Bangkok, Thailand -- Standing up for Bangkok Travel: from Angst to Infatuation
Having jumped on a plane to Bangkok with little to no planning I was unsure of what awaited me. When I mentioned to friends and family that I was moving to Bangkok, most of the responses were the same; “Watch out for lady boys” “Are you getting a Thai bride?” The fact is, that they had about as much knowledge of what to expect as I did. My only previous venture to Asia was to Vietnam as a 16 year old, so naturally I pictured a similar city to Hanoi. What I found was much different.
After an initial fear (largely caused by jet lag), I found an intrigue to the city that isn’t always explored on the short stop over people often award the city. Speaking to travelers about Bangkok can create vastly different responses. Most people stay for two days; party their socks off then move on and they love it. Some people get bogged down in what they see as a busy, polluted, touristy, party town and hate it. However, what I found and many others find after initially being overwhelmed, was exploration and a laid back aura that comes from the day to day life of the city. For those people who dare to stay for more than the standard ‘two days on Khao San then straight to the islands’ is that they give a different response; One of delight and admiration for the city. They find that Bangkok has so much more to offer than simply being a stopover between flights or an island getaway.
Arriving in Bangkok can be strange and surreal for even the most seasoned traveler. The city attacks your senses unlike any other. The heat, lights, smells, tastes, noises and pollution all seem amplified compared to other destinations. You step out of over air conditioned buildings to a sweaty intense heat. You endure the bright lights of endless sky scrapers and bars. Your nostrils are impregnated with limitless street food in a lottery of good smells and bad smells, as intoxicating food contrasts with sewers and sweaty tourists. Your ears endure this peculiar unfamiliar jargon heard on every corner, mixed with car horns and precarious covers of western songs. The excitement I felt dissipated to anxiety as I felt out of my depth, like the first day of school.
Having visited pretty much every capital city in Southeast Asia as well as most in Europe, I never understand the negatives cast upon Bangkok. I understand that the thought of white sand beaches in the south and the soothing mountains of the north can be heavy persuasion for a pit stop mentality. But they’re no more the ‘real Thailand’ then Bangkok is. Khao San road gives a false identity to this city. Yes, go there party and have a good time, but give the rest of Bangkok a go. I quickly found that within the organized chaos akin to most capital cities, there is a serene laid back atmosphere that draws you in. You can do everything in this city. I found awesome neighborhoods that were cities in themselves, great transport, the tastiest array of food, friendliest city folk, more malls than you can count, awesome cafes, trendy markets, great night spots, bike rides, boat trips, Muay Thai and so much more. These are the things that change people’s minds about this city and make people fall in love with it and not only keep coming back, but never wanting to leave.
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