Made it to Bangkok! First Impressions

First up, Bangkok is miles and miles away – as you would expect after a long haul flight – from more familiar destinations. If that comes as a shock to you, you’re planning is woeful and I suggest you go back to year 9 Geography.

As soon as you step out of the cushion of the airport’s air conditioning system you feel an unmistakable surge of sweltering heat. Airports are frantic places anywhere in the world but the Bangkok Suvarnabhumi takes hustle and bustle to a new level. Battling my way out of the terminal I made it to a cab station and into a bright pink taxi. I’d love to say I was well versed and too cool for school but there was only one place I was heading and that was Khao San Road.

Rules of the Thai roads

As we made our way along the huge motorway we were making good progress until the traffic started to build up as we approached the city centre. In London Town we wait our turn and keep our mouths shut during a traffic jam but not here. To put it frankly, nobody is fucking about. Our driver instantly started winging it down the hard shoulder, (Bloody maniac I thought), but everyone had the same idea and we were quickly just as jammed as the other lanes. An ambulance with its sirens blaring turned up but no one was budging, it sat next to us in the traffic for some 20 minutes while someone’s life was probably slipping away somewhere.

But as I’ve come to find out, that’s Bangkok.

First Impressions of Bangkok

1. Every man for himself.
2. Whoever has the bigger vehicle has right of way.
3. Use your horn at all times.

The locals, whether on board one of thousands of tuk-tuks or millions of mopeds, squeeze every spot of space on the road even if they take a detour into oncoming traffic or the pavement. Waiting patiently is not part of the process. Deciding which car park to use is my toughest choice as a motorist, while for Thais questions like how do I transport my live buffalo, three children and sack of rice back from the market need answering. Tied to your moped of course, you idiot. There’s enough going to make a DVLA jobsworth’s head combust in a matter of seconds.

Everybody smiles when they smell money

While the Western world has slowly built up technology and discovered what works through years of experience but Thailand, far more advanced than many of it’s neighbouring countries, the technology seems to have been dropped on the doorstep and everyone has been left to work it out for themselves.

The people are friendly, there are plenty of smiles but it feels like it’s mainly because Westerners appear to be white pillars of wealth wandering around searching for ways to spend their wonga. Your mind will be screaming ‘I’m reserved and British please refrain from invading my personal space’ but you’ll smile politely for the first couple of hours as you’re harassed and offered anything from a scorpion snack to snide sunglasses.

First Impressions of Bangkok

But ulterior motives quickly become apparent, now I’m not suggesting the nation of Thailand is a breeding places for thieves and robbers, but things can get seedy. Masters at spinning any yarn they can muster to coerce you into something are the tuk-tuk drivers. But your gullibility can soon wear thin. I usually pay for the pleasure of being taken for a ride during a family trip to Thorpe Park, show me a tourist that hasn’t been stung in Bangkok and I’ll show you a liar.

Hello mate, can you turn on the meter? Oh right it’s a national holiday and you’re not allowed to. That seems fair. Take me to this hotel then please, shoot it was burnt down yesterday you say. What a coincidence, I hope no one was injured. In that case let’s go for something to eat, can you recommend any local restaurants? OK this is a fake gem stone store, mate, just drop me back where I got on. Thanks.

One thing an ordered, somewhat OCD-suffering, chap such as myself struggled to comprehend was how anything got done. There was no space, things went at a million miles an hour in a blur of organised chaos. During my first night we drove past a team of workmen laying tarmac in the middle of the night, partly because of the daytime heat and traffic, but how can you expect to lay a smooth driving surface in the dark? The blokes were out there mixing cement by hand and using basic pulley systems onto bamboo scaffolding. Health and safety was as lax as the food hygiene judging by the various unrefrigerated meat outlets. But the same produce has provided street stalls that fry up fabulous food better than any fancy la-de-da restaurants at a fraction of the price. Image

Challenge Bangkok: Accepted

What I quickly appreciated was that usually menial task often turned into an adventure Indiana Jones wouldn’t shut up about. Just taking a trip to the 7-11 to buy some fags can throw up sights and sounds that you have never experienced. All I was after was some tarry 20 L&M Reds but I ended up being caught in a torrential downpour that flooded the streets.

First impressions of Bangkok

Although Thailand is few pills short of a full medicine cabinet as first impressions go it was love at first sight, on my part.

However, first impressions aren’t everything and tonnes of tourists in Bangkok would run a mile if they were. Many pick up the acquired taste to appreciate this manic metropolis, while just as many vow never to return, except for the inevitable interchanges when plane hopping to other parts of the continent. Few sit on the fence. Which category will you fall into?

Impressions are formed from interpretation, so don’t take my word for it, I don’t like butter on my sandwiches for Christ sake. You can’t form your own opinions until you’ve bitten, or dodged, the Bangkok bullet, so what are you waiting for?

Whether you’re a newbie traveller looking for help or a backpacking veteran with words of wisdom to share, our community is waiting for you.

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