Big City, Busy Busy, Bangkok
It’s been nearly 15 years since we were last in Bangkok. My memory is a bit foggy, but my general impression is that both a lot has changed and very little has changed – it’s still Bangkok, only bigger.
Riding in from the airport we weave through puddles of traffic. We are on a toll highway, perched high above the city as if on stilts. Below, the streets are clogged with buses, cars, scooters, tuk-tuks – a slow, undulating sea. All around, glass skyscrapers rise from the streets – many draped in black billboards, paying homage to the late king. Nestled amongst the towers and the smoke-filled side street eateries are shimmering temples.
Our apartment – a home exchange that Astrid has arranged – looks out over the Chao Phraya – a wide, slithering river that cuts through the city and one of the few places in Bangkok one can find a rare commodity – space. Free from clogged roadways and tightly packed buildings, The River of Kings offers a break, albeit a small one, from the frenzy of the city. It is dusk now. As the smog-filled sky turns pink and the lights of the city begin to come alive, an illusion begins to form – Bangkok seems to flow around the river rather than the river flowing through Bangkok. Getting anywhere in Bangkok can take some time, so being close to the river (and it’s water taxis) as well as a nearby Skytrain station is a blessing.
Like Phnom Penh, Bangkok feels like choreographed chaos – the lights, the sounds, the smells swirl together and form a thick, colourful blanket. Over the course of the month, we will return several times, each time exploring another aspect of the city – the markets, the mega malls, the backpacker ghettos.