Journey to Bangkok
I haven’t slept yet, and while not much has happened, so much has happened. I did it; I made it to Thailand, despite having an injured foot and a broken suitcase.
The first thing that really struck me when leaving the airport was the politeness and hospitality of the Thai people. I saw the man with my namecard, and was met with a smile, his face naturally joyful as he gave off a genuinely upbeat and friendly aura, chatting to me as he escorted me to my driver.
The second thing that hit me was the sudden rush of humidity as I followed my escort towards the car (hmm… that sounds dodgier than intended…). But it didn’t matter, I was finally in Bangkok.
The driver and I exchanged few words on the over hour long journey into the city, but this suited me fine as I was quite content to let him focus on the roads while I took in my surroundings, hints of what must be real Bangkok, and not just the Bangkok you see in the media that all the tourists flock to.
We trundled along a massive and busy road, traffic weaving between lanes in a vain attempt to overtake other vehicles, the marked lane lines seeming like mere guidelines. We passed bright pastel coloured apartment blocks, each balcony lined with washing hung out to dry. Little shacks made from corrugated metal lined the roads, many with small, intricate shrines, the sun dazzling off the delicate golden accents.
This was contrasted with intermittent temples, of which even the small seemed fairly grand, and there were even signs hanging in trees. As I had my glimpse at what daily life in Bangkok was like for some people, trucks drove passed with covered over open trailers seating children and other family members, while motorcycles dipped in and out as though with no disregard for the potential dangers of getting so close to the cars.
Suddenly, out of the mass of narrow dirt roads and minimalist shacks, a rather more elaborate building materialised, with multiple columns and winding stone steps, green tiles adorning the domes and towers on the roof.
As we passed more pastel apartments, more roads seemed to appear more parallel to us than ever, some merely side by side, others raised higher up. As we drew ever nearer, we passed “The Proud Market”, which is apparently so proud it has a bright blue Hulk at the entrance. And then suddenly, from there it’s high rise buildings at every conceivable angle, towering above the roads and the trees lining them. High buildings, and a surprising number of Seven Eleven stores.
The motorbikes become even more plentiful the closer to the centre you get, and I’m struck by just how many there are. You hear of them being a common choice of transport around these parts, but I think I’ve probably only once witnessed such chaos, and that was the ring road around Paris’s Arc De Triomph. They sit poised and rearing to go just ahead of us, in a small cluster, before all speeding off, dodging round each other like it’s a Mario Kart race that must be won at all costs.
After taking a detour when my driver mixed up hotels and took me somewhere different than I wanted to be, I eventually stepped out of the air conditioned car. I left my bag at the hotel before heading back outside to explore the immediate area whilst I waited for my room to be ready.
Wandering down the winding streets, everything changes again. The air is filled with the mixed aromas of either fresh foods and spices, or drainage. The faint rumbling of generators running and motorbikes passing is accompanied by an undertone of pretty birdsong, as locals sit out by their shops and food stands. Then suddenly, as you round a corner, you’re faced with some kind of temple, grandly decorated in golds and reds and greens. Truly an unusual landscape of new and old, rich and poor, east and west. But I guess this is what makes Bangkok Bangkok…
Even without a destination in mind, you’re bound to see something when you first set foot in this city. I’m meeting a small group of girls from my upcoming tour tonight for food and drinks, and tomorrow I hope to explore more of this exhaustingly beautiful place.