Sunday, February 21, 2010

[The Life of Shaun #390] Three nights in Bangkok

"Whaddya mean? Ya seen one crowded, polluted, stinking town --"

I realised on the second day here, as Mary and I were in a taxi, that I don't really feel like I am in Bangkok. This is because, well, there is nothing here to make you feel like you are anywhere specific. There's no Eiffel Tower, no Golden Gate Bridge, Big Ben or Empire State building, nothing that declares "You are in Bangkok." There is just nondescript, chaotic, disorganised and exhausting sprawl.

I hate it for all the reasons I expected to, and I love that. It's exactly what I expected a huge city in the developing world to be like. Beijing was soullessly (re)planned, but architecturally inspired. Shanghai breathes with the vibrant air of a world city. Bangkok, like dozens of others, I imagine, is an undefined, heaving mass. Energetic and frenetic, garish and flashy, but not easy to get a handle on. The steady stream of backpackers attest to the hedonistic reputation of the city, and the elderly men with much younger girls (and sometimes boys) lay bare the hard facts of life in Bangkok. But all this is what gives it its sultry, almost forbidden, exotic edge. You definitely know you've left the West when you are here.

The people are golden, however. Unfathomably friendly, courteous and helpful (excusing the punters at the tourist traps, but that's a natural part of a tourist's life). As Mary Keany said, you can feel the Buddhism in the people here, there's a very genuine kindness.

The food has been great. I am a Thai buff at the worst of times and we've had one good meal after another. I had the best green curry ever and som tom every day. My stomach will leave very happy.

Off to one last Thai dinner; ready for Cambodia and its food tomorrow.


One night in Bangkok and the world's your oyster
The bars are temples but the pearls ain't free
You'll find a god in every golden cloister
A little flesh, a little history
I can feel an angel sliding up to me

One night in Bangkok makes a hard man humble
Not much between despair and ecstasy
One night in Bangkok and the tough guys tumble
Can't be too careful with your company
I can feel the devil walking next to me

From "Chess"

Coming into Bangkok from the airport

Mary, Sean and me at the Grand Palace

Me at the Grand Palace

Me on the Chao Phraya River

Me, waiting patiently, where assigned, for the SkyTrain

The street where our hotel was

People actually queue where directed for the train

A building I particularly loved

McD's, natch

Wat Arun from the river (cute German on the left)

No sashaying at Wat Arun!

Looking South from Wat Arun

Stairs down...

View out our hotel room

Less glamorous quarter of the capital

Urban infrastructure piled high

Under our SkyTrain stop

And finally, can you find me? :-)

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