Getting lost while traveliing can be an incredibly stressful experience, especially when you’ve planned to be somewhere at a particular time. Instead of taking in the surroundings you’ve managed to get to, all you want to do is get away from there. It’s not a whole lot of fun.
Even though this negative experience may be the norm, I decided to do just that when I was in Bangkok, but this was getting lost on purpose.
Before this year, I hadn’t been to Thailand, or to Asia at all for that matter, and I really wanted to immerse myself in the experience. I had an afternoon and I had no set plans, so I caught the river boat to a place that seemed ideal for my purpose: Bangkok’s Chinatown neighbourhood.
Getting off at pier N5, or Ratchawong, I tucked away the guidebook and headed in the general direction of where I thought Chinatown was. After ten minutes of walking along busy streets, it became obvious that I was on the right track.
|Chinatown in motion.|
Thai signs and shop names gave way to the Chinese alphabet, and all of the roads and intersections seemed to be lined with makeshift stalls selling all manner of Chinese food and drink products.
|It might be best to quicken your step walking past the durian stall.|
Dodging people, motorbikes and animals (yes, animals), I navigated the sidewalks that were barely there at all. As I went, I took in the sights, smells and sounds. All around me, I could hear a number of different languages.
Having spent the morning in the tourist magnet that is the Grand Palace, I could hardly spot any camera-toting (apart from me, that is) individuals around.
I walked past stores buying and selling gold, past restaurants specialising in bird’s nest and shark fin soups, and even had a kitten follow me for a good while. Being the cat lady that I am, I scooped up the tiny feline and retraced my steps. After an amusing exchange of hand gestures and language issues, I found the ‘owner’, or rather the person who owned the shop where the kitten was born.
|Shark fin, anyone?|
|The individual involved in my Bangkok cat rescue.|
The cat adventure over, I carried on walking until I found myself in front of a Chinese temple.
Wat Mangkon Kamalawat is located off Charoen Krung Road, and it’s the largest Chinese Buddhist temple in Bangkok.
It was certainly busy when I was there, and the smell of incense filled the courtyard directly preceding temple entrance.
Inside the temple, it felt like something was going on in each different section. I passed through all of these, before stopping behind a cordoned-off area, where five monks were singing.
Residents of the Chinatown area were visiting the temple that day to make offerings for the new year. Burning incense, flowers and baskets of fruit and sweets were all being left on large tables placed throughout the temple.
Making my way outside again, I swapped the spacious temple for some of the narrowest streets I’ve ever been in. Chinatown contains a labyrinth of small shops and market stalls. I had no idea where I was going or which direction I was heading in, but I couldn’t help but be mesmerised by this chaotic and incessantly busy part of the city.
Having lived and worked in London for almost two years, I thought that I had become acclimatised to a faster pace of life, but I was wrong; Bangkok takes a fast pace to the extreme.
My goal that day was to get lost on purpose, and I completely succeeded at this. Some destinations are better suited to this than others but, for me, Bangkok’s colourful Chinatown was the perfect destination for my map-free meander.