Friday, July 23, 2010

Siamese Dreams

Yesterday Manao showed me an online news portal depicting Bangkok has been voted as the world's best city. No surprises there, i thought.

Bangkok is my all time favourite city, followed by Hong Kong and Venice in third place. I've been to Bangkok twice now, 5D4N and 6D5N respectively and I still want to return for at least another trip. Or two.

What's so great about Bangkok? Not so sure really. I've stayed at the lively Khao San Road twice now, and it has not failed me with it's cheap yet clean and comfortable hotels (RM25/pax and you get room with A/C and hot shower), cheap and tasty hawker food (pad thai for about RM3, and all the fruit shakes you want for about the same price), various live performances, bars and clubs to spend your nights and also the multitude of nationalities drifting in and out of this backpackers haven. Conversation and friendship struck out of nothing (though more often than not it's over buckets and beers).

And then there's the people. Soft spoken and polite, it makes you feel brash being around these folks. I have always loved the distinct sound of the Thai language, and hearing it spoken (especially by the ladies and their oh-so-soft kha) is music to my ears. We even made friends with a very amiable taxi driver Tom who never charged us extra even when he had to drive across town to pick us up. He even declined our fare after he sent us to Suvarnabhumi. His reason being "we are friends, no need to pay this time". Can you even imagine this happening in KL? Mimpi la brader.

There's also the shopping. Chatuchak is well known, but you should only go there for the small indie brands. Self-designed clothes, and usually not remade once finished, this is where you go to get something unique at a very cheap price. MBK has got the other stuffs and in air-conditioned comfort. A multitude of tailors around town can make good quality shirts, pants and suits for a fraction of what you're gonna pay back home. I made 6 shirts and a pair of pants, all customised to my liking for only RM500, do the maths.

Most Thais I've met are devout Buddhists and they subscribe to the idea that everyone is equal or something like that (from a conversation with a cabbie, so I can't vouch on the facts), hence the accepting gesture towards gays, lesbians, kathoeys and all sorts of people from the human spectrum. I've seen kathoeys that walked past a small shrine stopped and offered a prayer before resuming their walk. Regardless of the religion, I find this beautiful.

Of course there's the infamous Bangkok nightlife which equates to stripclubs and sex shows and whatnot but for me that is just a sideshow. Patpong is not a place you want to spend much time at, seriously. The real nightlife can be had at Ratchada, where the music was out of this world. I am no clubber, but Hollywood is really something else. Give it a go if you're in town.

So I've seen the idyllic countryside during my train ride, and I've also chilled at Pattaya beach side eating various seafood (fresh and cheap!), and rather than distract it actually enforces my affection for Bangkok and Thailand in general. During the first trip, all four of us (Manao, Pyan, JT, myself) fell in love with the city. More recently, Yam and Ben felt the same way while for me and JT it served to reinforce what we already knew. We don't need no survey to tell us what city is ranked first, we already know.


Ninie said...

How has Bangkok changed since the riot a couple of months back? A lot, I heard and some say almost like Manhattan after 9/11. People love and appreciate silence more..

Having said that, NAK JUGAK CAKAP - my favourite city currently is New York City ;)!

The Banker said...

ninie: well, i didn't notice any change really. the people are still polite and nice as before, and they still party hard as before too. the only difference i saw was that there's less tourist now (which is a good thing for me!)

haih, have heard so much good things abt nyc, dunno bila ada rezeki nak pegi...

freda said...

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The Banker said...

thanks freda!

kukubal said...

yo JT's here. well said bro. surely, i've not been to other cities yet, and i'm looking forward to go to Spain next year. but, still, bangkok is already top of my yet to be long list. the city rocks. really. i need not to elaborate more since you drafted it thoroughly already :) so when is the next bangkok trip bro? lol~