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Wat Pho is one of the largest Wats in Bangkok, and is quite famous for its large reclining Buddha with inscriptions of this former university’s teachings on the feet of the statue. However, while the Wat and the Buddha may be popular tourist stops, just separate from the temple itself and around the back lay the monks’ quarters, where quiet lanes house monks praying and going about their daily work. Also, taking the back entrance to the Wat from Maharat Road instead of the grand front entrance along Thai Wang Road will lead you to a quieter area of the Wat without the throng of tourists lining up to see the reclining Buddha. Out back there are fountains, small chedis, salas and shrines. This is the temple school area and there is even a basketball court where sometimes you will see monks shooting some hoops in their brilliant orange robes. It is a quiet place for relaxing and taking in the beautiful architecture of the monastery.
When you are in Bangkok, walk as much as you can. Do not do as most tourists and visitors who only move by taxi or tuk-tuk. Walking around Bangkok, you will find more interesting things than you have ever imagined. The hidden Bangkok is really not far from the tourist streets but there are no tourists there. Just a couple of blocks from the main roads, you will find rows of market stalls and restaurants with more authentic foods, people and goods than the tourist traps can offer.
Chulalongkorn University campus is worth a visit for a leisurely stroll. Since the 90'ies when many buildings were under construction, the area has become much quiter and more park-like. Today the campus is green with grass and treelined ways, and faculty houses and dormitories have acquired patina. The little sois around the campus have many student's coffee houses and ice cream bars. It is a good idea to walk through the campus to Siam Square, where clothes stores sell university student's uniforms and the Chulalongkorn bookstore is located.
Phahon Yothin soi 7 is also known as soi Ari. You will reach it by Sky Train - there is a station of the same name as the soi. This is a great place to experience the real Bangkok at street level, not least gastronomic-wise. Soi Ari is rather quiet in the daytime, so come in the early evening, when the area gets lively. - Walking west on the main soi will take you past an uncountable number of tiny shops, food stalls, knick-knack stores and a pletora of other things for sale. Some of the best food options here are rice dishes with duck, chicken or beef and a wide variety of boiled, fried, barbecued and roasted snacks. Hordes of motorcycle taxis and tuk-tuks are battling cars for a piece of the road, school children, office workers walk home or eati before they start to, beggars, construction workers and the odd elephant. You will not be bored … The area has many sub-sois. Most of them contain condos and apartments, but still there are a few small cafes and eateries scattered around. Most of these small sois are heavily treed which is a rarity in Bangkok. This makes the area a good place to stroll around and explore the neighborhood.
Benjasiri Park is a little oasis amid the raging city traffic, situated west of Emporium shopping center. Get off at Phrom Phong Skytrain station. Here you’ll find grassy areas to take a nap and a large pond in the middle. If you come during the late afternoon and early evening, you can see crowds of people taking part in group aerobics, Tai-Chi or strolling with their families. Check out the teams playing the acrobatic game of takraw, a kind of cross between volleyball and football.
Underneath the same station via exit 4 is soi 24, where you can find the famous restaurant Lemongrass. Just before that, you'll find a small dead-end soi running past a tiny 7-11. Inside this soi are two well stocked used bookstores. The first is on the right and simply has a sign in the window saying Book. You find books in many languages here. Across from this is Thaibrary. Thaibrary both sells and loans out books, and the space is clean and relaxed. Tea and internet service are available also.
Wat Tubtim is an unusual riverside fertility shrine worth visiting.
Klong Toei is a district of substandard housing in central Bangkok, by the Chao Praya River. Here you can experience Bangkok's largest shantytown with the last remnants of old wooden houses, narrow lanes, children bathing. Klong Toei is also the name of a major market, which is not touristic. It is Bangkok's largest wet market, open from before dawn to nightfall. The early morning is the most interesting time to visit. Chances are you’ll be the only foreigner wandering around. And be warned: the meat section (particularly the chickens) is not for the squeamish. Behind Khlong Toei is Penang Market, known for its very cheap electrical goods.You will find the market by the metro station Khlong Toei on Rama IV Road.
Banglamphu is an old section of the city near the river which offers ’secret Bangkok’ mini-universes for free. It is very close to the carnivalesque backpacker ghetto of Khao San Road.
The graceful suspension bridge that spans the Chao Praya River is modern and stately at the same time. No matter when you see it, the smoggy city air makes the sky and the river blur into the one seamless concrete-grey mass.