Wandering aimlessly around the city I quickly realized that this nation’s soul encloses sound principles and ancient values. The respect toward the royal family, for example, of which paintings and representations are posted at every corner of the city, or for Buddhism, which seems to be an integral and essential part of the Thai’s culture and life. It is pretty common to bump into monks simply walking down the street. These characters, iconic, fascinating and respected by everyone, represent Buddhism itself they transmit this with their smile, the principles of love and peace which make this religion (or philosophy of life, as some like to define it) one of the most intriguing of our world.
As soon as we arrived in Bangkok we’ve been greeted by two of the most typical and iconic aspects of Thailand:the sultry heat, which rests on your shoulders as a superior force instantly leaving you gasping for breath, and the sincere smile of the Thai people, a distinguishing feature of these beautiful people.
The ride from the airport to the hostel was enough for me to understand the vastity of this extremely particular city, where huge skyscrapers of super companies share their backyard with the people’s houses, made of metal and concrete. Bangkok, despite being far from our standards of a livable city, has a indescribable charm. It is a beating heart, a lively and crowded metropolis, a flux of people, cars and bikes which, in the chaos (ordered only in Thai people’s mind), whiz in all directions creating danger for the new arrivals.
With its countless temples, the city of Bangkok shows that it has been able to face, and overcome, a past religiously and politically troubled, as, over time, it has learnt how to adapt to the clash of different cultures, like Chinese and Indian, finding a balance and a way to harmonically cohabit. With no doubt a lesson that should be learned by many Western countries.
In order to fully appreciate this beautiful city one should forget all the prejudices and labels that too often the Western world give to it. In the same way I’ve tried to ignore the tons of horror stories that tourists, and I underline tourists, love to tell and exaggerate. Some of the adventures I heard before I left were talking about a Bangkok dangerous, stinky and filthy. Well, you can’t really compare this place to any of our cities, indeed you should live it not from the suite of your 5 star hotel (and trust me, I have nothing against 5 star hotel) but rather down, in the streets, mixing with the locals, so you can better understand their lifestyle and the city itself. Bangkok is a city to live rather than just visit.
My short stay in Banglamphu, one of the most lively and busy areas, allowed me to realize that what makes Bangkok so unique is the essence itself: extravagant, overcrowded and far from the rules of the civil life. Markets are undoubtedly the highlight. The stalls let you jump in a vortex of colors, sounds and smells which lead you to wander through the capital’s streets, inviting you to discover its treasures. At nightfall these markets leave room to the pleasures and vices of the city. From bars to pubs, from clubs to strip clubs, from shows to musicals the night reveals the most hidden, perverse and amusing aspect of the capital.
Despite its charm Bangkok is not free of danger. However, often the danger doesn’t come from risky and harmful situations, but rather from scams, put in place from those who do scams for a living. At every corner, on every street, at any moment you will be approached by smiling men and nice women who, despite your needs, will try to offer you services like transports, tour guide, shopping guide. Beware, and politely distrust them, because no matter what, you will end up paying their services are way too much (personal experience). If you really want to, or have to, don’t accept their first offer, move on, you will find a better deal just around the corner. And most important: bargain for anything and everything, be bold ruthless yet pleasant just the way they are.
Bangkok is definitely a must, even if only for a couple of nights, for a breath of fresh air of civilization, for flight and train connections but especially, if you just arrived, for the first real and authentic taste of the beautiful Thailand.