When you travel as much as I do, people often ask what your favorite country is. My answer is always the same: Thailand. Some will then nod in acknowledgment while others look surprised. They feel like it’s too touristy, or they have heard one too many stories about sex tourism and full moon party debauchery. But no place in the world is perfect and despite the pitfalls, Thailand remains an incredible country with a unique wealth of natural and inner human beauty.
While Thailand is my favorite country, Bangkok is ranking among the top 3 of my favorite cities (preceded only by Berlin and San Francisco). Whenever I come to Thailand I always plan a few days to spend here,taste great food, do amazing shopping and enjoy the great variety of people living and visiting this city.
When coming here earlier this month together with my good friend Bea, with whom I was planning a two-week trip around the country, we knew we wanted to hang out in Bangkok for a couple of nights before heading down to the islands. Many of our friends and family were concerned about us, as they had been following the news about the floodings in the Thai capital. We had been checking updates on the situation regularly, but we still were not sure what would expect us, upon arrival in Bangkok. Would our backpacker hangout of choice – the infamous Khao San Road – be flooded as we had heard? Would we find a cab to take us into the city? Would we be wading knee-deep in water? Frankly I wasn’t too worried about either scenario, as I have lived through my share of floodings, while once visiting Vietnam and India during the wet season. More than once did I wander the streets with water up to my thighs, a bit of wet wouldn’t keep me from visiting my beloved Bangkok.
At the airport, the first info counter we spoke to said we could not go to Khao San Road, as it was flooded. For a minute we held our breath – oh shit, we thought, this option was not really on our radar up to there. To be sure, we also asked the tourist info point and they told us that it was fine to go to Khao San. 35 minutes and a €10 cabfare later, we arrived at the hotel I like to stay at when in Bangkok, the Sawasdee House (47 Soi Rambuttri Chakraphong Rd.). We checked into a deluxe room for 800 Baht (€20) which comes with aircon, TV and a nice balcony that doubles as a bathroom (sounds weird, but is kind of cool). If you plan on staying here as well, I cannot recommend the fan rooms as they’re too noisy and not in the best of shape, there also is no free wifi, which is a downer and the light in the rooms is super dark, which works for a romantic setting but not for reading a book.
But back to the city. While we saw no flooding anywhere, we did however notice that all of the shops had built small floodwalls to protect themselves against potential waterflow.
While this did give the city a somewhat funny look, we were impressed with the ease even high-heeled ladies handled this issue.
I was surprised not to hear anyone complain about the situation. I expected far more people to really be affected by what has happened. The truth probably is that many people really were affected, but instead of whining about it and being upset, they got up, put on a bright smile and began working towards the future.
In a way, that is exactly what I like about Bangkok. People here are sweet, but they’re not made of sugar. They can be feisty and confident but they always have that sparkle in their eyes and the sun in their hearts.
Something else I adore about the Thai capital is food. It Is Amazing. 9 out of 10 people will agree on this. Possibly even more. The sheer variety of tasty things to eat is outstanding, and there is always a yummy street vendor around the corner dishing up the most delicious soup you’ve ever tasted – for less than a Dollar.
For a moment we went to restaurants, but then pretty quickly figured out that street food was always better than restaurant food (including fancy places), so we often just strolled around, grabbing a plastic stool at any hole-in-the-wall restaurant we could find. It’s fun watching your food be prepared right in front of you and most of the time you only end up paying a portion of the price you pay in proper restaurants.
Favorites include (but are not limited to) any kind of soup (ask for the little meat or fishballs), papaya salad (which is very spicy unless you ask for non spicy) and BBQ. When you hit one of the many BBQ grills, don’t miss to ask the vendor for sticky rice. It’s my all time favorite food. Well that ad frozen yogurt maybe.
Papaya salad (not spicy)
Chicken BBQ skewers. Remember to ask about sticky rice (Khao Niau in Thai)
A delicacy to some. Grilled insects served up as a late night snack.
When I’m not eating or relaxing while in Bangkok, I’m usually on a tuk tuk driving to one of the endless shopping opportunities. Some of the world’s most impressive malls are here, the star of them all being the Siam Paragon, where you can find all the clothes, bags and shoes your shopoholic heart desires. Possibly even better than the Paragon are the small deisgn shops to be found around Siam Square, but more on that in a later post I will dedicate solely to shopping in Bangkok.
Speaking of shopping, how cool is this mobile bank? I mean, is that safe at all?
People, food, shopping are the top reasons for me to love Bangkok like I do. I was so impressed with how well they handled the drama of the recent floodings and for that reason decided to make a little video, hopefully inspiring others to keep smiling like the people of Bangkok.
Keep smiling, Bangkok.