Sawasdee ka, what are you looking for?

Mai Pen Rai

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The moment the cockpit doors open you find yourself with the feeling of an oven door being opened. You wander down the umbilical cord hallway, anticipating your adventure into the unknown. Sweat has already begun to coagulate on your forehead as you face the heat wave, but your stomach growls.

The hunger intensifies as you salivate and dream of a green curry, a pad Thai, or some Massaman. Yet, you find yourself oddly struck by the massive amount of western food sprawled across the airport. Subway? Old McDonald? Your mind trails off; this isn't what you had expected. As you make your way into the city center, the taximeter runs and you find yourself staring at billboards of Coca Cola ads and cleverly placed makeup adverts.

You ponder to yourself as you stand in Siam Square, "Why is this so much like Los Angeles? London? Home?" You didn't come across the world to feel something so familiar, your heart pumps for something divine. Movie theaters, western restaurants, gigantic malls hosting brand name clothes for sale, you feel this is all so familiar. It's in that moment that your nose tingles of spices and meat cooking from an alleyway.

 

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Your nose leads you on a trail of wonder and you decide to run from the familiar. Just one block off the main strip you throw yourself into a colorful world of food, music, and discover a city and culture with a life of its own. Leaving the comforts of the familiar, you become overwhelmed by this new mysterious city. Welcome to the real Bangkok.

 

One cannot experience true culture without first diving into the mouth-watering treats of the place you explore.

Every country in the world has their own food culture, some even more than one. Thailand has been blessed with having what is considered some of the best food in the world. To experience this, you need to throw caution and western influence to the wind and just go for it. Pull up a chair at a small table in a dimly lit restaurant blaring the Thai news, because this is where you will find the best eats.

When it comes to Thailand, the less modern the surrounding the tastier your prize will be. We all know Pad Thai, but this time we want to try something even more cultural. Meet street food Som Tam. Green Papaya Salad.One can say they don't want it too spicy, 'Phet Nit Noi.' However, if you want it pretty authentic - it's time to eat it just like they do. Although its origins start in Lao culture, Bangkok and the rest of Thailand have their own way of making this.

 

Eating this unripe papaya and vegetable salad only revs your engines more as you desire to step further into the food of Bangkok.

Stopping to eat a chicken on a stick, you begin munching your way from street-stall to street-stall.

 

You eat your way through a whole Talapia fish with garlic sauce as you enjoy Hot and Spicy Crispy Fish.

The best place for your never-ending hunger of Thai street food is the area around Victory Monument (Anusawari Chai Samoraphum).

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Yet, you've managed to eat your way through most of what you deemed safe. You hop in a cab to Ratchawat Market, considered one of the oldest markets in Bangkok.

You eat your Pad See Ew at Ratchawatand scarf down your final jungle curry (Ran Gaeng Pa Sriyan) before noon, and make your way to other things than food. You know you'll be back, you know you have the taste of real food on your lips. You never crave McDonald's ever again. You also realize you haven't seen many foreigners in your journey, staying clear of Khao San Road.

 

It's time to go even further into the belly of Bangkok to understand Thai culture to the fullest.

You jump in the closest bright pink taxi and head to SoiBanhBaht, you know here is where the ancient craft of bowl making is done. You spend an hour walking around and admiring ancient traditions before departing to the Shrine of Goddess Tubtim. The surprise of this will be left for those who adventure to the shrine of the female fertility spirit. The sun is at its hottest in the noon, so you have many options to do from this point.

 

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You can go and see Bangkok's incredible 17th century built WatArun, or do one of the most important first: WatPhraKaew and the Grand Palace. It's hot, but you cover your shoulders respectfully and head to WatPhraKaew. Situated next to Chao Phraya River, the 200,000 square meter complex leaves you jaw dropped as you enter. Exploring the grounds, you see 14th century Buddhist pieces and intricate designs dancing on all the walls.

 

Still have time?

Wat Pho and the Reclining Buddha awaits your attention. Created in 1788, the world's largest reclining Buddha at 46 meters in length and covered in gold leaf lays before you. As one marvels at the sheer greatness of this statue, it's easy to learn that it's not hard to get away from our foreign influences as we make our way through Bangkok. Although modern in some areas and reminiscent of home, with just a short journey we can find ourselves in the true heart.

With the sun going down, you return to the Chao Phraya River and find yourself on a boat leading you through the canals. Making your way to Thonburi, you see exactly where Bangkok was founded. Floating past the Temple of Dawn and Royal Barges Museum, you eventually get off. You don't know exactly where you are, but all is okay. As you look around, nothing is familiar, but everything and nothing makes sense.

That is what makes Bangkok so unique and unfamiliar. Although the city has all the comforts of home, it still establishes itself as its own and like nowhere else in the world.