Thursday, September 21, 2006
One Night in Bangkok
Where to begin, where to begin...
Bangkok is a city of dichotomies. We've walked all day through massive indoor malls with grimy floors and dark corridors, lined with small vendors selling every kind of clean, high-fashion label you can think of, at incredibly low prices. I bought 10 t-shirts at 60 baht each - that's about $1.75 USD. I got a nice pair of jeans for about $4.50. The shopping goes on forever; you could never see every vendor. I heard about this and it's exactly why I only brought the clothes I was wearing.
Cruising in a public transit boat down a narrow city canal, you see shanties lining the banks. Living conditions are squalid. People are washing dishes in dirty plastic bins in shacks made of shards of wood for walls and corrugated sheet metal for roofs. Above and shortly beyond them, giant skyscrapers and golden-colored temples loom.
The military stages a coup, and they make it a national holiday. This keeps people's spirits up, they tell us. We went down to the government buildings and saw CNN interviewing the new prime minister. Everyone was applauding the military vehicles leaving the offices.
The rickshaws of the 21st century, motorcycles with carriages on the back called tuk tuks, putter all over the city. The drivers are always standing around asking "Where you go?" They'll take you on 2-3 stops on opposite sides of the city for 40 baht ($1), but I can't stand the fumes. Traffic is so crowded, you spend most of the time directly behind someone's exhaust.
Chinatown is endless thin walkways between buildings, with scents of strange food and sewage oscillating in a most nauseating way.
We've become quite daring with food and drinks, but haven't been sick yet. Giant grills with chicken meat, wings, pork and fish seem questionable, but they are delicious and so far, safe. We've eaten plenty of things we don't even recognize as well, but breakfast has been mainly western eggs and toast.