Bangkok is huge, noisy, polluted and really fucking hot. I kinda love it.

Yesterday I spent the day just walking around, getting my bearings. I’ve mostly traveled along Sukhumvit, taking advantage of the convenient SkyTrain system. I opted not to stay on backpacker mainstay Kao San road, and ended up in a much posher area. Along Sukhumvit Road are endless shopping centers, seemingly modeled after the ones in Japan. The scale of these, however, I have never seen before. I got seriously lost in one that blew me away: on the ground floor, a food court the likes of which you’ve got no idea (and bigger than any I saw in Osaka, for that matter) — foods from around the world, pastries and local fruits.. Upstairs were several floors-worth of shopping: everything from your typical western clothing to, i shit you not, car showrooms (including Lamborghini and Ferrari), appliances and electronics like nobody’s business… further upstairs were several language and culture learning centers, geared towards kids; next to that, a Yamaha music shop, in front of which was playing a teen-aged rock group (really talented, too.) After picking up some food and getting a local SIM card for my phone, i escaped (it only took me 20 minutes to figure out how the hell to get out of there.)

I expected the clientelle in these enormous shopping meccas to be all Farang, but to my surprise they seemed to be mostly Thai. I clearly know nothing about the wealth of the average Thai, but I was very surprised by the affluence I saw. To wit, directly next to these concrete behemoths, in the alleys I saw scenes of much greater poverty – between rust and concrete, clothesline glimpses of people’s lives. Bangkok is evidently changing at a very rapid pace.

I spent the afternoon and the following day visiting various Wats, palaces and other points of cultural interest. I know very little about Thai art history, but the various styles are all very beautiful, rich in color — gold leaf statues and wall coverings, elaborate masks and doll.. not to mention the enormous reclining Buddha at Wat Pho, which was truly spectacular, even to me 😉 At Wat Pho I got an incredible massage at the traditional massage school located there.

Temporarily reinvigorated (not to mention contorted), I continued amassing a sunburn, visiting more tourist destinations, including the Grand Palace, where I met two very nice, intrepid and beautiful Polish girls. The sun’s effect by this point in the afternoon was taking its toll on me (and my ever-poor command of the Polish language), so I trekked on.

All templed-out (easy to do, very quickly), I managed to find the park near the water, where Capoeira Thailand holds an open roda on Sundays, per the recommendation of Iuna, from ABADA SF. I give these guys the biggest kudos possible, for they are a self-started group (one of two schools in Thailand, no less), and are super dedicated; one of the guys had even spent all morning making berimbaus from local wood and gourds (they sound great).

I managed not collapse in the intolerable heat, and we played until the sun set before going out for dinner and drinks. Perhaps it helps to have a shared interest, especially across language-barriers, but these are really some of the warmest people I’ve met in a while. I hope to play with them again next time I’m in Bangkok.

What next? Despite having walked miles on end, there is so much more for me to see in this city. However, my lungs need a break from the pollution, so I’ll be headed to Ko Samui tomorrow for some beach time.

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