Going to Thailand, India, China or Myanmar, you are already subconsciously waiting for a new experience, something you don’t know yet. This is what Bangkok can become - a city that opens the door to a new world perception. Despite the fact that the city is becoming more Americanized and striving to meet the global standards of a large metropolis, it still manages to preserve its charming Thai identity.
Let shopping, restaurants and faceless skyscrapers revel in the West. The real Bangkok is hidden behind the walls of temples and monasteries, where the ideas of Buddhism are still strong, in the narrow klong channels, where people live like they lived hundreds of years ago. Instead of modern cars, wooden boats are used here, products are bought in floating markets, not in supermarkets, and they are engaged in traditional crafts instead of daily living in stuffy offices.
The canal system is organized according to the principle of ordinary streets with its own roads, intersections, and small alleys. Initially 170 channels were built here, but with the advent of civilization, some of them were bombarded for the construction of new hotels and shops. This area is called the "wrong side" of Bangkok. Along the canal are residential wooden houses on stilts. Here you can see rotten slums, huge monitor lizards, Buddhist temples, hammocks, a life style device, an entertaining process of river washing, sleeping right on the lepers' boards.
In the background of this depressing picture stretches a panorama of radiant modern architecture. Poverty and luxury. They say that no city in the world has so many contrasts. People live in klongs for whole generations, some of them do not have the opportunity and health to get out of there. Due to the abundant humidity and the rainy season, many houses rot and fall into the water, exuding a rotten smell and creating an attractive environment for mosquitoes. Epidemiologists consider klongs to be a source of infections, and the dull-brown color of the water involuntarily suggests such a thought.
Today, the klongs as a historical object of Thai history and culture are on the verge of extinction. On the one hand, doctors do not stop worrying about the health of the "middle class", on the other hand, businessmen call the channels fertile ground for investment. Klong can be filled up, the land can be sold and built by a fashionable hotel, which will bring an annual profit to the owner.
Anyway, Thailand is a third world country, and many have to survive on the streets and in slums, especially in such densely populated cities as Bangkok. It is not at all uncommon to see old people living in carts, hovels made of cardboard and plywood, children sleeping on the hot asphalt. Thousands of unfortunate destinies, hunger, need, lack of shelter - this is a common global problem. If the klongs disappear, people disappear, friendly smiles, live black eyes will evaporate. It is unlikely that they will be remembered by people from the West, obsessed with beautiful clothes in the new store, built on the site of the old rotten barracks.
How to watch klong?
1. Express Boat Service
There is an express boat service from the pier near the Krung Thep Bridge in Bangkok. Ticket prices range from 6 to 15 baht. From the river you can see the Temple of Dawn, the Grand Royal Palace and Thammasat University. To do this, get to the marina Tha Chang and Tha Phra Chan. The express boat service is open from 6.00 to 20.00.
2. Khlong Mon
Boats from Tha Tian Pier, located at Wat Pho, depart every 30 minutes, daily from 6.30 to 18.00.
3. Khlong Bang Khu
Low-cost ferries depart from Tha Chang Wharf near the Grand Palace every 20 minutes from 6.15 to 20.00. The route passes through the floating Market Khu Wiang, operating from 4.00 to 7.00.
Smile for no reason
Over 90% of Bangkok’s population is Buddhist. As it is accepted all over the world, religion here has a great influence on the people's world view. Thais are friendly, calm, do not like to conflict, tolerate human sins (therefore there are so many homosexuals, prostitutes and transsexuals). The main thing is self-development and the search for the Buddha in oneself; therefore, the spiritual is much more important here than the external and material. That is why the free appearance of passers-by does not even surprise: feminine men in skirts and knotted dreadlocks to the toes are not uncommon, but an everyday phenomenon. The state of "sanuk", that is, getting pleasure from life - a natural component of Thai philosophy. They love to quote Osho, give orchids and smile just like that.
Buddhists honor customs and traditions. The offering is an obligatory daily ritual. You can make an offering in the temple, at a small pagoda on the street, or hand fruit to a wandering monk. Thais do not like to expose the wealth of their gifts and often just put nuts, bananas, flowers, a bottle of Coca-Cola with a straw and light a incense stick to Buddha. Particularly exotic is the pagoda opposite the go-go bar and the priestess of love, hurrying to work, which suddenly stops and carefully lays out the mandarin slices. Buddha is tolerant, he loves everyone!
Pilgrims and Buddhists from all over the world come to Bangkok. Wide smiles, kind words, orange clothes of monks, ringing of bells, aromas of lotuses and incense are found in all Buddhist places. These are the Royal Palace and Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew), Temple of the Reclining Buddha (Wat Pho), Temple of the Golden Buddha, Temple of the Dawn of Wat Arun and Temple of the Wat Ratchanadda.
These are only the largest and most popular tourist attractions. In total, the city has about 400 temples and monasteries. Which one to visit is up to you. In any case, all the temples are of high importance and cultural value, beautiful and interesting to visit. In addition, in monasteries you can ask to live for free for several days, get up with the monks early in the morning, meditate, study their customs, feel deeper and the influence of the great religion on your life.
Bangkok, founded by King Rama I in the 18th century, for several centuries turned from a small provincial village into a global metropolis of Asia, ready to compete with Hong Kong and Shanghai. The global standards imposed by America are gradually crowding out the old city: the klong canals are falling asleep, the “yellow plague” with a limited menu is crowding out street cafes on wheels with a variety of fruits and traditional cuisine.
Will Thailand resist the onslaught and defend identity - no one knows. However, it is increasingly common to believe that authentic Bangkok is better, more beautiful, freer, no matter how dirty its wrong side.