Some thoughts on my first few days in Bangkok, Thailand:
I feel like wherever you go in the world, you look for similarities between the place you call home and the new place you’re exploring. Certainly, while no one would mistake Bangkok for anywhere in the US, there are similarities between the city life and the people: young people immersed in their cell phones, crowded streets and sky trains during rush hour, billboards advertising cars or facial cream, and even some coffee bars and restaurants that have an American or European theme.
But that’s really where the similarities end.
Don’t get me wrong- to me, city life is city life, no matter where you are. I have no issues walking around here by myself and navigating through the crowds of people, the congested streets, and the various public transportation (tuk tuks are SO much fun). The chaotic city atmosphere may feel the same, but it IS very different in detail.
First off, street food is everywhere. This open-air cooking and butchery would never be allowed by the FDA in the US (lol); however, despite how “unsanitary” it may be deemed by some, it is insanely delicious. I’ve eaten authentic pad Thai- which is so rich and has so much more flavor per bite than the American version it’s barely comparable- as well as dishes I don’t even know the name of (I just point and say, “I want that”). Thankfully, with all I’m eating, food is super cheap. On average, a plate of food costs 40–100 baht ($1-$2.80). I get bottles of water for 28 cents (10 baht). Oh, and for all the yummy street food I’ve been eating, I haven’t felt remotely sick yet.
Second talking point is the open markets. Oh my goodness, these have been my favorite experience so far. The layout of these markets are akin to a 3D-living rectangle: a mile long, half a mile wide, and packed deep with vendors selling food, clothing, paintings, spices, and other goods. I had plenty of fun just walking through all the aisles and shops, taking in the various, shifting aromas of sweet and spicy food, cooking grease, and moist, musky linens. It was even more enjoyable to hone my negotiating skills- although food prices are never negotiable, everything else is, from goods to transportation. I got two handmade cotton dress shirts for 800 baht ($22.50), and a Fly Emirates jersey with shorts for $300 baht ($10). In this city, cash is king, and the customer holding the cash has a huge advantage to name their price. It isn’t uncommon to get goods at 1/3 of the price the vendor offers- they are good hustlers, but it’s not difficult to be better. In the end, you can always walk away if they don’t come down (but it’s rare that they won’t).
Lastly, the Temples- the Temples are beautiful. Very intricately designed and carved, with ornate gems and colored glass. Temples are everywhere, and most don’t discriminate against non-Thais. It is imperative, however, that you remove your shoes before entry and have your shoulders and legs covered. At the Grand Palace (which was absolutely extraordinary- pictures on Facebook), they even have a station to borrow clothing if you are not dressed appropriately. The spirituality and humility of the temple-goers are paramount; however, they will not hesitate to tell you not to point your feet at the Buddha!
People are friendly here, and there are many different people in this city besides Thais- Americans, Europeans, Indians, Chinese, and more. It is easy to be friendly, but one shouldn’t be overly friendly or trusting- many, especially taxis and other transporters, are not hesitant to take advantage of tourists. In conclusion, be adventurous in exploring the streets and sights, but use common sense.
More to come later. Thanks for reading! :)