After several days attempting to summarize our time in the city of Bangkok, I have reluctantly decided that one (or even two if you wanna get real crazy) paragraphs do not do justice to a city that apparently was developed on the notion of "everything, anything, and then a tad bit more." With over 8 million residents teaming its chaotic streets, alleys, backalleys and any other 2 foot wide space through which a motobike can drive (regardless of what obstacles -- typically human-formed -- lay in its path), Bangkok has seemingly grown into a city intent on catering to every walk of life imaginable (as well as unimaginable if you wander down the wrong alley). While other major cities across the world share a like-minded viewpoint, the stark contrast on every corner seems to set this hilariously-named-if-you-are-12-years-old-or-just-really-immature-like-myself city on it's own.
Imagine taking all the burbs of New York (hipster and non-hipster alike), placing them in a giant Boggle container, adding a couple wats/temples and a handful of orange-robe-sporting monks to the mix, shaking it up (a fairly standard step for you Boggle newbies), and what remains is the city of Bangkok. On one block, a ritzy mall sporting the likes of Prada, Chanel, and any other brand Julie reluctantly parted ways with the day she chose a future with me. And the other, miles upon miles of slums and shacks, housing families who make less money in one lifetime than those around the corner do in a single day. Further away, a peaceful neighborhood park, nestled amongst the commotion of everyday life, home to anyone and everyone looking for a break from the chaos by which they are surrounded each and everyday. And finally, down one of those "unimaginable" alleys just around the bend, dozens of Adam's-Apple-boasting "ladyboys" destined to find that desperate tourist in pursuit of "good time."
As I finalize my unsummarizeable summarization (a phrase which spellcheck apparently hates), all I can honestly say is that Bangkok welcomes every traveler to the region of Southeast Asia with open arms, and one hell of a preview of things to come.
Onto the highlights:
Khao San Road - In a city of endless diversity, it is amazing to know that the majority of backpackers traveling through its midst only experience a single strip of road, no longer than 400 meters in length (yup, I'm going all metric on ya). Khao San Road, more affectionately known as the "largest backpacker ghetto in the world," is literally a highly-condensed/severely-diluted version of the city of in which it resides. Catering to the 20/$20 crowd (i.e. 20-something years of age, $20-something in their pockets), this tiny strip of asphalt's sole purpose is to follow the practice of "if somebody wants it, we will sell it." Heaping plates of $1 Pad Thai. Soy-glazed insects of the deep-fried variety. "Modified" diplomas/degrees to the University of your choice. Graphic t-shirts. More graphic t-shirts. Buckets of liquor that scoff at the notion of mixers. Even more graphic t-shirts. The list is endless, the crowds are relentless, and the people-watching is priceless.
Street Food - Two words synonymous with the city of Bangkok, the never-ending array of vendors serving up mind-numbingly delicious meals are unavoidable, and for good reason. On every corner, in every alley, a tired/sweaty local, most likely up since before dawn, is cooking up what is soon to be "the best Thai meal I've ever had." With most menus either non-existent, or in the unmemorizeable symbols of the Thai language, it is of no matter, as a smile, a pointing finger and typically a few dollars (up to $3 if you really want to splurge) will soon disappoint any future meal to be had upon your return home.
Heat Adaptation - Despite living through countless summers of 100 degree Texas heat, nothing can truly prepare one for the unrelenting presence of "holy-hell-why-won't-it-stop" heat which attempts to suffocate your every breath while in Thailand. With humidity-factored temperatures reaching close to 110 degrees F during the summer (I won't force you to attempt a Celcius conversion), and a constant stream of exhaust-pumping motobikes upping the mercury level a few notches more, the unsufferable combination of unbreathable air and backsweat galore leads one to find respite wherever possible. And typically, such reprieve (thanks Shift-F7) is found through the heavenly escape of constant showers (our current record stands at 4 in one day) or the ever-present 7/11's throughout the city, providing a overly-satisfying helping of A/C to the heat-stricken traveler. Nonetheless, adapt we will, and sweat we shall.
Onto the pics: