Feeling Bankok

FAR FROM FRENZY

Across the roiling waters of the Chao Phraya River, the other bank seemed quite distant even thought it was probably a five-minute ferry ride. The churning river was made more so as boats, ferries and larger cargo vessels sputtered up and down. There is a white structure with spires, which seemed to catch the sun’s early morning rays and glistened luminously rays and glistened luminously. Not without reason was it called Wat Arun, the temple of dawn, and seemed far more compelling than Bangkok’s other popular sights.

GO FOR THE UNEXPECTED

A Buddhist temple set dramatically on the river bank, Wat Arun is lesser known than the Grand Palace and Wat Pho, the temple of the reclining Buddha. For that reason it is also less crowded and makes for a lovely visit. Going back to the 17th century, the temple had a central Khmer-style tower surrounded by smaller ones, all of which were studded with pieces of beautiful porcelain in various colours arranged in eclectic patterns. It was Known to catch the first rays of the sun and hence the name. There were also surprisingly strong references to Hindu mythology with the central structure compared to Mount Meru and allusions to Ramayana.

Fascinated and a bit amazed by the unexpectedness of the place, your will quickly realized that this glitzy city had much more to offer than the obvious. Gigantic temples, swanky malls and street shopping, vibrant and fun nightlife, and stunning food at every corner were, of course, unmissable. But tucked away in corners were some gems which gave an inkling of Bangkok’s soul. Such as Jim Thompson’s House which is a museum of sorts. It showcases not only the American businessman’s efforts in popularizing Thai silk but also his architectural interest and art collection. Set amidst a thick jungle, the premises also has six traditional Thai houses which had been trans-located to provide a sense of local art and culture.

MODERN MEETS TRADITIONAL:-

Sampram riverside, located about 35 km to the west of Bangkok on the banks of the Tha Chin River. Sampram is spread over 70 acres of lush greenery with huts, traditional Thai wooden structures as well as water bodies. A family-run eco-cultural destination going back for over five decades and handled by three generations, it offers a variety of activities .The place provides an experience of authentic Thai hospitality with traditional Thai cuisine made from organic ingredients straight from the farm. Alongside are cultural workshops on clay modeling, flower arrangement, vegetable carving, bamboo and traditional dance and more.

CUT THE NOISE

Bangkok is known for its many floating markets with boats piled high with tropical fruit and vegetables, fresh, ready-to-drink coconut juice and local food cooked from floating kitchens located right on the boat. On the way back from Soojkai, there is Taling Chan floating market located on the Khlong Chak Phra canal. It was filled with a smattering of colourful boats with equally colourful goods and merchandise.

As night fell, you can go to the more popular areas of sukhumvit, Nana, Thonglor   Silom and headed instead to Ratchada Night Market in Din Daeng area. The place comes into its own around midnight. Totally atmospheric with a plethora of food stalls and al fresco pubs with rocking music, its ambience was mellow despite the noise, something far removed from the frenzy of other night spots. It seemed like the perfect place to end the trip.

THINGS TO DO:

GREEN LUNG: Garden Cafes are big in Bangkok. Water fountains, cherubic statues, glass villas, splendid gardens and ornate flower décor… there are over a dozne garden-seeting cafes your must explore to beat the monotony of conrete of the bustling metropolis.
GET SPORTY: If you want to try some adventure, head to the eastern outskirts for some wake-boarding (riding on a short board while being pulled by a motorcylce) at a Lake Taco.
LOCAL LURE: One of the most exciting things to do is to take a day trip and explore the water channels and the life built around it. In the old days, people in Bangkok travelled by boats along the river the connected to a series of canals (khlongs) running across the city. Take the long-tail boats through Bangkok’s canals and notice the interesting way locals live their life in traditions Thai houses build on stilts.

Osaka

FEEL THE BUZZ AT OSAKA

As the Shinkansen (bullet train) hurtled at a dizzying speed from Tokyo, the passing Japanese countryside was a blur, save for the occasional majestic sight of snowcapped Mount Fuji. Everything else whizzed by in a haze. It was also incredibly silent inside the train till it reached Osaka apart for the sporadic announcement. And then all hell broke loose!
Stepping into the Shin-Osaka train station was like being hit by a wall of sound. A million loud conversations swirled around, unlike the relative noiselessness of Tokyo. A bigger surprise was on the escalators: people stood on the right, in contrast to Tokyo’s left, and stark initiation into Osaka’s contrariness, and why it was called the ‘anti-capital’. In fact, everything was a bit different; even the Osakan dialect was both lilting and rougher. And conversations were colourful as were the streets and the people.

PULSATING WITH LIFE

As first impression went, Osaka seemed like an urban sprawl gone awry. But from the Harukas 300 observatory on the 60th floor of the Abenobashi Terminal building, the cityscape seemed lovely, made more so by Yodo river and its tributaries cutting through the city. From up there, the city looked serene and felt restful, but was altogether different on the ground. it did have its sights such as the Osaka castle, an impressive Japanese-style structure with moat and gardens, Shrine, Shintennoji temple, Sumiyoshi shrine, the aquarium and puppet shows. But the city and its ground. It did have its sights such as the Osaka Castle, an impressive people were more compelling reason: an ancient 6th century city, Osaka, however, was never part of Japan’s political scheme of things. But rather than sulk, it chose to build its own quirky image and reputation; something that seemed to have been a thumping success.


Even during the day, the city’s bright neon lights were flashing. But one could still spot the city’s soul between its pulsating shopping districts. In Dotonbori, the most popular shopping area with towering complexes and streets packed with eateries, I glimpsed a bit of old Osaka. Narrow stone alleys disappeared into the distance and opened suddenly into little courtyards with Buddhist temples, which unapologetically rubbed shoulders with izakaya bars and hole-in-the-wall restaurants.
As I wandered around Shinsaibashi, Midosuji and Amerikamura, I was buffeted by waves of indulgence. Massive shopping centres competed for clientele and a noisy buzz filled the air. Local and global brands, luxury and everyday products, hip and vintage wear competed with souvenirs and trinkets. At Ebusibashi, the shops spilled with masses of youngsters hanging out noisily.

JAPAN’S KITCHEN

But as much as shopping was front and centre, it was more a foodie paradise. Not for nothing did Osaka have the nickname tenka no daidokoro (Japan’s kitchen) and wore it proudly. Food was everywhere –street food, tiny eateries, cafes, pubs, smart restaurants… At its heart were some of Osaka’s most popular dishes: street snack takoyaki, fritters stuffed with octopus; okonomiyaki, a cross between an omelette and a pancake, heaped with meat, seafood, noodles, shredded cabbage and sauces; kushikatsu, deep fried skewered vegetables, meat or quail eggs; kitsune udon, a thick noodle soup heaped with fried tofu, and much more. For the adventurous, there was also fugu, poisonous pufferfish!
As the day turned into evening, the whole place got a bit more frenzied and yet, there were little islands of calm which provided the perfact spot to watch as another Osaka day came to a close.