Right upon arriving in Bangkok, the buzz I felt was immediate. Zigzagging tuk-tuks, streetside BBQs, neon lights, and buzzing street life encapsulated my surroundings. Bangkok is an easy starting point when first venturing to Southeast Asia because it’s very Western friendly. It’s as the locals say, “same same, but different.” I began by meandering through the many markets along the streets and ate some spring rolls. I was constantly approached by vendors all wanting to sell me the same fruit basket that turned into an elephant. I was actually really impressed with this basket originally, but by the 20th time it was thrust in my face, the novelty quickly faded. Eventually, the cutest lady vendor with a colourful jester-esque hat approached me with her basket stuffed with necklaces and bracelets, and I couldn’t resist. She looked so enthusiastic as she showcased her supply of jewellery, and something about her jester hat warmed me up to her. Perhaps it was how she took the hat off her head and put it on mine and said, “beautiful,” looking genuinely impressed.
For dinner I had a chicken stir fry, while others munched on some scorpions being served around on a stick. I knew I could not consume anything with pinchers, let alone a long ribbed tail and spidery legs. The thought of flossing out scorpion leg hairs from my teeth later in the evening made me shudder.
Despite me not consuming anything too authentic (i.e. insects), I did watch some authentic Thai entertainment. Watch is actually too strong a word. By “watch,” I mean shielding my eyes from the stage every two seconds.
I had no idea what this was before arriving in Bangkok. I heard people murmuring and giggling, while talking about ping pong. I was wondering what was so funny about watching ping pong. Ping pong? Patpong? I didn’t understand.
Patpong is an entertainment district in Bangkok that caters mainly to tourists. While it is known internationally as a red light district at the heart of Bangkok’s sex industry, it’s only one of several. After being forced to watch a Sex Show in Amsterdam, I knew I never wanted to take part in anything of the sort again. Once I learned what Patpong was and what kind of “ping pong” show I would be witnessing, I headed back to the hotel to get my camera so I could explore the streets and take photos instead. However, as I reappeared with my camera, I was included via an accidental head count, and the peer pressure took off from there.
So off we all went. The bright side is that the transportation we took to get there was the most fun I have ever experienced in any kind of transport: a Bangkok tuk-tuk! It blasted music, flashed lights, and sped around the streets like a gimpy firecracker. The driver even started fist pumping with both his hands (meaning no hands on the wheel). Things like this that should be so illegal, but aren’t, is where the fun comes from.
The show itself made me feel sick and I wanted to leave immediately. But at least I found enjoyment and entertainment from our transportation there and back, right?
Despite the questionable entertainment on that night in particular, I really enjoyed my time in Bangkok. I love how bustling, exciting, and different from home it is, and the locals are very friendly and happy to help. I had no time to notice or feel my jet lag because I was always so engaged with all the new and different foods, sounds, and smells.
Another favourite thing about Bangkok, or Thailand in general, the Thai massages. I can’t profess enough how much I love a Thai massage. Not only are they cheap, ($5 for an hour), but they are so impressive, physically! These Thai ladies would perform deep tissue massages while physically moving me from head to toe; bending me into a pretzel, lifting me into a bow, swinging me from side to side, pulling my ankle with her hand while pressing into my hamstring with her foot . . . a lot of hard work! I judge these massages to the ones at home that cost 20 times more, which, ultimately suck in comparison. I heard a few people describe the Thai massages as painful, but as I am a very frequent Yogi, I felt no pain at all and just enjoyed the stretch! I really liked saying hello or thank you in Thai, because you would do a little head nod with your hands lightly pressed at “heart centre” (that’s the Yogi in me talking).
As for the protests, absolutely nothing concerning happened in that regard. The state of the protesters sounded pretty scary just as I was leaving for Bangkok, but in the popular, more touristy spots there was nothing concerning going on at all. Unless you had the intent to purposely seek out where there were protests currently being held, then that is where potential danger may have resided.