Thailand is famous for its street food. Food stalls and rolling carts whip up your favorite kebabs, noodle dishes, and fried goodness, hot and fresh while you wait. It’s dirt cheap, it’s widely available, and it’s better than any Thai food I’ve ever found in the States.
Bangkok was HOT. I mean, very hot. I mean, about as uncomfortably hot as we’ve ever been. We would be sweating within minutes of leaving our air-conditioned hotel room. In fact, this was the first time we had needed an air-conditioned hotel room, and it was worth every extra penny. Our room/cool box was a welcome and needed relief and we found ourselves making forays out into the sweltering city but only for short stints at a time.
We spent a great afternoon at Chatuchak Market – a massive market for both tourists and locals alike. They have a gigantic selection of everything from clothing, to housewares, from puppies to souvenirs, and of course delicious Thai food. It’s torture to visit a place like this and know that you don’t have enough extra room in your backpack for all the things you want to buy, especially when they are so cheap!
We also ventured into China Town to check out more street vendors and stores selling anything and everything you could imagine, and when we were sufficiently over-heated we headed to one of Bangkok’s many state-of-the-art malls to cool off and see a movie. Bangkok’s malls are incredibly impressive – they are some of the biggest, most modern and architecturally impressive malls that we’ve ever seen. They are definitely a place to see and be seen as we saw thousands of Thais wandering the 10 or so floors, chatting and texting on their fancy smart phones. We don’t have malls this nice in the US.
But mostly we just enjoyed the creature comforts of a developed city and looked forward to our next opportunity to eat yummy and amazingly inexpensive Thai food. Coming from India and Nepal, where everything from purchasing bus tickets, to driving 20km on a hellish road could take hours – Thailand was a dream. Air-conditioned taxis with leather seats; multi-lane highways where people followed traffic rules; customer service agents at the train station to assist travelers with their bookings; excellent English everywhere. Bangkok was a nice and easy place to spend a few days and we made sure to appreciate it!
We’ve gotten pretty used to chaotic, challenging, sometimes uncomfortable, sometimes annoying, sometimes outrageously inefficient, sometimes completely unsuccessful situations and interactions during our travels throughout India and Nepal. It’s the developing world, it’s poor, and it’s packed with people struggling to survive. That’s what you put up with, but it’s a fight worth having, because the rewards, tastes, interactions, lessons, and experiences are so worth it.
When we stepped off the flight from Nepal to Thailand, we entered a different world – a world of functionality, efficiency, comfort, and relative peace and quiet. It’s amazing how you come to appreciate the little things when they’ve been absent so long. A few things that put smiles on our faces:
- No honking!
- Highways, with lanes that people stay in, and traffic laws that are followed!
- 24-hour electricity!
- Drinkable ice!
- Air-conditioned taxis with leather seats!
- 7-11 stores every 100 meters, full of everything an American 7-11 would have (plus alcohol)!
- Vendors actually listen when you say “no thanks” and leave you alone, often while maintaining a smile the whole time!
While the creature comforts are nice to have again, there are some cultural trade-offs that made everyday interactions a bit more bland. White people are everywhere. EVERYWHERE! Aussies and Brits galore, complete with their boisterous (and fun) attitudes. Local people just are not as interested in us, who we are and where we’re from. Initiating interactions is more difficult, as they are a more reserved culture very accustomed to tourists.
For better or for worse, we’re happy to be here. It might take a bit more effort to get away from the crowds, but the cultural traditions are equally as intriguing, the food is equally as amazing, and who doesn’t like a little comfort after roughing it for, say, 4 months!