Bangkok: the shock of the metropolis
Bangkok was a city of shock, awe and surprise for me.
It shocked me on a number of levels. There was the humidity and heat – that for some reason felt so much harsher than the Amazon or Outback had. Then, the organised chaos that comes with a vast, busy city – which comes in the form of traffic, hoards of people on public transport and a sea of opportunities to buy, sell and bartar.
But the most shocking thing to me was the sheer overtness of the sex trade. Never had I seen more neon signs about “pussy”, with men asking me and Stephen if we wanted to see some. A whole street close to our hotel was dedicated to young women dancing in bikinis on stage in a bar, and other things, all unsurprisingly hidden behind a curtain – keeping the “pussy” exclusive.
As a young(ish) woman it’s hard to see women younger than me in this position, and hear men use them as a means for profit. However you frame it, as the oldest profession or “what the punters want”, it’s still shocking to see.
Awe found its form for me in the many temples in and around the city. Like the sex trade, the temples are also extremely overt, but this time in their magnificence. They are a combination of Buddhist and Hindu religious structures, and the overwhelmingly large and ornate buildings are decorated with bright golds, colours and larger than life gods who can be a little bit frightening in their magnitude.
I was surprised by how modern the city was. It was less like Mumbai, India, and more like Cali, Colombia. With an excellent subway and skyline train system, Bangkok has all of the other hallmarks of Capitalism – including video advertising literally everywhere and smartphones in constant use.
It is of course clear this city doesn’t represent all of Thailand. There are many contradictions, as is the case in many cities all over the world, that hint at the rural, more traditional and perhaps more impoverished population that do not belong to this modern city and struggle to keep up with its demands and profits.
We, of course, sampled the delicious street food every day and night (including on the streets of the insane China Town), and saw a Muay Thai kick boxing match in the midst of local Thai men – all of whom were frantically betting on the competitors in an organised but chaotic system that involved lots of hand gestures and shouting.
Bangkok is a mega metropolis with the usual quirks, insanity and struggle, the same you get in every city around the world (afterall, what is a city without shock, awe and surprise?). It’s hot, it’s humid and it’s hectic, but it’s theirs, and everyone was very welcoming and friendly.
I only wish we had more time in Thailand to get a better picture of the country as a whole. My lasting impressions of Bangkok are positive (of course): beautiful, friendly people, crazy street life and a happening city that is ever-evolving.