Right so having had enough of Cambodia, I made my way to Bangkok. This was not the easiest of journey's as crossing the Cambodia/Thailand border is quite a protracted affair. You have to queue up for ages just for them to stamp and check your passport. Thankfully - and contrary to rumors I've heard - this didn't require me to part with any cash, although I think if I'd been coming from Thailand it would have been a different story altogether. After the long wait at the Thai border, I then was faced with a long bus ride to Bangkok, and then another fairly drawn out journey to find the hostel (which isn't very near the center of town). All of this in 35 degree heat did try my patience a little, but thankfully the hostel wasn't terrible so I took some comfort from that.
So what to say about Bangkok itself? Firstly it's very different to what I was expecting. It's quite a modern city and unlike any other cities I've been to in South East Asia, the locals tend to leave you alone. Perhaps it's because Thailand has been a destination for western tourists for as long as it has, has made tourists seem unremarkable. Add to that the fact that there is a definite feeling that the Thai people are generally better off than their Cambodian and Vietnamese neighbors makes this place seem almost like coming home for me. It's a massive relief after seeing all the poverty and problems in South East Asia to return to a country which is generally doing ok for itself - by comparison at least. As a result of this fact, the city feels more familiar than others in Asia so far (Hong Kong aside), as there are many recognizable brands here. One of which is Tescos strangely; I guess the comments about them taking over the world weren't too far from the truth?
Of the things to see, I have taken a walk down the famous Koasan road where many tourists stay or shop when they stay in Bangkok. However, I personally am not a fan of it. It feels really seedy, not the least because the western tourists there are either a bit dodgy themselves or are clearly just there for the many vices Bangkok is known for, or don't have the mind to leave and take in some of the nicer things Bangkok has to offer. Also it's very dirty and the food is over-priced, small in portion (a rare thing in South East Asia) and not very tasty. I can safely say the restaurant I ate at here was the worst I have ever encountered in the world ever, and that is not something you get to say everyday.
Getting away from Koasan, there are much better things to see. If you are a fan of shopping for instance, there is an extensive shopping complex in Siam Square in the heart of the city. Personally I wasn't there to shop, but simply to enjoy the air conditioning, which is great to begin with but after a time becomes a bit too cold. Also worth seeing is the golden mount, which is a spectacular golden Buddhist temple built on top of a small mount. Basically there is a hell of a lot more to Bangkok than the tourist traps.
Also the royal palace, and some of the temples around it are really amazing to see. The level of detail going into them was surprising. The Thai architects also seem to make a big thing about using gold a lot too. There are scores of golden Buddhas around the place and all the most grand buildings are decked out with gold (or at least gold imitation) tiling. Needless to say the Thai royalty have a big obsession with bling.
As well as bling, the Thai king also seems to like making sure everyone can see him in some capacity, as there are many portraits of him along some of the main roads and on government buildings and schools. It's almost like a cult of personality, which is made quite funny by the fact that the king looks pissed off in these portraits. I don't know if this is his definition of looking regal, or if he just really hates having his picture taken, but judging from the pictures alone he's not a happy chappy. Another telling thing is these portraits are made to make him appear younger than he is (he's about 83). Rather than him aging gracefully in the pictures and on the banknotes as our Queen does, he seems to stay at a perpetual age of about 40-50.
Anyway after a few days of Bangkok I can safely say I've had enough of the place. It's really hot, and quite a large city, so takes a long time to travel from one end to the other. Also I find myself hating the other westerners I see around the city, who are more gentrified tourists on package holidays, mindlessly barging their way round the sights of the city, or are weird sex tourists hanging round with women half their age - not that this isn't common in South East Asia, but here it shows more. I think I'm going to head to the beach now in the south of Thailand for a bit for a real rest.