For a lot of people, Bangkok essentially starts with the Floating Market and ends at the Khao San Road. For some, it merely is a shopper’s paradise. Then there are the hedonists who visit the city in order to indulge in all the carnal pleasures of the world. But only a handful travel in order to experience the real essence of Bangkok, the city that literally never sleeps. The air is always moist and salty and is continually interspersed with the odour of fried sea-food and even insects of unimaginable varieties. And the odour emanating from the same is an unbearably foul stench for some while there are others who cannot have enough of the appetizing aroma. All at the same time, my hotel room and the many spas I visited gloriously smelled of orchids infused with jasmine and lemongrass. How could I possibly complain?
What is interesting is the fact that Bangkok has two glaring, two strikingly different faces and the residents seem to be proud of both. While open drains and shacks illuminated by fluorescent bulbs adorn one corner of the street, the other side is home to luxury brands and high-rises with floors that are impossible to count. The disparity almost speaks to you. On the one hand, the skyline, which is often reminiscent of Manhattan, can intimidate anybody; the underbelly of the Thai capital, on the other, is home to rampant poverty and several vices of the world.
Despite being a city that has constantly been battling political instability, what with the many protests that spring up every now and then, Bangkok has worked hard to retain itself as a major player in the tourism sector. Additionally, even problems such as high levels of pollution, corrupt taxi drivers and illegal prostitution have not deterred the city from competing with the other big metropolises on our planet.
I vividly remember some of my evenings in Bangkok-, heck, I could carry all those memories to my grave. Like when I would walk past rows after rows of makeshift shops selling pirated CDs of popular Hollywood titles along with a lot of soft porn. When I would have exhaust fumes greeting my face wherever I went. When I had to be careful in order to avoid stepping into a pothole and this thought was oddly comforting as it reminded me of home.
When my ears would work hard to get used to the high-pitched nasal voices conversing around me in a language I absolutely couldn’t comprehend. I remember sitting rather uncomfortably on the floor of a tuk-tuk as it sped through the streets, halting a few times because of the traffic but finally getting me to my destination. I can recall being hollered by vendors asking me to try their fare- right from outrageously glittery clothes to tropical fruit salads. I also remember being solicited by women and men asking me to try a different kind of fare, the one that was illegal. I remember the wrinkled faces, the animated hand gestures, the mischievous winks and the warm smiles. I was perpetually lost in translation.
Seven trysts down and I still cannot wait to go back. I am convinced that this city is a magnet and I am just a gullible piece of metal.