Bangkok is huge, sprawling, super rich, super poor, overcrowded, congested, polluted, loud, raucous, colourful, exciting, shop-til-you-drop, dirty, super-clean, but above all it is completely and utterly chaotic. Town planning on ecstasy is probably the best way to describe it, although the electricity supply lines, pictured above, perform a perfect illustration of what Thailand’s capital is really like. There is no order to anything - the road system, the pedestrian systems, well I could go on listing for ever! And I love it! It has an unexpected quality, whereas in the West, you know where you are going to place your next step because the pavements are all even (indeed there are pavements), here it’s a lottery. You don’t have to compete with all forms of transport when your pedestrian light is green, but in Bangkok you do. It’s every man woman and child (and animal) for themselves. Of course, if you like order & everything in its place, don’t come to Bangkok. The electricity cables make me smile every time I look up, but walking up the steps to an overpass & being able to touch them, wow! (Not that I did, you understand, I’m not that crazy.)
The contrasts and extremes are exciting, but they can also be depressing. A theme I often write about is the disparity of wealth & probably nowhere that I have visited is the gap as prominently on display than here. These two images probably illustrate a bit of it - the Ferrari and the motorbike on the train track. These images were taken 100 yards apart.
Walking back to our hotel today, we saw these and many, many more examples. Shopping malls for the super rich, which echo with your footsteps they are so clean & empty, beggars sitting on the pavement just along the street (they’d be moved on if they sat outside); street stalls scratching a living while opposite, the young rich preen themselves outside Starbucks (I know, but it’s still trendy here!). This young lady was taking a photo of her Hermes handbag, presumably to share with her equally wealthy friends...
The journey into Bangkok was straight, but boring, until we hit the outskirts. Then the fun began. Google really tried, but there were some very odd road works going on & a few roads I simply could not turn right into! My phone’s battery is nearing replacement & the accessory on the bike to charge it is dodgy, so then my phone went dead! Using just your instincts in a city as large & chaotic as Bangkok when you still have about 15Kms to go is, of course, madness bordering on lunacy. Getting a bit of a trickle charge going, I managed to revive it & it guided us to our hotel with its dying breath (so to speak). Those of you who read my first blog in Bangkok will remember I tried to use Google maps offline & it cost us a lot of time & energy! Seems, something is destined to happen in a city such as this. Tomorrow we have to navigate back to the bike rental place & then we are in the hands of locals. Phew!
Do I have to talk about the traffic? Well, it took us about 25 minutes in a tuk tuk from our hotel to a nearby shopping area, sitting in jams most of the time & 20 minutes to walk back. I think that illustrates it. It is total & complete bedlam on the roads. It reminds me a bit of driving around L’Arc de Triomphe in Paris when there were about 6 lanes, no markings & (I think) about 6 entry & exit points (they’ve marked everything up now). Madness to most, fun to me. If the Bangkok traffic moved a bit faster it would be exciting (and deadly).
Food in Bangkok can be phenomenal. Luckily we only had to walk to a restaurant we picked out of Trip Advisor - 4.5 stars & #46 out of 11,819 places to eat. It was a tandoori restaurant, chosen by Simon. Food was delicious although Simon had a bit of a ‘discussion’ with the waiter about the quality of the fish tikka. We then had a rousing debate (we have had a few) about the qualities of Bangkok / Thailand & why so much needs to be done.
I was desperately trying to defend my position that it has to be the Thais that drive the changes they feel essential, not driven by ‘western eyes’ which would start to alter the fabric of Thai society & identity.
It was a draw as usual. I have my opinions & Simon has his and never the twain shall meet. Would be a bit boring, not to say very unusual, if they did meet!
We fly tomorrow. Already checked in. So a leisurely start before returning the bikes & on to the airport. Adventure nearly done & dusted :(
You’ll find all the images from my Rovings here:
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