The Sights and Sounds of Bangkok

Jingling coins in temples; children on field trips; tourism in the form of dozens of languages; buses — too many–; tuk tuk motors humming; “Aloh!” receiving phone calls; “lady, lady! Buy, shopping!”; chop chop two slashes into a young coconut, and the slurping of fresh juice that follows; whooshing of fans; and many, many more.

These are the sounds that surrounding me in Bangkok: bargaining and chattering from people and birds alike.

The sights too are endless, barely done justice by guidebook photographs. As with any destination, it’s the life not the pictures that make it fascinating. In the last few days, I’ve explored temples, palaces, jungles on elephant back, rivers by bamboo raft, city streets, and river markets, and consumed a year’s worth of fruit in all shapes, sizes and colors. Paradise on my taste buds.

I’ve also experienced unexpected things and acts of kindness. From my two day knowledgeable, caring guide Pao, to the tuk tuk driver who went out of his way to ensure I found the restaurant Thip Samai, to the taxi driver who promised to take care of me and drive me all the way back later than I’d planned to be out, the people of Bangkok are a vibrant and energetic kind. While shop keepers are often annoyingly hostile, I acknowledge that they are only trying to make a living from tourism. I, however, refuse to knowingly be ripped off. Call it a personal policy. I have no trouble giving when I feel someone deserves it — like great guides or hardworking drivers– but I will not cave to overcharged merchandise and unfair bargaining, no matter how much I want the item. That being said, I’m sure they still end up with more than whatever is worth, but at least if I feel they are trying to be fair then we both end up with what we want.

It’s been tempting, especially at today’s floating market, to buy many interesting things. Like a night light made of a coconut body and extra wood to take the shape of animals or coconut trees. And beautiful wooden carvings of elephants and jungle scenes. And those ridiculous billowing pants in various patterns and colors that tourists sport with pride. (I might cave into them for my upcoming elephant training camp in Chiang Mai.)

The only things I did “invest” in today was delicious additions to my taste bud experience bank: mango sticky rice, lychee, and coconut ice cream in the husk. Drool drool drool. I think I’m on the road to diabetes from these few days alone.

I’ve only been traveling for a week but it feels like I’ve never known anything else– like the road has been my home since birth. I guess this year it nearly has been. Shocking even to me now that I think about it is that Thailand is the sixth country I’ve been in this calendar year alone! (Scotland, England, France, Japan, and Vietnam are the other five.) And it’s only February! And— on the first of March I’ll be adding two more! I honestly didn’t think about it too much since everything has been a whirl of activity. I guess the year of the snake really does bring luck to those born in its realm. Traveling is basically the only reason I’m squeezing in a part time job on top of a full-time graduate degree. It is worth every second of gazing and typing at a computer in a Tokyo high rise and questioning the usage of prepositions.

More to come as I fly north this afternoon to Chiang Mai!

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