So, on my first full day in Bangkok I did not get lost. This is a big deal. I have a terrible sense of direction. When the driver taking me to my hotel cut into a long alley (alleys in Thailand are called soi and are more like very narrow streets, with addresses and even vendors; mastering the concept of soi is key to navigating Bangkok) and then had to turn down a couple dog-legs before finally stopping, well, I was sure I would promptly get lost the moment I stepped out of my hotel.
But I figured it out…at least the tiny area in which my hotel is located, anyway, in a neighborhood called Baan Khrua, a few blocks from Siam Square. Bangkok’s blocks are enormous and criss-crossed with soi that serve as extra space for addresses (especially shops) as well as short cuts to main roads (these alleys are even labeled as “shorter way to”).
So I learned to navigate my temporary neighborhood but will soon have to find an apartment and, presumably, starting all over again with the recon and orientation.
The food is good but, so far, remarkable mostly for its price. The meals I’ve had, essentially various stir fries with rice, would be considered just fine in a sit down restaurant in Montreal, but I got mine on the side of the street and paid less than $2 for one and about $5 for the other, though it included a large beer.
I ventured into the city’s largest mall, actually a collection of malls connected by tunnels and skywalks, not unlike Montreal’s underground city. It’s rather impressive: it’s like a whole other world. There are shanty towns just blocks away but the mall is world-class, all shiny chrome and brand name items. It’s also where I’ve seen the most tourists. In the Paragon, one of the city’s fancier malls, you can shop for D&G, walk a few feet, and pick up a Lamborghini or two. I mean that: there is a Lamborghini dealership on the fourth floor of a mall in this city. Don’t ask me how you test drive the things.
And speaking of cars and driving: the traffic in Bangkok is . . . intense. It’s also the source of the city’s noisiness but you kinda get used to it; it just fades into the background since it’s so constant. There’s no yelling or shouting or screaming children, just traffic and some construction, and it all just feeds into the city’s energy.
The city isn’t what I’d call pretty, but at night it really comes to life, feeling like something both pleasurable and dangerous, like an exotic sex act. The lights glow through the humidity, people mill around every street corner and eat along every street, while rats scurry from shadow to shadow and scooters cut through the darkness.
At this point, after only one full day, all I have are vague impressions of the city, but I already look forward to exploring further, to getting to know it better. It has a certain gritty charisma that is difficult to ignore, like an intense but friendly stranger with a reputation for going a tad too far… You wanna know the stories, but you also wanna know where new ones might lead…