HOW I LET LIFE TAKE ME ONTO A DRAGON’S WING IN BANGKOK AND ENDED UP IN THE BEST PLACE IMAGINABLE!
When I got invited on this trip by a magical person in my life, I knew nothing but one thing – I wanted to travel with no plan and a one-way ticket!
So we booked our trip to Vietnam and set off on Christmas Eve! After a couple of delays that resulted in a delicious upgrade to business class with Emirates Airline (which was clearly an up-site) and almost 24 hours spent in hotels, airports and airport lounges, we arrived in Ho Chi Minh city, also knows as Saigon.
Spending a few days in Saigon, resting, hanging out with friends and exploring the city was what I need after a few stressful weeks leading up to the trip, but before we knew it, we ended up in Bangkok for the New Year’s! It was a transit part of the trip, as we already had tickets to a remote island on January 1st to reunite with my amazing friends Alex and Alex (you can read about them here), but we intended to make the best of it.
After losing the battle to jet-lag we woke up at 5 AM in the morning on December 31st, New Year’s Eve, and quickly decided to take the opportunity and greet the sunrise by one of the most famous temples in central Bangkok- Wat Phra Kaew! It came highly recommended and looked incredible from the pictures we have seen. The temple doesn’t open until eight but according to the Internet there were plenty of views to watch the sunrise from the outside of Wat Phra Kaew walls. Well, let’s just say that wasn’t exactly true.
This is exactly what most of the coastal line looks like in Bangkok. Heavily developed and clogged with hotels, restaurants and cafes, it prevents you from getting to any kind of views when the businesses are closed. Finding a place with a clear horizon in that area is almost impossible.
All and all, it feels like most of Thailand has been sold for a penny to the hoards of tourists that are here to devour the cheap pleasures and goods and move on. Very few things felt particularly authentic to me, especially after Vietnam. My experiences with Thailand were mostly very contradictory. Most of the time I felt like a business transaction to the local population rather than a guest in their house.
Bangkok is definitely not representative of Thailand and I didn’t expect it to be, to be honest, but I also didn’t expect the contrast to be as sharp as it was comparing to Vietnam, where everything feels very welcoming and real. Even the dark parts of the country.
So while wandering around the walls of Wat Phra Kaew, we somehow turned a corner and ended up on a food market where locals were getting ready for the day, gifts and offerings were being brought to a local temple for the New Year’s festivities and a huge red Dragon lay between the rows of sweets and dried fruit.
Before we knew it, the sound of the drums filled the air and we were caught in the dance of firecrackers and tremendous energy, I was running through the rows of food and vendors, jumping over the pools of dirty water, tail of my dress in hand, balancing between tuk-tuk carts with my lens in hand, trying to capture the magic that swept the market in a hurricane 0f celebrations. Suddenly, I knew why we were here and not at the walls of the temples. This was my authentic New Years experience! This was not in any guide book, this was real. It found us.
We looked at each other and we both knew that we got invited into this dance of fire and dragons and we had already let ourselves be swept away by the wave.
It was amazing! The people, the kids in the ceremony, the fact that we were the only 2 white faces in the entire area and the sheer authenticity of this experience were mind blowing! And the fact that we didn’t let the circumstances of failed plans determine the outcome of this journey into the last day of the year, was one of the best lessons learned at the end of 2015!
But the day wasn’t over yet! Stay tuned for Part II!