As promised here is my blog about my layover in Bangkok! It was a short trip, but jam packed with lots of neat experiences.
ยินดีต้อนรับสู่ประเทศไทย! (Welcome to Thailand! in Thai)
We descended over the city into brown smoke. There is no sky in Bangkok, only pollution and smoke and dust. It was almost painful to see our plane lower from the happy blue into the ugly haze beneath. What we found in the city, however, was cool enough to most likely be worth early stage lung cancer from the air. Upon landing we headed straight to the taxi station, where we grabbed a taxi with a very friendly man named Mr. Siu (I have no clue how to spell his name). An interesting note about cab drivers is that they will always give you an astronomically higher price then normal reasonable rate. When you object, they will pretend to lower the price especially for you, to a slightly less ridiculous but still ridiculous price. If you object too much farther, they will try to shuffle you into the car before agreeing on a price so that they can overcharge you later when they demand the original price. It is therefore imperative to agree on a price beforehand. With Mr. Siu, at least he was nice about it and we were able to agree on a price of 400 baht with the added bonus that he would pay the highway toll fees of 120 baht. He spoke very little English but he was very jovial and outgoing, often acting out scenes from the driver’s seat, complete with sound effects and hand movements, to get his point across. We had a great time in the back seat as he tried with varying success to teach us thai phrases. By the end of our drive, we were in fact such good pals that he even pulled over and bought us typical Thai fried bananas, out of his own pocket, simply because he insisted we try some of his favorite. It was the best cab experience Ive had yet.
With so little time in Bangkok, we decided to head to Khao San for the evening, which is known as the backpacker central. This district definitely lives up to its stereotype. The streets are busy with tourists, peddlers selling every sort of souveneir, street food like coconut ice cream and pad thai made fresh on the grill, live music, bars, lights, and every color under the sun. Buildings are squished together like colorful raggedy books, and the streets are humming with tuk tuks and motorbikes and bikes and people. There are so many smells – the good being the food and the bad being the trash and sewage, and so many colors and elephant prints. There is something electric and vibrant about this wild crowd, which represents people from around the world. We met a pair of very kind Mexican ladies on the street, a Chilean guy and German gal in our hostel room, and an Argentinian couple later that night.
We unfortunately only had time for minimal sightseeing, but it was enough to at least get a taste. We ended up taking an evening walk before dusk through the many markets by a few universities and the royal palace. As Southeast Asia’s most prominent hub, Bangkok is home to many excellent universities, and it will be interesting to see how this generation of educated students influence the nation’s emergence from a tumultuous past of over 16 coup’s to a hopefully more peaceful and prosperous future. On the corner by the royal palace is a collection of four massive lifelike statues of famous monks. The location of these statues next to the palace is greatly symbolic of one of Thailand’s key cultural features. We were told it is essential to never tease Thai people about religion or royalty, which is an excellent piece of advise, as they are deathly serious about both. The city is covered (and I mean covered, as in every street corner) with pictures of the King. All of these pictures seem to be from one particular photoshoot when the king was in his 20’s, and they feature him doing daily activities like holding his son as a baby or signing a document or just looking forward. The king is now the oldest in the world at 88 years of age. And yet, not a single picture of the old king is to be found, and there are pictures literally everywhere. To be honest I’m not sure if most people in Thailand even know what the current king looks like or how old he is for that matter; for anyone looking around the streets, one would think the king is still in his youth, which is a very interesting phenomenon. The people are quite dedicated to the king as well. When we referred to him as the king, most people would correct us with “my king”.
That night we had the pleasure of meeting with Bob and Claire Connor, an awesome couple of international teachers that my parents and I had the honor to work with in Chile. They now live in Bangkok, where they had lived previously, and work at two of the local international schools. We had dinner at a rather strange spot called Condoms and Cabbages, which was started by the pioneer of condoms as a birth control technique in Thailand. The restaurant used condoms as decorations everywhere, including in many larger than life statues of condom cotour. The food was excellent, however, and the company even better. That basically concluded our Bangkok experience – a colorful tuk tuk ride through the terrible legendary traffic of downtown Bangkok took us back to Khao San, whose nightlife was beginning to explode, where we went to sleep. We then took the bus early the next morning to the BKK airport for our next adventure.
Bangkok is so big. Like, really really big. And it can easily feel insanely overwhelming. It is such an interesting mix of old and new, advanced and primitive; there are fancy skyscrapers and rundown market streets all packed together in one massive sprawling city. Many international and local businesses alike have cluttered the skyline with billboards and the traffic is insane as people commute al over the place. Overall, though Bangkok is dirty and overwhelming, it is a vibrant city I wish we could have explored more fully. There is sure a lot to be seen in this tangled mess of buildings, people, and cultures.
Check out some of the pictures below! 🙂