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Published: June 24th 2011
Where to begin with Bangkok? The place is not for the faint of heart! That would seem like an ideal place to begin. Bangkok is the epicentre for all activity in South East Asia, the place from which all other adventures seem to grow. It is ideally located for one to reach most if not all desired destinations in the South East. And with such responsibility, it came as no surprise that the city is teeming with travellers and holiday makers alike. There are some, like Amy and I, who are on the start of a long trip; and others who use the city for one night only before they take off for the southern Thai islands for a two week holiday. With this abundance of activity in town for such a short time, people treat the city with little respect and it’s certainly reflected in how it looks. Granted, we were there for only three nights, longer than most but I do concede it’s not long enough to explore the city fully. However, our time there did not give me the greatest of first impressions.
Don’t get me wrong...I wasn’t expecting some travel Mecca – a place where adventurous
plans are forged and stories passed along the way. I knew it was going to be the Magaluf of the South East, and I wasn’t disappointed. And how could I be with thousands of westerners taking to Koh San Road to drink for hours on end before jumping into a tuk tuk heading for Bangkok’s red light district. We met some great people in Bangkok, but there are plenty of idiots.
From what I have been told, Bangkok is not the ‘real’ Thailand, not an accurate representation of a country known for its laid back attitude. I certainly hope that is the case as we meander our way down south for our first tour of Thailand. This was the first of two planned expeditions in Thailand, the first taking us down into Malaysia and further south to Singapore. Our second visit will come in perhaps another month, as we will make our way north from Bangkok.
For the first leg of our trip, we were joined by one of my best friends from back home, whose lively and often comic presence (I hate to admit) was a welcome addition. Bringing along his friend from work in England, the
four of us set out to explore and enjoy the delights of Bangkok together.
Our first night in Bangkok, we headed for Koh San Road to eat dinner and indulge in a local beverage. Of all things modestly priced in Thailand, even the local brand beers aren’t in that category at an England-esque £2 per bottle. Personally, the taste of a Chang or Singha doesn’t get close to a 20p bottle of Tchindao in China! Anyway, the first night we settled ourselves in an acoustic bar, listened to some great music whilst enjoying the view and sound of a tropical storm taking place just outside.
With such an abundance of travellers and a rush of activity, Bangkok moves at 100 miles per hour and it seems most people there bump into someone they know from a previous life. In our case, it was a small group we knew from University, over in Thailand for a two week holiday. Having already travelled the world themselves only a year ago, we decided to lean on them for a bit of advice and to point us in the right direction for a night out. Joining them for a night out on
Koh San Road, the drinks were flowing and everyone was having a good time. But, on Koh San you’re unfortunately never too far away from some sort of altercation, projectile vomit (not us) or rat the size of a dog!
During the day, Bangkok has some of the more usual and some of the more peculiar tourist sites. Having spent a year in South Korea, and spent time in Japan and China, Amy and I were a little spent from visiting temple after temple. We had heard about the red light district of Patpong, thinking it would be something similar to Amsterdam whose red light is treated as a tourist area, and so thinking anything would be better than a temple, hopped in a tuk tuk and asked for the destination. Whilst the driver thought he knew why myself and my friend wanted to go to such a place, he was bemused as to why Amy would want to visit. Thinking she was some kind of sexual deviant, much to the amusement of surrounding tuk tuk drivers, he advised her not to go and so took us to...yes a temple. Not only were we at another temple but Amy
was officially known as ‘the boom boom girl’ to the local tuk tuk drivers, who greeted her presence from then on with laughter.
After touring one of the local temples, we asked to be taken to a local market open on the weekends. On the way, the tuk tuk driver asked our permission to stop at a store so he could collect his government issued tokens. Where he took us was a suit shop where salesmen immediately surround you, befriend you and try to bully you into purchasing a suit. A certain Christopher Howie was cornered and almost pounced upon; he had his wallet out the bullying was so intense...but at the last, regained his senses and gave a firm, alpha-male “No thank you.” At which point, the previously friendly salesmen turned aggressive, wanted us out the shop immediately as if we had offended them! You live and you learn as they say!
When we weren’t exploring the city, we were (attempting to) relax around our hotel’s rooftop pool. Even above the city where we thought we had attained some sense of normalcy, we were yet again treated to the surreal. First, it was an elderly Finnish man
who had brought his ‘Thai Bride’ to the rooftop to sit and wait while he went for a morning dip...seriously! He then cleared the pool with his obnoxious spitting and gargling of water, whilst declaring in Finnish (an embarrassed girl from Finland later translated for us) that he was “the best that Bangkok had to offer” and he was “like a frog!” As if that wasn’t enough, Bangkok’s seedy nature reared its ugly head again, when another western pensioner paraded around the swimming pool with his teenage Thai girlfriend!
Perhaps I have been too harsh on Bangkok. After all, we did have a good time in a peculiar way and perhaps there is a whole different side to the city which I have yet to discover. I genuinely hope so, and hope our second visit here in around a month’s time will change my mind, since I acknowledge that four nights is no time to judge a city with any real credibility...
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