Over the past few years, I’ve had several conversations with folks back in the States about Thailand. I’ve found that there is a common misconception that Thailand is a backward Third World country. People seem to have this idea in their head that Thailand and it’s capital city, Bangkok, is nothing more than a small backwater with a few hundred prostitutes, a couple of Buddhist Temples and not much more. I get this glazed look from folks when I tell them that Bangkok is a modern city that is larger than most US cities.
Reality. Thailand is a modern country. Bangkok is an ultra-modern city.
Bangkok or Krung Thep as it is called in Thai is the 22nd largest city on the planet. It is home to an estimated 15 to 20 Million Thais and foreign guests. It’s historical and cultural attractions make it one of the most popular destinations in all of Asia. It is the major Asian Business, travel and tourism hub.
That’s just the beginning. A trip to Bangkok is a visit to one of the most visually stimulating cities on the planet. It’s BTS Sky Train system makes the city easily accessible. The Chao Phraya river adds to both the beauty and accessibility of the city. One can travel the Chao Phraya river and see some of the most incredible and beautiful sites in all of Asia. Wat Arun, the Canals, the early morning floating marke, The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew as well as numerous other Wats (Temples), Cathedrals, Mosques. Magnificent Statues. Crocodile and Monkey farms. Most of the major hotel chains of the World find their home right along the Chao Phraya. The Hilton. The Sheraton. The Shangri La. Sofitel. In addition, there are innumerable wonderful B&Bs, Guesthouses and Boutique Hotels all along the river and throughout the city from Silom to Sukhumwit to Sathon and Petchaburi.
The city has a magnficent night life with numerous restarurants, bars, discotheques. There is something for every taste in Bangkok. Shopping at Siam, Silom, Pratunam. There are numerous cinemas which play both Thai and Hollywood films. There is a huge Chinatown. Little Arabia is along Thanon Sukhumwit at Soi 3.
Of course, there are Patpong, Nana and Soi Cowboy and the infamous sex districts. Patpong was a bit of a surprise for me. I ventured into the place without knowing where I was. Of course, I had heard of Patpong. I expected something completely different. I was with a Thai friend shopping along Silom Road. We walked along the road and through a maze of street vendors selling everything from beer and t-shirts to Thai Silk and tailored suits. We turned down into a larger maze of stalls and shops and, though I didn’t know it, we entered Patpong. We’re walking through the stalls and there are little blonde haired Aussie and British and Swedish children all about. I’m looking at a stall with t-shirts when I hear techno music. I turn towards the music and not more than 8 feet behind me is an open door through which one can plainly see half naked girls shaking her little Thai booties to the music. Surrounding the whole Nightmarket are Go Go Bars and all manner of Red Light shows. It was quite surreal to see all of these little Western Children and their Mothers shopping in the midst of what amounts to a sexual Disney land. I started laughing and my Thai friend looks at me and asks what it is that I find so funny. I just point to a huge Go Go sign and then to a blonde lady carrying her baby. She shrugs her shoulders as if to say; “And?” It was quite the contrast. And no one seemed to mind or pay it any attention.
Thailand is a land of contrast. None more striking than Bangkok. Pornography and prostitution is illegal in Thailand. Drugs are illegal in Thailand. Even so, there is a thriving sex industry in Bangkok that centers on these three areas–Na Na, Soi Cowboy and Patpong. You see old pot bellied men walking around these districts with sexy, slinky little Thai girls who are a 3rd their age. It’s quite a site.
Sex is not the only attraction to Bangkok.
For those who are more culturally minded, there are numerous cultural sites. Beautiful Temples and Palaces. Wat Arun, Wat Pho, Wat Phra Kaew also known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and the Grand Palace being the most famous. The famous backpacker district known as Khaosan Road. Full of global travelers. You will meet folks from every corner of the world. Folks of all ages. I’ve met women in the 60s amongst the Khaosarn trekkers. Africans, Israelis, Euros, Arabs, Brazilians, Argentinians, Aussies and Americans. Singles, friends in twos, threes and larger groups, couples, families. Any combination imaginable. If you find yourself at Khaosarn someday, make sure to stop by Gullivers. You can’t miss it. Over the entrance hangs a Tuk Tuk.
Tuk Tuks are the three wheeled open air taxis that are ubiquitous in Bangkok. Be careful to arrange your price before getting into one of these for a ride you won’t soon forget. It’s a must have experience when visiting Bangkok.
Bangkok is a phenomenal experience. If you aren’t careful, you’ll find yourself enchanted or even addicted to the city. I know I fell for it’s charms. I love Bangkok. Might even make it my home someday.
The pictures below are the view from my hotel room in the Landmark Hotel. Landmark Hotel is downtown on Thanon Sukhumwit. It’s a great hotel. Not too pricey. Central to Bangkok. Easy access to the BTS. Close to numerous popular clubs and bars.
The official name of Bangkok:
Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Yuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit
It’s listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the longest city name in the world. The short name is Krung Thep which translates to “City of Angels.”