ll be there for more than two weeks so I’ve decided on a side-trip to Sydney. If you happen to have any advice on accommodations or destinations please leave me a note. I know it is an expensive place to visit but I’m determined to spend some time looking out over that glorious harbour.

Thank you all for sharing this adventure with me. Your comments provide so much comfort for this solo-traveller. I love feeling like you’re all along for the ride. xo

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