A year before I moved to Thailand to become a Bangkok expat, I visited the city for the first time. Let’s just say the city and I did not get off on the right foot.
After living a month already in South East Asia, in Singapore, I thought Bangkok would be an easy birthday weekend getaway. Surely it would be familiar and similar to Singapore.
Bangkok is ferocious, wild, and hot. In other words, it’s not much like Singapore. The office manager at my rental flat was a “lady-boy” (men who dress and live as women, known as the third gender in Bangkok.) She was more feminine than I. Naive, unprepared me, spent more time trying to process her five-o’clock-shadow than her instructions on the tuk-tuk schedule and how to get to the SkyTrain.
“Happy-ending” massage parlors were easy to stumble across, bars and nightlife were wild, and the streets at night were filled with incredible (and incredibly spicy) food carts.
Taxi drivers are rude and won’t drive anywhere they don’t feel like going, traffic is horrible, and as a result many people take the metro until they get to their Soi. (Smaller neighborhood avenues off the large arterial streets.) Then, if you’re feeling like a quick adrenaline-ride, you hop on the back of a motorbike (drivers congregate near the metro stations) to speed you back to your building.
There was the famous – some say infamous – Chatuchak market: a sprawling, outdoor, vaguely temporary weekend market. Massive, crowded, a tourist-trap, and yet a somewhat typical Asia market, I was nonetheless entranced. Everyone seemed to be a bit in on the joke, and had turned the entire event into something of a weekend party. It was easy to smile and wander around for hours exploring all the different offerings from blue jeans to jewelry to live animals to dishes to food stalls.
I also spent several hours at the spa in Bangkok, where everything is far less expensive and the skill levels are quite high. This was the first time I fell asleep during a foot massage! Thai massages are fully clothed (you’re given a set of pajamas) and the masseuse uses her whole body to press and stretch yours. Feet, legs, knees, she will lift, press, and stretch you loose. It’s the best leg massage I’ve ever had.
But overall Bangkok was my least favorite destination in 2015. I’m not much of a partier, so that doesn’t help the situation, but it’s hotter than Singapore and extremely intense. (Though not the kind of intensity of Yangon, Myanmar.) It isn’t a place I have much desire to return to.