Bangkok, Thailand is a city that overwhelms the senses, a city that abuses you in every way possible. The noise volume is on high at all time; the streets are filled with people buzzing through the sidewalks as tuk tuks whizz past, honking and screeching as they maneuver around the roads. Food vendors are on every corner shouting for a potential customer and offering small bites to eat. The smell of the local street cuisine overwhelms your senses and it excites your taste buds to try whatever is producing that unusual perfume. Bangkok is a living and breathing city that fills one soul with adventure and a minor case of anxiety. It draws experienced and beginner travelers from around the world. So what is it with this city that has everybody’s tongue caught with curiosity? I wish I had a simple answer but the few days I spent in the city was just not enough to fully appreciate it. I was there just long enough to know that I want to go back and spend a few weeks exploring every nook and cranny of the city.
Bangkok is overwhelming, especially after we had just spent three relaxing days decompressing on a beach. It was muggy and crowded; there was little to no escape for relief except consuming copious amount of cold beers. The city though, had a way to amaze you. It was vast and was not lacking busy streets, but people where moving with a chaotic yet graceful pace. When we arrived at eight in the morning we hopped into a taxi at the airport and we instantly hit traffic, which for me was okay. I like driving through a city to get a feel for what my first impressions are and compare them to what I had been imagining. This was no quick glance though, I felt like I was stuck on the 405 in LA. Yet the taxi gave us relief from the muggy heat that was waiting for us outside the climate controlled cab. So our patience did not run thin with the traffic. I had my face pressed up against the window examining everything that I could see.
Now this city is big, 606 square miles with 6.355 million people occupying the city. This is not including all the tourists that come as well to explore. This city is absolutely vast and makes even Los Angeles seem tiny and it was not what I was expecting. I imagined that Bangkok was going to be like the city of New Orleans, a medium size city filled with bars and markets with small little shops, massage parlors and hostels scattering the city. What I found instead was a sprawling city with skyscrapers and large streets and hotels. A city where it is easier to take a boat down the river to reach your destination then drive down the road. It is nearly impossible to get anywhere fast in Bangkok. There is a pretty impressive sky train that ran on regular intervals but the sky train could only get you so far in the city.
The air of Bangkok was muggy, sticky, and hard to move through. Also like any other big city there was pollution, maybe not as bad as Paris but the high humidity is what drained the life out of all of us. Walking around the temples with pants to cover the legs and shirts that covered the shoulders did nothing to help us be comfortable but it was too hot for us to care much. We got relief when we hopped onto a boat stuffed to the brim with people like sardines to get to another part of the city. The cool breeze on the water was refreshing as the clouds began to form and thunder. Make sure you take the public boats and do not get stuck on the tourist ones. The tourist one is miserable and is my version of hell. Imagine one of those tourist busses that has a speaker up front but instead of telling you about the history and sites of the city the guide goes on to explain all the new and fancy hotels that sit along the river. I think our friend was about to toss himself off the boat and swim the rest of the way. I recommend taking the boats rather than taxis they are quicker and cheaper and are not as much hassle as trying to argue the price of a ride with a tuk tuk driver.
One of the biggest mistake that you can make in Bangkok is spend your entire time in Khao San Road where all the hostels and backpackers are. It is a fun place to go out at night and explore and drink but don’t spend your entire time there. It is easy to because everybody speaks english but you won’t get a feel of the city. Now that I said that, one should definitely go and hang out there for a day. Khao San Road is actually a few streets filled with bars, food stands, and massage parlors. I was able to get strange food checked off my list when I downed a very crunchy scorpion and a delicious and equally crunchy cockroach. Grilled up and sprayed with soy sauce I was the center of attention for a bit as I fought my way through eating them. They did not taste like much except the saltiness of the soy sauce. They just dried out my mouth and I had Chris go run and grab me a beer as Ashley took photos. Lets just say I was a very satisfied man. We drank beers and got massages or I should say I did because I wanted somebody to walk on my back and that is exactly what I got. I came back to the bar were Ash and Chris were and joined them for beers as I felt relaxed and like a new man.
After a night out and a few days of seeing as many temples as we can, which I recommend doing, we went to the largest market in Thailand and the largest weekend market in the world. Chatuchak Weekend Market was large and crowded, and similar to many other markets around the world. It looks like a giant swap meet in the states but tripled in size with actual stands. The outer rim of the markets was mostly food vendors with beer and massage places. While the center was a dense black hole of shops. Ashley went and had a massage as Chris and I walked in a circle grabbing food and beer. Now another interesting dish that I do not think I will have again was squid eggs. They were salty and fishy and had a tanginess that was not appetizing. I’ll be honest I did not enjoy them but if someone put a plate in front of me with them I would eat them. We had noodles and lots of them and you will find that noodles form the base of your diet in Bangkok. Now the beer is what Chris and I were there for. We found the cheapest stand and every time we passed it we would buy another couple each for the next trip around the market. The market is worth seeing and is great for buying your mother’s gifts, which you should never forget to do.
We had a couple of really good meals that I will talk about in other articles but this was Bangkok for us. A lot of beer, noodles, and people. It was a blast and I enjoyed it but I just felt as if I did not have enough time there. I still have not unlocked the secret of this city. I just barely dipped my toe into the deep end. I will promise you though the next time that I go there I will jump feet first in and spend at least a month there. It has intrigued me.
If you liked this post check out our other articles about our trip to Southeast Asia in November 2013.