“Bangkok is booming” – I was told by a friend who invited me to the city. But whether it was an exaggeration or a proven fact – I could not tell. Nevertheless, when I arrived, I realized that Bangkok was an exaggeration in itself.
The city is a great experience and a painful torture. It evokes an array of contradictory feelings and uncontrolled emotions – love and hate, joy and anxiety, excitement and apathy. The havoc is overwhelming, the smell is unbearable and the noise makes you want to become deaf for a minute. It is the city of contrasts, that demands time and effort and it won’t reveal its soul unless you open up a little.
I was lucky enough to have been guided by a friend who showed me the luxury side of the city. The poor side – you don’t have to look for it, it will follow your every step, every breath and every glance. The poverty will show up as soon as you leave the perfectly clean BTS (Bangkok main transportation vein). With poverty being our omnipresent follower it was surprising to hear the reassurance of my friend, who kept saying that Thailand was rich. Soon I realized, that he was right, and the poverty was only so vivid because no one was hiding it. There seemed to be no stigma attached to it, or, perhaps, it was not poverty in Thai worldview. Either way, I could not resolve that mystery, but I stopped calling it poverty, as it was apparently something else. To occasional visitors, it was an exciting and peculiar part of culture, not found (or thoroughly disguised) in the Western world, and thus representing one of those traveling mysteries, that has an inexplicable cultural appeal and cultivates a sense of novelty in a foreign country.
There is no way you can enjoy Bangkok in the usual sense. This city defies every criterion of a liveable city. There is only one way to fall in love with this city – by embracing everything that you do not like, which is a bit forceful to my taste. Otherwise, you either tick it off your list or if you are unlucky to have to stay here, you simply survive.
Things that might help you survive Bangkok include:
- Morning coffee and a warm tart – there is no shortage of coffee places and bakeries in Bangkok. From cheap street vendors to fancy cake shops, you will enjoy an unlimited choice of options. Asian bread has an extremely soft texture, is slightly sweet and melts in your mouth. It is a heavenly delight that you will get addicted to.
- Chatuchak Weekend Market – a huge open-air market, that takes place every Saturday and Sunday and spreads over almost 30 sections. It’s an endless spider net, where getting lost is not a choice but an inevitable fate. The prices are low and the assortment of goods is impressive, to say the least.
- Thai food – probably the best food in the world, Thai cuisine combines so many enticing flavors and boasts such a wide range of choice, it can easily claim the title of the main attraction point in Bangkok. In addition to that, the best food is a street food, which means it can be found at your doorstep.
- Shopping – if you are not in the city on the weekend, Bangkok shopping centers provide a good alternative to Chatuchak Weekend Market. The three largest shopping malls are located at the Siam BTS station and host all big international brands as well as Thai designer brands.
- Wat Pho – a Buddhist temple known for its gigantic golden statue, that represents Buddha lying down. Apart from its impressive statue, Wat Pho is an inspirational, spiritual place where one can find enlightenment and peace, strolling its beautiful gardens and admiring the iridescent stupas.
I might sound contradictory here, but in the end, I liked Bangkok, because it clearly showed that I did not belong there. It was not playing with my mind, trying to show me its good side while hiding the bad one, it was not sharing warm smiles and did not introduce me to exciting new acquaintances, it was not exaggerating its importance and cultural significance. Bangkok simply allowed me to dislike it so that without any feeling of guilt I could board my plane home.