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Amber Paulen

On Being a Tourist in Bangkok

Now, as I’m out of Bangkok and in Chiang Mai, maybe I can begin. Begin? Whatever Bangkok was I’m happy to be out. Though as we were there it all went well enough, but for the stolen wallet that it is. The thing is, once you disembark from a twenty hour journey into the sweltering city heat you don’t know where you are and it takes days to figure that out. Now I know: I’m in Chiang Mai, Thailand. But three days ago?

We slept off the Khao San Road, which was disorientating to say the least. Streets bubbling with all sorts: Westerners, backpackers, families, older, younger, Thais, Thais hawking; yet oddly, all of us white people were dressed relatively the same. It’s rowdy, and people come to be rowdy. As if crossing a continent were reason enough, and maybe it is, or is that the prices? There is a general loosening among us, fewer showers, riding in tuk tuks, Thailand, An Adventure.

What little I saw of Bangkok was that and the Thais who work to live and eat there. And there was sweltering and there was congestion of four-lane roads clogged, skyscrapers spanning a horizon, sweaty men bent over iron and fumes and smells, lots of smells, smells of frying noodles and soup noodles and spices I have no name for and fruits to make any mouth water, smells hinging on the rotting not tucked in corners, a river the color of mud and more men steering long engined boats, great barges with families in hammocks pulled by small boats, grand palaces of golden spires and more that I have no words for.

As I said, it all was well but for the wallet stolen. The police were more than helpful in a hopeless situation. So we boarded our night train with a few baht and an ironic first-class ticket. First-class was grand! We rode a great chunk of Thailand sleeping, waking to the smell of fires burning in the night and waking in the morning to swift spindly trees with big leaves, to more sticky rice and barbecue chicken. First-class was so grand because we had a full night’s sleep, a door, and a sink.

If you are interested in images, look here, Simon posts frequently.


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