Chitty Chitty Bang Bangkok

Not the half you thought I’d turn into a bad joke is it?  Despite my attempts at finding a quiet place to lay out all day and read and sketch, I find myself in another gigantic city.  After all the bustling, crowded, dirty streets of China I find myself in a bustling, crowded, dirty city in Thailand.  Bangkok has the least green space per person or land, I forget which. The difference here is that while China pays homage to its past (Beijing) or straight to the future (Shanghai), I didn’t feel like either was rooted in having a personality in the present.  Enter Bangkok, if it has anything, it has lots of personality.  I particularly enjoy the asymmetrical Rama VIII bridge that looks like golden rays shooting from a prism.  I quickly went from the cold of Seoul to the early spring of Beijing to the mid-spring of Shanghai and to what I’d consider full out summer in Bangkok.  It is 90 degrees and humid at all hours of the day and night.

Today I sat in a park and watched a little Thai girl collect these flowers falling off trees next to the Rama VIII bridge.

Bangkok is rather overwhelming at first with its heat and less than friendly cab drivers on the way to the backpacker/tourist area of Banglamphu (Khao San Road).  It does not help that streets change names every time they change neighborhoods and the bus system is impossible to figure out.  In future visits I think I might opt for the more modern Silom district and be near the Skytrain subway system.  The river express boats are a convenient way to get around if you are looking for the tourist sights.  I did not need to be this close to Khao San Road and the food in the immediate area is not great.   I enjoyed staying near the river with a rooftop patio to gaze upon boats drifting by and thunderstorms lighting up the night sky.  I’m not sure how this is the hot and dry season, it’s been pouring buckets of rain almost every day. The Banglamphu area and the slightly hard to find Riverline Guest House have some relaxing green space and areas to just hang out so I have gotten more reading in than I expected.

After I got past my first day or two of being overwhelmed, I managed to get a cheap massage or two and out of my district to enjoy Bangkok’s charms.  There are various huge markets, some full of any tax-free wholesale merchandise you can think of, or in my case, other ones stacked full of food.  I appreciate that each market was full of small entrepreneurs selling all sorts of weird stuff.  I enjoyed walking by the young people hand painting t-shirts to death metal or working with leather in their small storefronts.  As I got away from the backpacker area, I noticed cab drivers and service people were a lot friendlier, very smiley and way less likely to rip me off.  I’m not sure if I need to go shopping in any more markets as I am still overwhelmed by the pure mass of people I’ve run into at them.  I have been hitting the food markets with vigor.  Tomorrow I leave for Chiang Mai to celebrate Songkran, the Thai new year celebration that is marked by three days of water fights and buddha cleansing.  Thanks Bangkok, I know I’ll pass through here again before I leave the region.

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