I’m always scrambling for words when people ask me to describe Bangkok.
The capital cities of its neighbouring countries seem to pale in comparison to Bangkok’s vast and thriving metropolis. The sight of flashing lights, tuk tuks jostling with SUVS, and roadside kiosks at the foot of sky scrapers that rub shoulders with ancient temples blew me away. To me, Bangkok was an enigma – I somehow left unsettled with a feeling of disconnect, and totally puzzled as to how I felt about the city.
Bangkok is a sprawling city with various pockets in the city that are rich in colour and laced with beautiful temples and unique structures that represent the vibrant Thai culture. On my first trip to Bangkok, the streets were decked with a ceiling of colourful lights and pennants. There were also enormous banners of the Queen of Thailand edged in gold, stretching several meters in length and width. I learned that the Queen’s birthday was a week away, and the city was preparing for the annual celebration and national holiday. The preparations were a testament to the Thai’s allegiance to the Monarchy and deep sense of patriotism.
On the other hand, the overwhelming number of tourists and influx of Western culture was completely unexpected. There were times when I would look around and forget that I was in Asia. I was looking forward to walking down the street and mingling with the local Thai people.
Leaving Bangkok, I felt as though I saw the sights, but didn’t experience the people or the culture – a valuable component to travel that I simply hate to go without. In Vietnam, the bars and cafes were bustling with locals who were enjoying social outings with friends. I felt totally devoid of this experience in Bangkok. The only Thai people that I got to interact with were the little old ladies who tried to sell me souvenirs while I ate my dinner – and when I politely declined their merchandise, their smiles flipped to frowns as they shuffled over to the next table.
Although mesmerized by the extravagant temples and architecture in Bangkok, I felt that I couldn’t quite connect with the city or get a feel for the culture. This is exactly why I’m a bit indecisive when it comes to my opinion on Bangkok. Perhaps I need to go back and visit…for the fourth time!