Thailand is sometimes described as two nations: Bangkok and everything else. About 10 percent of the population of 65 million lives in Bangkok, the capital, a number that expands by several million when migrant workers are counted. Nearly a third of the Thai population lives in Isaan.
I found this article on Bangkok today and thought I’d share it with you. Though I don’t agree with all of the author’s perceptions, he does a good job of painting a vivid picture of Bangkok.
Bangkok is definately not like Northeast Thailand where we will be living and working, but it is the first view of Thailand that all visitors get. I will post another article soon from a person’s perspective of Northeast Thailand or “Isaan.”
Here is the article:
Winnie the Pooh and Bangkok Too
Bangkok is the city of six sledge hammers – one for each of the senses. Yes, the sixth one is included. Ten million plus desperate souls live in the Big Durian and that doesn’t include the transients, beggars and expats who have overstayed their visas.
Signs are the first thing that crush your cranium. They start at the airport on the way downtown – where ever that is – and get more frequent, if not smaller, the closer you get to your destination, which, now that I think of it, is downtown.
Mad motorcylists assult you once you get off the tollway and even though in your taxi you can’t smell the fumes from their two stroke engines, you will soon enough. Some you will hear as their 150 cc mosquitos on crack engines at full rev approach you from behind. Some you won’t, as they scare the bejesus out of you passing at 90 miles an hour.
That smell when you step out of your cab? Chilly peppers. No, that isn’t just a smell. It’s pain. Now you know what tear ducts are for. Or is it curry, even though it’s 7 AM.
Lined up along the sidewalk in front on the shops are the shoe repair person, the fruit seller, the fried grasshopper cook, the t-shirt salesman, the seamstress, the noodle vendor, the chicken barbequer and the deep fried banana chef. They are followed by flower sellers, transvestites and tailor shop touts.
Parked in some nook or cranney is the tuk-tuk driver offering to take you to a gem shop or something a tad more erotic. There’s the taxi driver who didn’t see you just get out of a taxi but sees your suitcase and knows two words of English. “Airport? Airport?”
As you work your way though this welcoming committee you are seranaded by a blind organ player and you encounter another tuk-tuk driver who also knows two words of English. “Massage? Massage?”
The result of all this is that very few places on earth offer more inconvenience than Bangkok. Actually, no place on earth does. It says so on the internet.
A few examples might make the point. In Bangkok, it is inconvient to breath, walk, talk, sleep, go anywhere and, well, to think. You see, it isn’t that the sledge hammers take turns, they are all hammering away at the same time. 24/7
Peter Pan meets Alfred E. Newman and they rewrite the Kinsey Report.
Serpico, starring Richard Nixon.
This is a context based culture – no kidding, there is a category for it. Search Google.
What that means is nobody actually criticizes anyone. You’re just supposed get IT. IT? That you’re in the way. That you’re driving poorly. That someone is in a bad mood. That someone is sorry. That you’re hungry. That you’re just a silly farang. Of course you don’t say anything about IT. In fact, you SHOULDN’T say anything about IT and doing something about IT might be dangerous.
Whilst driving you kind of intuit your way onto a busy street and it’s OK to drive your bicycle as you put your makeup on.
True story. I saw a woman driving a motorcycle the wrong way on a one way street with two child passengers while she was smoking a cigarette, staring at the goods in a local wet market, eating a bowl of noodle soup and talking on a mobile phone. She’s in the Guiness Book of Records. Ask Jeeves.
The population of The City of Angels includes a cast of millions. You will find drifters, transcients, temporary workers, lost souls, illegal Burmese workers and the aforementioned foreigners who haven’t gotten around to renewing their visas for several years. Over fifty percent of this mass of humanity are intellectually gifted and can get, do, find or provide you anything you want. Yes, anything means anything, including a cheap hotel, love, real diamonds, a cultural tour, love, a great restaurant, the best bar in town, inexpensive tailored clothing, love, gemstones, a massage, a companion who speaks English because she is a medical student in the USA, a trip to the crocodile farm, love, a whole lotta stuff that will put you in the slammer and, most of all, love.
Midnight Express with a smile on its face.
A Tree Grows in Bangkok – A National Geographic Special.
Paradoxically, this is all quite awesome. It’s a test of your open mindedness. A release of all political correctness, notions of proper hygeine, what’s masculine and feminine and, in particular, a gut check on whether you’re a sissy.
Yes, you will be awed by Bangkok. When you return home you’ll be frustrated that you can’t explain it to your friends. There’s only one thing to do. Go back. Again and again.