Bangkok Dangerous

Trip Start Jun 10, 2009
Trip End Sep 07, 2009

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Where I stayed
My House Guesthouse

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Saturday, June 20, 2009

“The first condition of understanding a foreign country is to smell it.” - Rudyard Kipling

I can definitely smell Bangkok. Traveling through the city is almost as much a nasal experience as it is ocular. From the stench of sewage to the heady fragrance of flowers, the scents here run the gamut of olfactory sensations. Some of the moments I've most enjoyed and known that I was in a different world have been when walking down a street and taking a deep breath of some of the food cooking on a street vendor's cart or incense burning in a shrine. You must be careful, however, when taking those deep breaths, because the smell can change in an instant to one not so pleasant, like the afore-mentioned sewage or the reek of car exhaust. And the cars are everywhere in this perpetually-gridlocked city, so more often than not, that's what you'll be smelling.

I stayed the first night I was here in a hotel I had reserved to save me the hassle of trying to find a place to stay when I arrived in the middle of the night, exhausted. I set my first and only task of the next day as finding new digs in a hostel or guest house that would be substantially cheaper and nearer where I wanted to be. After finally finding a Skytrain station, I made it to the closest stop to the Banglamphu neighborhood, which was still a good distance away. I was going to have to take a bus to get closer, but then I noticed I was near the Jim Thompson house, and decided to check that out while I was there.

Thompson was an American architect who fell in love with Thailand and its history and culture when stationed in Bangkok during World War II. He moved back after he left the army and built a traditional Thai house using six old teak houses he had moved to Bangkok. He filled it with artifacts and relics of Thai history and culture, and it became so well-known he opened it up to the public, with the proceeds going to Thai charities. He disappeared with literally no trace in 1967 when on a trip to the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia, and his house was turned into a museum. It was very interesting and had a large garden that was like a slice of the jungle in the middle of the city. It was incredibly relaxing after the heat and noise of Bangkok.

Anyway, I eventually made it to the infamous Khao San Road, a well-known backpacker's ghetto, and started to look for lodging. Khao San disappointed me a bit from what I had heard about it: it was less seedy underbelly of backpacking culture and more a long line of merchants hawking their wares. I didn't want to actually stay on Khao San Road, since the party supposedly continues into the wee hours of the morning, so I explored some of the area around it and found a guest house I could deal with. The rooms are incredibly bare-bones, but it's cheap (200 baht, or about $6, a night) and they have a restaurant and computers downstairs, which means I don't have to go searching unless I want to go somewhere else. They also show nightly movies, which is cool, getting to sit around with a lot of other backpackers and just relax.

I'm taking it slow since I have more than a week to do what I want before heading south, but I've done a couple things already. More on that later.
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jwatson on

I don't have a ton of Bangkok pictures, for a couple of reasons: somI don't take many photos, and something I'll put in the next entry or two.

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