Three days in Bangkok and I have to say, I’m a little confused. What a strange place. In one day, one very hot and drizzly day, I walked ten kilometres, saw several amazing Buddha’s, got offered scorpions on a stick to go with my bucket of gin and tonic and was then finally asked if I wanted to see ping pong. The response that immediately came to me was “Who’s playing?”, but I didn’t think my sarcasm would translate well so I simply replied “No, thank you”.
During my 10 K ramble around the city I didn’t see much to make me fall in love with the place. The streets are grey and dirty, there was the overhead rumble of the Skyrail and there was a lot of general seediness to witness. I wonder what else I was expecting though ? A bit more traditional culture being immediately palpable intermingled with a modern developed city, perhaps. Is that really ignorant of me ? Do I sound like a tourist visiting London asking where they can meet Mary Poppins and Oliver Twist ? Or asking why the streets are all tarmacked instead of being cobbled with pony and traps plodding along in the smog ?
Planning The Trip back home in the UK of course I did my reading and prep work; I wanted to know a bit about the places I was visiting and not miss out on the must see’s and the where to avoids. Despite of, or perhaps because of the homework, I couldn’t help but form an image in my head about what these south east Asian countries had in store for me. Bangkok has always been a city that in my minds eye was going to introduce me to Thailand with a big bang; vibrant with colour and noise, religion and regency, young and old. And perhaps that is all there, I’m just not seeing it. A bit like wandering through Camden or Tooting when you’re really looking for Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and the Tower of London.
Despite my initial ambivalence towards the city in general, there were some sights I wasn’t leaving Bangkok without visiting, and the Giant Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho was top of the list. Buddha is lying down on its side, ready to travel to Nirvana. The gold statue is 46 meters long and just about squeezes into it’s shelter. Truly impressive, as was the rest of the temple and Buddha collection at this site.
Outside the compound is row upon row of Tuk Tuks ready to zip you off to your next destination. Seeing as we had ambled for hours through the back streets of Bangkok, we thought we would get to our next sight-seeing spot in comfort. After a stinky and exhaust fume filled 10 minutes we arrived with our lungs slightly coated with chemicals at the rather dingy Khao San street. Filled with backpackers and tourists this street was awash with food vendors, clothes stores and bars. And rats. And cockroaches. A good place to spend a few hours, washing the pollution down with a nice cold cider or gin and tonic. I had both. Several of them in fact. So today as I sit here typing this, suffering from the after effects of a night of over indulgence, an ill-timed malaria tablet and street purchased Pad Thai, I’m glad to be waving cheerio to Bangkok tomorrow.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m very glad I came; travelling isn’t all about the amazing experiences, the beautiful people and perfect places you go. It’s about getting away from your everyday, from your comfort zone. It’s about seeing how people on the other side of the planet to you live, about their cities and food, their religion and their family life. Bangkok has shown me a taster of all this in the few days I’ve been here. The people are friendly and polite, the food is delicious and the trains are immaculate. For every city I visit on this trip I’m sure I’ll love some and be non plussed about others. And for every city I love some people will think I’m nuts. That’s what makes us interesting. Our differences, our dislikes and our favourites. If we were all the same it’d be one boring old world. So onwards, there’s more wandering to be had!