Bangkok, I love you. I tell it to everyone I meet along the backpacking trail and it’s usually met with incredulous looks and a quick suggestion for the fastest route out next time. It’s definitely not for everyone, and thats ok.
I think what bothers people about Bangkok is that it’s complicated, intense and sometimes (usually) messy. The city is a paradox in so many ways. The streets are filled with the old rich history of temples and palaces interspersed with the skyscrapers and mega-malls of modern city life.
Parts have overrun tourist streets with scammers and touts located just blocks away from an area where not a soul speaks english but everyone will still greet you with a big smile and a Sawadee Kah.
I love the chaos of what feels like a million motorbikes at every intersection or the hustle and bustle of the BTS station close to rush hour.
But I also love those moments where the city hustle stops and there is peace— as the sun sets behind Wat Arun, as a man prays in front of a Buddha statue on the corner, or when everyone at the bus station suddenly stands for the national anthem.
Bangkok is a mangle of cultures. With an overflowing China Town which is located next to a lively Little India– that is only a 20 minute walk from Khao San Road– it can sometimes feel like the local culture has been lost. But you don’t really have to go looking for it to find it, it’s in the wai that people give each other as they walk down the street or the small shrines set up in the corner of shops. So to those who say Bangkok has no culture, you couldn’t be more wrong. In the usual can-do manner of the Thai people, they have simply found a way to mix the old with the new.
At times Bangkok overwhelms me and maybe even scares me but thats the point. Thats why I chose to travel to a part of the world so different from my own. If I wanted safe and easy, I would have gone to Florida.
So if you’ve never been, I suggest you make Bangkok number one on your bucket list. You’re standards for cleanliness and safety might drop but your appreciation for a culture older than any American can really imagine will grow exponentially.
If you truly give Bangkok a chance, you won’t leave the same person you were when you came. She’ll probably send you home tired, overwhelmed and maybe a little battered but thats the beauty of it.