One of my favorite things about having visitors is doing all of the “touristy” things I never seem to find time to do on an average weekend in the city. One of the things I had really been wanting to do was take a boat tour of the canals in Thonburi (across the river from Bangkok). Despite all the visitors we had last year, I was never able to make it over to the other side of the city.
So when Alex’s parents came for a visit a few weeks ago, and the fates aligned to allow us a day off work during their trip, I took my chance!
We enjoyed a relatively cool morning exploring the Grand Palace (I believe this was visit number 2 for me and visit number 5 for Alex) where I continue to tempt fate by bringing a pair of flip flops to change into once I skirt the security guards at the entrance. The rule apparently
is was that all visitors must wear closed-toe and closed-heel shoes to enter the palace (along with covering shoulders and legs).
However, every time we go there I see dozens of people, foreigners and locals alike, wearing much more casual clothes than the “rules” stipulate (although I am familiar with the concept of simply ignoring the “rules” that rages quite rampant here in Thailand, I am such a rule-follower that I wouldn’t dare). But, this time I’m quite pleased to report that I was able to trade my closed-toe, formal wear, palace-appropriate shoes, for the far more comfortable flip flops.
Despite my fear of the eventual embarrassment of being told by one of the security guards to put the other shoes back on, no one seemed to notice, and in fact, at the very end of our visit, my father-in-law spotted that the sign now says that flip flops are acceptable footwear for the palace. Hello comfort! And no more carrying around my decoy “real” shoes all day!
After the palace visit, we headed over to the pier for our canal tour. Amazingly, although Alex hadn’t been there in months, the guy at the little booth actually remembered Alex from his last visit, and off we went without having to negotiate an acceptable price.
The tour we took lasted about an hour and whizzed us through the canals on our own private long-tail boat. It was a bit overcast so most of the pictures are pretty gray, but living in a tropical climate definitely makes you appreciate the cloudy days.
Crossing from one side of the river to the other is like stepping back in time. All along the banks of the canals are traditional Thai houses on stilts, you can see where the water has eroded the banks of the river. We saw kids playing in the water, people bathing, and of course lots of little ladies selling treats from their own boats.
I wish we could have taken a few detours down some of the smaller canals, but the standard route must be pretty clearly mapped out. We saw quite a few other boats speeding through in the opposite direction as well.
I love being able to see the contrast between the modern city we live in on a daily basis and the more traditional, peaceful, pace of life in Thonburi. It’s amazing to me that these places can co-exist only a few minutes from each other, yet be so totally different.
One of the things I love the most about Bangkok is how quickly things seem to change, yet how much of the traditional culture is retained. When we lived in Munich I really felt like I had explored all the nooks and crannies of the city within the first two years. To be honest, I’m not sure I’ll ever have the chance to know Bangkok as well as I knew Munich, and certainly not as quickly. And I have to admit, I love that feeling. I love the idea of all the undiscovered secrets waiting to be found, a new adventure around every corner. I think that’s my kind of city!
What do you like best about the place you live?