Our trip to Asia began in Bangkok. If you follow me on Instagram, you know that we went to Asia last month. My father is from Thailand and he has a large extended family who still lives there. I have been going to Bangkok every four or five years since I was a baby. However, I don’t speak the language and don’t know very much about the culture since dad left everything behind when he immigrated more than 40 years ago.
Since I was a teenager, I have noticed fairly radical changes in the Bangkok landscape and skyline as Thailand went through heavy economic development and then then nearly burst apart in the late 1990s. My last trip in 2009 and then my most recent trip this year has really opened my eyes to how much economic progress Thailand has made since the early 2000s. In the early 2000s, parts of the city looked like a wasteland with skeletons of half-finished skyscrapers looming on the horizon. Much of the construction was at a standstill since there was no more money.
Today, Bangkok is a sprawling, sweltering, chaotic city of over eight million people. But it is also incredibly cosmopolitan now with amenities that rival any other big city.
Because I have so much family in Bangkok, we always spend a lot of time visiting people and eating. And eating. And eating some more. This is my confession: I don’t like Thai food (or much Asian cuisine in general). I really feel like I’ve given it a fair shot and I do still try things, but it’s just too exotic for my tastes. I admit to being the terrible westerner who orders western food everywhere we go. That said, one of my uncles had just visited Italy about a month before we arrived. I asked him how he liked the food and he said not so much. So I started to feel less guilty about my dislike of Thai food and started to embrace the various forms of spaghetti bolognese that I found on nearly every menu. Anyway, because of all of the social eating that goes on, we didn’t have as much time as I would have liked for tourism in Bangkok.
We did manage to visit two floating markets while in Bangkok. The markets are also something that have changed quite a bit since I was a kid. They were certainly touristy before, but now it feels nearly manufactured. The floating markets are still quite the site to see and are fun places to hang out and eat and drink, but the authentic feeling isn’t really there anymore.
The Amphawa floating market is about an hour or so outside of Bangkok. It is fairly large with shops and restaurants lining a canal. Vendors float along the canal selling their wares from boats, while touristy longtail speed boats offer tours up and down the canal. I think it’s better to go in the morning to see more of the vendors. We were there in the evening and mostly saw the longtail boats. But it was still fun to see the shops and eat right on the canal.
The second market was Taling Chan. We did a longtail boat tour of the Thon Buri part of Bangkok and stopped at the market one Saturday morning. There were several vendors with people cooking right on their boats. The market has a sitting area where you can eat. There is also a regular market on dry land just a few steps away from the canal, and it sells mostly food items.
Another “market” that we visited on the last night was Asiatique, a night market. One of my cousins told me about it and it was not at all what I imagined it would be. First of all, it is very new, just a few years old. It is kind of like an outdoor covered mall. The shops range from typical Thai souvenirs such as toy tuk tuks, tee-shirts, figurines, wood carving items, etc., to very modern young creator fashions, stylish housewares and, of course, food. It’s a fun place to spend an evening and there is even a Ferris wheel. We were going to take a ride on it, but it started pouring down rain and we left before the rain ended.