Finding Bangkok

by Sara · 10.10.2010 · Escapism · 3 comments

Bangkok. Back­pack­ers haven, door to Asia, the first touch of adven­ture you’ll have once you decide to leave your reg­u­lar cit­izen life. It’s loud, it’s packed, it’s noisy. I remem­ber watch­ing The Beach for the first time in my life (yes, I watched it before I read the book and I do regret it), and I was drawn in by the pic­tures of neon lights and night life and the oppor­tun­ity of being in a place where everything drowns you out, and you’ll go by unknown in per­fect anonymity.

When I arrived in Bangkok, I finally under­stood why Leonardo DiCaprio ever wanted to leave again in search for trop­ical islands: because it’s impossible to stay here. It’s flashy and it’s excit­ing for a while, but it’s tir­ing, exhaust­ing, this city breaks you down. The smog over your head, the noise from the tuk tuks, the sheer amount of obnox­ious tour­ists who try to fol­low a path that’s been trampled over for so long, it tears your heart apart. There’s not one corner of Bangkok that even remotely seems laid back. It’s the first time in my life that I’ve actu­ally met a place that is so fas­cin­at­ing and yet so repelling. Every night, I feel like I have to scrub the dirt of my skin. Every day, I feel less and less wel­come. So I keep won­der­ing how back­pack­ers can stay here for so long — some people we’ve met at the hostel have been here for years, some never want­ing to return home.

I’m sure that every city takes a while to crack open. Ber­lin didn’t exactly come easy for me. But Bangkok is on an entire dif­fer­ent level. It’s lar­ger and it’s harder to con­quer with lan­guage bar­ri­ers. Most import­antly, the Thais in Bangkok, they’ve grown cyn­ical from the tour­ist impact. I don’t mean the lazy back­packer, I mean those people who come to get ripped off at ping pong shows and throw up all over Khao San, which I can ima­gine used to be once a sac­red place for those who wanted to escape the real world. Touts try­ing to lure you to their dia­mond shops, tuk tuk drivers lit­er­ally steal­ing your money, and pros­ti­tutes who eagerly try to seduce you. I was try­ing to find Bangkok, but look­ing European and hav­ing a back­pack on really didn’t help my case: I was instantly stig­mat­ized and with that lost any chance to get to meet the real people and places of Bangkok.

It wasn’t until a friend, a local Thai, helped us out in our Khao San dilemma. Once she was with us, teach­ing us easy con­ver­sa­tion, show­ing us around places we would’ve never found, things we would’ve never eaten (ok, and things we will never eat again), things turned around. We learnt how to split from the usual tour­ist crowds and nav­ig­ate on a bus and tuk tuk sys­tem that actu­ally worked. It was still hard when we were on our own, but we came by bet­ter. After a week of tour­ing the city with a one day trip to Pattaya’s beach (which I won’t even bother to describe — this city is an ugly slut house unworthy of being men­tioned any­way), I have to say I’m actu­ally glad to get out of all the trouble.

When it comes to Bangkok vs Ber­lin, there is only one real­istic dimen­sion of meas­ure­ment, as Bangkok is an extreme in large­ness and pol­lu­tion any­way: the young loc­als. Even the most dra­matic Mitte Hip­ster of Ber­lin would fall to shame at the sight of those fash­ion­able kids here, the local mar­kets (those unknown to most tour­ists, say Sap­an­put), the clothes — not only the cheap pro­duc­tions — the atti­tudes, even pop music is ridicu­lously in style. So the next time you com­plain about the sight of the cool crowds in BLN, remem­ber to make a trip to BKK. It’ll def­in­itely shut you up. All in all, Ber­lin has less of everything, but it’s bet­ter at most. What I’m tak­ing away? Well, Bangkok is def­in­itely not for me. I’ll come back for some ser­i­ous shop­ping and for a pleas­ant exchange with other trav­el­ers, but if you’re plan­ning for hol­i­days, bet­ter grab some gas masks or your lungs will blacken out in three, two, one…

Here are some of my impres­sions. Get ready for a whole year of crappy pointn­shoot shots as I left my cam­era (which yes, I did buy for the world trip, but still didn’t take along, yay) back in the hood.

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  1. Wow, i’m really impressed. Great pic­tures. Do you really travel alone ?

  2. very strong pic­tures fuck­ing good!

  3. awe­some pic­tures. I really love how you see the world and what kind of pic­tures you take.