It’s 6pm and our little apartment is buzzing. Third Eye Blind is rocking in the background. I just finished preparing a dinner comprised of a mish-mash of the remaining groceries we had left. Ellie is arguing about whether or not she needs to eat said mish-mash. Erica is running around, if such a thing is possible in an efficiency apartment, diligently packing bags. We leave first thing in the morning.
I decided to stop and take a moment to jot down my thoughts about Bangkok as a city, its people, and some of the more interesting sights, sounds, smells, and flavors. I’ve only been here for a short time, so this is by no means exhaustive or even accurate. It’s just my perception so far.
An obvious place to start. Every food blogger and Youtuber on the planet talks endlessly about the amazing food in Bangkok. There aren’t any particular restaurants I would recommend, since most of the places we ate at didn’t have names. Oh yeah! Almost forgot, tons of restaurants here just straight up don’t have a title. This was unexpected and makes using Foursquare as a tool to canvas the neighborhood for eats an impossible task. Forget Foursquare. Go outside and walk around. You could do it with your eyes closed and probably hit a good place to eat. Restaurant also often don’t have menus in English, not that I expect that, and many don’t have menus at all. I just walk up, point at a bunch of stuff, and hope I made the right choice.
If you’re looking for a safe bet, the food in Siam Paragon mall is amazing. There’s an endless variety of authentic and delicious asian cuisine. That being said, it’s super expensive. We also discovered a mall in Chit Lom just this morning that had an AMAZING food court with super cheap food. I’m talking $1 to $2 per meal. I ate two lunches, it was so cheap and delicious.
If you want the adventurous option, hit up the street food vendors pretty much anywhere in the city. BE CAREFUL! On more than one occasion I saw cats and dogs in close proximity to raw meat and veg, both in the markets and at street food vendors. Some safety tips: Obviously, only go to vendors that are busy. There should be a line of at least three or four people. If there isn’t, don’t go there. I also found myself saying “This is a new country with a different culture. Strange smells are probably just part of the norm!” Well that was bullshit. Those new strange smells meant bad food on more than one occasion. Trust your nose. Also trust your eyes. The vendor should be cooking the food fresh right there in front of your face. If the meat is just laying out already cooked, keep walking. No matter how good the food looks, there’s another vendor within 100 meters in any direction selling the same thing hotter and fresher.
Here’s something that was really surprising to me. The food here isn’t really all that spicy. Almost every restaurant provides chili peppers in vinegar as well as chili powder and you basically just choose your own heat level by adding it yourself. Maybe it’s because I’m a foreigner? I don’t know. That being said, “VERY SPICY!” is one of the first things I learned to say in Thai, and though I used it many times I can say without a doubt, I did not eat one meal that was spicy before I added half the chilis in the whole restaurant to my plate. Next time, I’m buying a shirt that says “If it’s not spicy, I’m not eating!”
What can I say? Thailand is known as the land of the smiles. People here are for the most part very sweet. They smile in good times and bad. I literally saw a motorcycle accident where a lady flew about two meters and landed, sliding an additional meter, on her fucking face. As she came to a stop, her legs fell out of the air to meet the ground. I thought there was a real chance she wasn’t getting up, but to my complete surprise she did, then smiled, and just walked off. More times than I can count, we would be on a bus or a train and both men and women would stand up to give their seat to Erica and Ellie. These people are both resilient, and friendly.
Everyone was happy to help us. My terrible grasp of the Thai language did not hamper us at all. The slightest bit of Thai language and people would smile really wide and then go out of their way to help us.
Overall, I’m not sure how to feel about Bangkok. This is a magical city and I’m grateful to have seen it, but after two weeks, I’m ready to head to the next destination. I’m sure I’ll miss it as soon as we board the train.
- The Grand Palace
- The Erawan Museum
- Siam Paragon
- Sea Life Aquarium
- Temple of the Golden Buddha
- I’m sure there’s a ton more that we just haven’t seen yet
I hope to come back to Bangkok again one day, especially now that I have a better picture of where to go and how to get there. Next stop, Chiang Mai!
“I would change myself if I could. I would walk with my people if I could find them.” – 3EB
Also published on Medium.