Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Sawasdee Ka Krung Thep (Hello, Bangkok)
Krung Thep means City of Angels, but we are happy to call it Bangkok if it helps to separate a farang from his money. –John Burdett, Bangkok 8
When we arrived in Bangkok, it was after 14+ hours in the air. So, everything had a sort of dreamlike quality for the first day or so as our bodies adjusted their biorhythms from Pacific Standard to Indochina Time.
I’ll always remember when we entered Bangkok proper for the first time. As our taxi swept down from the expressway into midday Bangkok traffic, a strange sense of familiarity flooded me. It wasn’t just the billboards for Western movies and products, or even the landscape of high rises jutting into the milky sky.
It was the near-claustrophobic crush of humanity right at street level: brightly painted taxis, spindly tuk tuks, and hordes of weaving motor-scooters. Vendors would casually navigate between the packed lanes, selling snacks and flower garlands. The BTS Skytrain glided above all the commotion like a sleek, pale eel as we neared Sukhumvit Road (essentially Main Street, Bangkok), marking our destination.
It took me a minute to pinpoint where the nostalgia was coming from. Then it hit me: the urban soup of Bangkok was not too unlike that of the Third World metropolis of my childhood, Mexico DF. Half a globe away from my continent, and suddenly I knew I was going to be alright. I could navigate this, even with a huge language barrier.
Our basecamp was a condo right in downtown, which was being rented for the summer by a good friend of ours and his wonderful family. They graciously put us up for the two weeks of our stay, and were the best guides we could have hoped for as we not only navigated the ins-and-outs of the City of Angels, but the way of living in Southeast Asia.
Next up in the series: The sights of Thailand.