After two not-so-arduous flights from Edinburgh to Abu Dhabi, and finally to Bangkok, I’ve gotten a chance to really see the city. I’ve ridden a tuk tuk, ate Bangkok’s famous street food, suffered in its heat and humidity, and I’ve seen a few of the famous temples!
It’s way more green here than I expected. When I think of southeast Asian capitals, I always envision a concrete jungle with maybe a tree or two, but Bangkok is lush with greenery. I actually didn’t know this until about 20 minutes ago, but I’m staying in Bangkok’s pseudo-island, Rattanakosin Island. There’s a river that flows on its borders with abundant foliage and traditional Thai shacks. This definitely wasn’t what I expected from Bangkok, and it’s a pleasant surprise.
IT IS HOT. There’s no other way to put it: IT. IS. HOT. This I knew because I checked the weather prior, which told me it would be 95° (37°C) and humid. I thought to myself, “oh, it’s the same as Havana! I did alright over there, no problem!” But prior to Havana, I was in Portugal and Puerto Rico, two very hot places so I was used to it. However, coming from the cold Scottish Winter to this insanity was such a wild shock, and now I’m red with sweat and exhaustion in all my photos. To my parents, sorry if I look like I’m in pain in all my photos: it’s because I am.
Heat Part 2: Food
How the Thai people eat their hot soups and fresh noodles straight off the pain in this heat is a mystery that will fascinate me for life. My first meal here was a pad Thai and it physically hurt eating it after an exhausting day in the 95°/35°C weather, so I had to pack it up and eat it in my hostel where it was cooler. I just need to get used to it though, the first day’s always the hardest.
A Village Within A City
Coming to Bangkok, I expected skyscrapers and modernity everywhere, but my aforementioned area isn’t like that at all, and it’s beautiful. To expand on my first point about greenery, a river and floating market are on my doorstep, and it almost feels like a forest village in my area. This, again, was a pleasant surprise from the image of Bangkok I had, and I’m glad to know where to go when I want to escape the hustle and bustle.
Okay, I’ve only seen the Grand Palace so far, and it’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen in my life. It is opulent, but in a completely different way than the European cathedrals I’m used to seeing. The temple was extremely colourful, shiny, glittery, and detailed, with Buddha watching me everywhere I go. There were hues of gold, cyan, green, every tropical colour you can imagine. It’s a complete 180 of the eurocentrism surrounding the image of religious sites. I think I like these better? However, it was so, so, so crowded.
Save for a brief trip to Doha, Qatar from the airport on a long layover, I’ve never been to a country where a religion permeates the national culture, and it definitely shows. Buddha is everywhere you go, and the temples you think are just tourist attractions? People actually go there to burn incense and pray to Buddha. Buddhism has always been a curiosity of mine and seeing the practice on a national scale really shows in the Thais’ peaceful, benevolent demeanour.
Price (or lack of)
Everything here is so, so cheap and it warms my student heart. The most expensive meal I’ve had here was $2.50, and it was better than most Thai food I’ve had in my life. My hostel, which is super nice, was a massive splurge at just $13 a night. And you can get much cheaper accommodation here, which I did when I head to Vietnam and Cambodia.
Driving on the left
I just didn’t expect this. The more you know!
Everywhere I’ve been, save for Cuba, has been relatively modern and somewhat westernised. I didn’t feel culture shock in Cuba since it’s culture is very similar to my Puerto Rican culture, but Thailand is a whole another thing. From the hectic tuk tuks, to the stray cats, to the thousands of street food vendors, it’s completely unlike anywhere I’ve ever been, and it was my first time experiencing legitimate culture shock. I think I’ve adjusted today, but my first day was certainly like a punch to the gut, that strangely feels nice later on. Is that a weird analogy? It’s really the only way to describe adapting after culture shock.
I’m not gonna lie, I didn’t expect to like Bangkok. I didn’t even want to come here, I wanted to go to Chiang Mai or Phuket instead, but this was the cheapest flight. But, I’m very happy to say my first impressions of Bangkok are all positive and it’s exceeded my expectations by a lot! It’s a dynamic, crazy city that has something for everyone and it’s the perfect point for starting point for a Southeast Asia trip. I just wish I had more time than 3 days!