Bangkok Dangerous (and the danger is heatstroke)

Greetings from Bangkok, which apparently is called the Angel City!

If the consensus on Ko Phi Phi is that it’s unfairly blessed with natural beauty, the consensus on Bangkok is that one should slip its sweaty clutches as swiftly as possible. Huge, hot, congested, polluted, and bleh seem to be its most common descriptors. “Get out of Bangkok,” a San Francisco salesgirl said urgently when the subject came up, ten seconds into a nineteen-second conversation.

What place could live up to that kind of bad press? Bangkok is pretty cool actually (though understand that by “cool” I mean “yes very rad but so muggy that your clothes feel like they’re trying to soak into your bloodstream by way of your skin”).

We spent our first 24 hours on the must-do list: street food, drinks at a rooftop bar on the 65th floor of a skyscraper, visiting Thai historic sites like the Grand Palace (home of the Emerald Buddha) and Wat Pho (home of the Reclining Buddha), and riding the ferry up and down the Chao Phraya river. Pictures coming, but meanwhile here are a couple of minor travel pitfalls.

Touts. All the guidebooks warn of ostensibly helpful locals looking to make money on your tourist ignorance — overcharging, trying to get you to go on a “gem tour,” etc. — but for some reason I was still surprised when it proved true. “Grand Palace closed today,” a man on the street said mournfully (and untruthfully). “Come this way, better palace!” When I shook my head, he was pretty indignant for someone trying to rip me off, and invited me to “go to the moon!” We also had a cab driver who, upon hearing we were headed to Cambodia next, offered to drive us there for an improbably low rate. When we declined, he pretended not to know our local destination after all and pulled over for us to get out of his cab.

The Thai written language. As you’ll know from decorations in your local Thai place, it’s very beautiful, like musical notes rendered in wrought iron. But totally opaque to us, of course. Naturally times come when it would be nice to be able to decipher a little. Like, Kevin got a local SIM card for his phone, and now gets a text in Thai every few hours, helpfully telling him… something, we’ve no idea what. Google maps sometimes knows where our restaurant is but chooses that moment to show us the street names in Thai, which is very reasonable considering we’re in Thailand, but… it’s all Thai to us. And the taxis have a little lighted indicator to show whether they’re free. We squint at the red LED display as a cab zooms toward us. “Is that… squiggly thing? Or is it other squiggly thing?”

So, we’re bumbling around. Today will be a tug-of-war between things Page wants to do and things Kevin wants to do. Will it be Thai massages, or a tour of the red-light district? Stay tuned!

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