I arrived in Bangkok in May 2001 on a tourist visa but with the prospect of finding a teaching job. It wasn’t easy for me to find a Filipino with a powerful Tagalog accent when speaking English. They always looked for “Native English speakers” from America, Australia and Europe. So one doesn’t have to be British as long as s/he is European s/he is considered “Native English Speaker”. But that’s not the subject of my post. I just like to babble.
Amazing Thailand – The Land of Smiles is their tourism slogan. If you ever get into trouble, just smile, and they will smile back to you and sort things out for you. But if you fuss, they’ll call the police for you even if it’s not your fault, to begin with. No, I kid. But, seriously, if you show any irritation, they will start to withdraw from you, put all the blame on you, and leave you to sort things out yourself. So remember to always smile. You can win an argument with a smile, and you can go a long way with a smile.
The real name of Bangkok
Did you know that the actual name of Bangkok is the longest in the world? It’s “Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Yuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit”. Try to read it in 30 seconds or less.
I was challenged to memorise it when one boring day during my class, I asked my group of students, 2 Thais, 2 Koreans, 1 Chinese, 1 Taiwanese, who were between 8-10 years old, “What is the real name of Bangkok?” not expecting anyone to answer. Still, I just wanted to break the monotony of the class. But no sooner had I said it than the Thai girl started mumbling, and we all turned our heads to the direction where she was seated and effortlessly reciting it. We were all gobsmacked, and the day turned into an interesting one because we asked her repeatedly to say it. We just loved the tone of her voice, as if she was singing or chanting while reciting it. It really amused us all.
More surprisingly, when I asked her what it meant, she said she didn’t know. Neither did any of the Thai teachers in the school. But I heard from hearsay that it means “City of Angels”. I didn’t think it was true. I asked nearly every Thai I knew, but they couldn’t tell me. I searched high and low, and it all ended in vain. But a few days ago, I googled for it and found that it was true.
When shopping in Thailand, haggling is the rule of the game. Though I look like them, my accent gives it away, and they would give me an exclusive tourist price (ripoff). But after a couple of years in Thailand, I have soon learned how to get the more coveted Thai price (discounted price)–by smiling while haggling.
Where I shop in Bangkok
- Bobae Market – it’s best to go there early morning because that’s when the wholesalers sell. By around 6AM, the retailers come, and obviously, their prices are much higher.
- Pratunam Market – Again, it’s best to come here very early in the morning to avoid the crowd. This place can get very congested.
- Chinatown – You can go anytime but if you want a real bargain, find the auction site, which goes every night starting at 10. This is good if you’re going to buy multiple items to be retailed.
- Chatuchak – This is where to buy crafts, souvenirs and all that stuff.
- Silom Road and Khao San Road – Aside from being “red districts”, these are two places where you can buy genuine and synthetic leathers, imitation Rolex, Luis Vuitton bags and that kind of stuff, and they are only open at night.
- Sidewalk vendors or Night Markets – These are the places I love to frequent because they are closer to where I live, although the prices are much higher. Also, the big supermarkets allow vendors to sell at their front carparks in the evenings.
My Favourite Activities in Bangkok
On normal days, I would chill in my room after work and get out to dine or window shop in the night markets or sometimes or in the shopping centres. Taking a walk in one of the parks like the King’s Park, The Queen’s park, or the Lumpini Park was a nice recreation during weekends. Eating at a buffet restaurant was also a good treat from time to time.
During long weekends, my friends and I go jetskiing at Pattaya Beach and see around the city. Another place I loved was Bangsaen beach which is not very popular with foreigners but with the locals. Sometimes I would get on the river taxi boat and get to the end of the stops near China Town and go around by myself looking for cheap stuff, pirated DVDs, and that kind of stuff. I prefer being alone because I don’t have to wait for someone. I am pretty much a solo adventurer than going with a group.
A couple of years before left Bangkok, Thailand, shopping centres, including the new airport, Suvarnabhumi, started displaying gigantic Christmas trees. My so-called friends and I would go there on weekend nights and take pictures at their mocked winter Christmas set-up. It was good fun!
Part of the things that I miss in Bangkok is buying sacks of fruits in season, sit like a Buddha, and feast on them.
Places I’ve seen
- Wat Phra Kaew – The Grand Palace – dress modestly to be allowed to enter the temple of the Emerald Buddha
- Ancient City – a miniature of Thailand featuring all dynasties in different periods that ruled the country.
- Crocodile Farm – Elephant shows, crocodile shows and other entertainment
- Floating Market – nice one, but they’re an absolute ripoff to tourists.
- Safari World – a mini safari, you can go around it in about 2-3 hours.
- Dream World – an entertainment park
- Hua Hin
- Prachuap Kirikhan
- Koh Samed Island
I love my life in Bangkok, although there are hard times as a foreigner, I am excited about living here!