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Bangkok at different paces: the crawl, the sprint, and the walk of life

by Sou

Some of you may have heard the full name of Bangkok. It is Krungthep Mahanakorn Amornrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokapop Noparatratchatathani Burirom Udomratchanivetmahasatan Amornpiman Avatarasatit Sakkathattiyavisnukarmprasit. The longest city name recorded by the Guiness Book of Records.

Thailand is described in most TV ads and posters as the ‘Land of Smiles’. Visitors will see a sign welcoming them to the Land of Smile in the airport even before they have walked past the immigration office. In Bangkok, you can smile at any Thai person and it’s very very rare that you will not get a smile back.

Life in Bangkok is not much different from life in other big cities, Bangkok, with more than 9 million people, packed together in a most polluted city in the region, where technology is always used and sometimes abused, where everything is in rush.

Bangkok became cosmopolitan in a short time due to globalisation. Tall buildings and skyscrapers became more important to the city because of space problems. There are traffic jams, pollutions and crimes just like any other big cities, but Bangkok seems to preserve the contemporary way of living through the years. You can find many sights contrastive to your eyes, but to Bangkokians, this is our unique personality that you can never find elsewhere on this planet.

Who are the Bangkokians? Bangkokians are composed of people from all over the world. As a free hub of South-east Asia, Bangkok tends to offer sights of a blended society to outsiders. The Yaowaraj or China town — the biggest commercial quarter in Old Bangkok where reside an uncountable number of Chinese. Pahurat or Little India — home of thousands of Parisis, Sikhs and Hindus, Sukhumwit road or Streets of Faraos — the international quarter, as well as Khaosan road, a small alley just 15 minutes walk from the Grand Palace is a paradise for backpacking tourists from all over the world. These are just some of our most obvious examples.

Life in Bangkok doesn’t even need an adaptation. Because the city has all, shopping malls, bars, clubs, temples, cathedrals, masyids, synagogues, youth centres, sport centres and libraries. Both as the sex capital of Asia.

Newcomers assume that Thais are very friendly and happy, but this is a bit too simplification. Anyway, almost half of the Bangkokians they meet have long working hours in hard careers and earning less than THB 10,000 (225 Euros) a month. Why do they have to smile almost every time?

It’s a quite-hard-to-understand cultural reason, We have a lot of reason why we smile. Some of these types of smiles could be seen as rude for westerners. If a Thai accidentally catches his foot against you in a bar and spills some of your glass of drink you are holding, he will smile even before saying that he is sorry. That could be a reaction that is unlikely to be well going-along with the foreigners. But Smile in Thailand is always considered as appropriate gesture to almost every possible situation, showing happiness, gratitude, embarrassment, fear, tension, resignation and many more.

This lists a few about our what-to-sees in Bangkok:

Khao San Road: a short but complex alley about three blocks long not far from the River Chao Phraya in Banglampu District. This is the backpacker neighborhood is like saying you can buy a drink on Bourbon Street or that Ireland has beer. Within the Khao San Road area (years ago this street was overflowed, now Khao San Area has grown a bit further south, by one or two blocks) you can find over 250 guest-houses, restaurants, bars, tattoo parlors, Internet-cafés, bookstores, travel-agents and massage parlors.

Downtown Bangkok is a lot more grown up, and dressed up, than the rest of Thailand. Suits and heels replace sarongs and flip-flops, restaurants and bars are air conditioned and expensive, movie theatres have ushers, and the shops are more likely to feature Gap or Versace than hand woven native rugs or bamboo chopsticks.

Siam Square: Siam Square is likely to be the Times Square of Bangkok. The bar and restaurants here cater to middle to upper class Thais, shopping-spree Asians, Europeans, and working expatriates. If you don’t care about nice things on travel posters you have seen about the Old Bangkok this place is still worth a visit to see the Neo-Bangkok. Dozens of cinemas in the area a good night out. The changes of ?2.50 gets you a few hours in a plush old fashion theatre house — completed with air-conditioning and assigned seats. Hollywood and Asian blockbusters are featured nightly, all with the required standing ovation to the king (This is the must).

Patpong: You might want to take many deep breaths and a few shots before heading into the insanity of Patpong. The throngs of middle age tourists shopping for sarongs and chopsticks just makes the sex shows going on in every open door that much more surreal. Prepare to be harassed in a major way. Once inside you’ll end up spending a ton of money on drinks to watch sad looking barely legal teens (or not), performing funny acts with various accessories, etc., etc. and etc.. If you simply must take a peek, make sure you know exactly how much money you will have to spend on entry charge, drinks minimum, tips, service charges, VATs and so on before you get in arm’s reach of the bouncers.

Written by Sou

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Originally published in Babel Babble