Wednesday, June 10, 2015

A Whole Lotta Bangkok- Why I Freaking Love Bangkok + So Should You

Paraphrasing AC/DC's 'Whole Lotta Rosie':
Wanna tell you story
About a city I know
When it comes to lovin'
She steals the show
She ain't exactly pretty
Ain't exactly small

Rats-gourmet-ho's-high rise-traffic
You could say she's got it all          

.
She ain't Exactly Pretty
Downtown high-rises often scrape the omni-present low lying rain clouds and haze.  
downtown Bangkok skyline
The interiors of the ritzy hotel chains are far more opulent than than their Western counterparts, a dramatic contrast to the slums and ramshackle housing that exist a few hundred meters away; the cheap labor of Asia facilitating both extremes.

inside the Marriott Hotel

On the sidewalks, vendors hawk their wares; a rainbow of tropical fruits- coconuts, mangoes, bananas deep-fried in front of you, to flowers, wallets, belts, clothes, art, to food stands with tasty Thai cuisine ... you could virtually live in the city without stepping foot into a store with a roof over it; many Thais pretty much do. 

A look at some of Bangkok's street stands

An absence of public trash cans abets the Thai tradition of littering. The small plastic bags given out with every purchase blow in the wind.
Rats stream fearlessly from the sewers, sifting for food amongst the debris lined streets, plentiful nutrition allowing them to grow large. Only someone who lives in a dump (or India) would describe Bangkok as clean.

Girls from less fortunate economic circumstances line the streets, offering their bodies in exchange for money.
"Mister, mister, I go with you," they call out, sometimes in a startlingly male voice still unaffected by the hormones they're taking. Ladyboys abound in the city more than any other on earth. Someone told me they spotted Caitlyn Jenner. It's plausible.

She Ain't Exactly Small
14 million people live within Bangkok and it's urban sprawl. Thais living on the cities outskirts often undergo long commutes to work.
Lights sometimes as long as 221 seconds pile traffic for miles, only the ubiquitous motorbikes of SE Asia weaving dangerously between the cars, trucks, and buses make it anywhere during rush hour.
A sample of Bangkok gridlock 

Cheap + Tasty Food 
Feel yourself losing electrolytes to the tropical climate? Refresh yourself with coconut water or fresh squeezed juices at any street corner. 
Hungry? During a recent journey to the state of the art shopping mall Terminal 21 in downtown Bangkok, I purchased 2 coconuts, a plate on with two Thai Entrees and rice, a cafe latte, and two scoops of Nestle ice-cream. What would that cost in the US/Europe? My friends all estimated between $20-$25.
What was the total in Bangkok? About $4.50. Yes, less than $5 for a total feast.
A sample of what you can buy at Terminal 21 for $1

The People
Though an upward moving face in "the land of 1,000 smiles" sometimes masks hostility or sadness,  it's uncommon to hear Thais raise their voices. (which you cannot say for the Chinese)
In general, I find the culture kind, open, and friendly. Perhaps I see the best side of Thais being a farang (foreigner) with money, but aside of the language barrier, I almost always enjoy my exchanges with them.

You Could Say She's Got it All
The city has an energy, a pace which I find invigorating. There is always something to do, something new to experience, from rooftop hotel pool parties, to art openings, dancing, or temples for meditation. It's still an Eastern city, but with a strong and tasty Western flavor. 

Differences Remain
In Los Angeles, little frustrates people more than being stuck in traffic. It doesn't matter if you're expecting delays when you leave the house, most Angelinos will still pound their dashboards in frustration when the elderly Asian female refuses to turn right despite a football field of daylight, leaving me ranting about how responsible and good drivers, such as myself, should be allowed to attach tactical nuclear weapons to their cars to facilitate a graceful resolution of just such a situation, leaving only a small mushroom cloud in my wake.
In Bangkok, where sadly they have an even greater percentage of elderly Asian female drivers (a byproduct of unfortunate geographic location) people honestly don't seem to care their lives are being sucked away by the gridlock. In Buddhist tradition, they're much more accepting of what is. They're in no hurry, whatsoever!

Let me give you an example of another way this outlook manifests:
In the West we rarely stand side-by-side on an escalator due to maniacs such as myself being willing to knock you down for having the temerity to hold us up. (if I'm able to restrain myself from deploying my hand held nuke first that is)
In Thailand, no matter how late you are, to keep the peaceful atmosphere you're going to have to wait for the escalator to slowly wind it's way up to the next floor. People who are together stand side by side without a thought or care in the world, not because they are rude or unthoughtful, but simply because the hurried paradigm of Western culture is so foreign in this land.
 
Diener Time- on a scooter in downtown BKK
I mentioned how cheap food is here. Everything is cheaper. You can have two Thai women give you an hour long massage for $15 (including a 20% tip) ... Massages are so cheap (and generally awesome) you can't afford not to get one!
Rent is cheaper (though climbing) and the price of having hired help, (a maid or driver for example) is ridiculously low.

Avoid rush hour by taking the SkyTrain or subway. Both are being expanded to service more areas of Bangkok. During off-peak traffic hours taxis cost a mere couple bucks to take you around town.
Yes, internet is not as fast or reliable here. Yes, the weather is hotter and muggier than Los Angeles, but overall the infrastructure and quality of life you can have here rivals that of any Western metropolis, but at a Far Far Far cheaper price.   
In the study of economics, the principle of "perfect markets" states that you will never find a $20 bill on the ground, because someone would have already picked it up.
Markets, however, aren't perfect, and Bangkok is that $20 bill. And what you can purchase for that here-- A Whole Lotta Bangkok.

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