We thought for sure we’d be ready to flee as soon as the plane touched town. A city of legendary heat and humidity, swarming with chaos and 9.5 million people… no thanks.
And first day does overwhelm all the senses. Nothing looks or feels familiar. There are cockroaches. Rats of unusual size. With every breath you inhale exhaust fumes and and the heavy scent food in various states of deliciousness and decay. Trash collectors dump and sort the contents of their trucks on the street and you learn to play a bold and decisive game of Frogger against taxis and tuk-tuks and mopeds pretty quickly.
Not gonna lie: our first full day was spent exploring the malls. And the day after.
But after that, we began to see and appreciate some of the beauty. It can be as obvious as a towering golden chedi, as commonplace as a woman selling offering flowers, or as inconspicuous as a cat napping on a wall. So we stayed for a little bit.
While we do enjoy taking it slow and getting to know a place for at least a week or more (versus the usual 2-4 days that most other backpackers average), if we’re being honest, our lack of speed is also due to reluctance to make a decision.
The downside of this habit is that we’ll visit fewer places overall and sometimes pay higher prices by booking last minute transportation. On the upside, we’re more relaxed and get a better sense of a place than we would have if we were just zipping through. We find the good restaurants with the best prices, can easily say “yes” to unexpected opportunities, soak in the little details, and feel more like honorary residents rather than faceless consumers just passing through.
Bangkok is renowned for its tuk-tuk scams and assorted schemes to part the naive from their money, but only one of its citizens thought we looked like a good target. Luckily, he was just a guy sitting at the table next to us in a sidewalk restaurant, and it wasn’t a big deal. While we were disappointed that his friendly chit-chat quickly turned into an attempt to get us to visit his friend’s shop that is having a “big gem sale for tourists today only,” he did suggest that we head north for the mountains before visiting the islands.
We took the latter advice and hopped the night train to Chiang Mai the next day. As we write this six weeks later, we’re so glad we did. Our northern path brought wonderful people and unbelievable experiences into our lives. So thanks, scammy guy. You’re the best.