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Today, a few words about Bangkok…random style! There is no doubt that some of you read that to the tune of “Gangnam Style” and I salute you.
It’s easy to have a love affair with Bangkok with its crazy traffic, glittering sights, rocking nightlife and plethora of massage parlors.
The Love Affair
…the heat: We think we know what heat and humidity is in Canada for those key weeks in July and August. I can assure you we have no idea. When you check the weather at 5:30 a.m. and it’s 28C and your heart lifts a little because that means it’s “cool out” and it’s time to get your Wat on. This being said, there is hope. After several days, you get used to the heat and can increase your hours of exposure to the heat significantly. Credit goes to my rule of drinking at least 1 litre of water before leaving the guesthouse.
…sweating: Holy mother of God, we also have no idea what true sweating is. I’m talking being soaking wet after only a few hours. Like rivulets of sweat rolling down your face, arms, and legs where you have a brief moment of confusion as to whether you are spontaneously urinating, then horror at the sheer possibility, suddenly engaging in panic sweating, and then reassurance once you realize it’s just sweat. This is a shower and change into fresh clothes at least three times a day kind of city.
…tuk tuks: This has quickly become my favourite mode of transportation. I can’t even explain a tuk tuk experience to do it justice. First, it’s like a moped but built like a miniature replica of a bus. It can have crazy colours, flashing lights, friendly drivers, and loud Thai pop music. It weaves and bobs in and out of traffic lanes, whether it’s in its proper lane or oncoming traffic lanes. Tuk tuk philosophy is largely based on “go wherever you fit”. Makes me feel like Harry Potter when he takes the night bus and it squeezes itself between two double decker buses. It will rev its engine, speed like crazy and suddenly slam on the breaks to let a monk cross the street. Need to transport your broken down motorcycle? Tie in on the back of a tuk tuk. Need to go somewhere with several bags and boxes? Tuk tuk. Or perhaps transport to a nearby tourist attraction with three of your closest friends? Tuk tuk. (It can bend the laws of spatial reasoning). A ride on a tuk tuk is life threatening, living on the edge, charming, not for tall people, death defying, just great fun. There is nothing quite like a tuk tuk.
…hello, massage?: This sentence is called out to you every few feet. Massages in tiny shops or on a beach lounger on the sidewalk. And at $3-5 per half hour, the answer should always be yes. Always.
…street food: There is nothing that you can’t eat on the streets of Bangkok. Burgers? Seafood? Curries? Grilled fish? Fruit? Smoothies? Pasta Puttanesca? Deep fried macaroni and cheese? Pad Thai? Steamed dumpling? Ice cream? BBQ scorpion, ants, grasshoppers or maggots?
…smiles: Everybody smiles. Bangkok is friendly and welcoming in the best way. Whether you are walking by, asking a question, or just people watching, absolutely everyone has a smile for you so make sure you have a smile for them.
…markets: I have a certain soft spot for markets. There’s something about inspecting wares outdoors, checking out handicrafts, searching for that one unusual find that you simply must have, leisurely strolling, and just watching people go about their day. Bangkok has so many different types of markets and each one seems to have its own unique character and specialty. The 24 hour wholesale flower market? Fruit and vegetable market? Souvenir markets? Clothing or artisanal markets? Want to buy furniture? There’s a market for that. And then there’s the holy grail of markets: Chatuchak Weekend Market. Read more about my top markets in Thailand.
…cat naps: Thailand must be the creator of the original cat nap and I love it. There isn’t a store, sidewalk, balcony, Wat, pier and everything in between where you won’t see an adorable little cat curled up and snoozing the afternoon heat away. This goes the same for the people. It is not unusual to see a tuk tuk driver, shopkeeper or construction worker having a quick nap during the hottest part of the day.
…divergence and convergence: Every area of Bangkok is so incredibly distinct from the other and yet it completely melds together in a way that I think only Bangkok can. Chinatown which seems so industrial and functional is only steps away from Wat Traimit which houses the Golden Buddha; monks in their traditional garb going about their day – buying groceries or talking on a cellphone; incredibly old, historical or sacred buildings next to a Mercedes Benz car lot; skyscrapers and backpacker havens; random tropical greenery surrounding the Golden Mount – an oasis in a city of 14.6 million people; high tech areas and posh bars; and just when you think you’ve seen it all, you turn the corner and suddenly you’re on waterfront and exploring the canals.
…Bangkok: I love you.