A bit like marmite, generally most backpackers seem to have a “you either love it or you hate it” attitude towards Bangkok – but I just can’t seem to make up my mind. There is so much I love and equally hate about the capital of Thailand – and every time I leave, I always end up feeling differently about it.
Eight years ago I visited Bangkok on my first backpacking trip to Asia, and I remember it well. A naïve, young backpacker who had never experienced many holidays outside of Europe, I was in complete awe of the place. The vibrant colours, the smells, the sounds, the food, the chaos – it was a complete sensory overload! It was thousands of miles away from what I was used to back home – I had my eyes opened to a whole new world. Maybe it’s all in the name of nostalgia, but whenever I re-visit, I still get the same exciting buzz I did the first time around.
So what do I LOVE about Bangkok?
The friendly locals
I can’t remember ever meeting an unfriendly Thai person. They are always happy, always smiling, incredibly polite and will always go out of their way to help you. It can be a bit overwhelming at first (being a true Brit where people rarely even make eye contact with strangers!) and the horrible cynic in me immediately thought they had hidden agendas to try and get money out of me. But I quickly learned that they genuinely are good natured people that welcome visitors with big open arms.
The incredible temples
A lot of people say, once you’ve seen one temple you’ve seen them all, but personally I think that Bangkok has some of the most impressive temples I’ve seen. One of the main attractions is the Grand Palace, which is a truly great example of the Thai’s intricate and ornate architecture. Wat Pho (The Temple of the Reclining Buddha) is equally as impressive with its 15 meter high and 43 meter long golden Buddha statue.
The yummy food
While Vietnamese food has now taken over Thai food in my all-time favourite Asian cuisines, it still tastes pretty god damn good. And in Bangkok, you only have to walk out of your hotel door to be greeted by an array of street food vendors serving up the best and cheapest Thai food you can get your hands on! As a noodle aficionado, I really am in my element in Bangkok – I quite literally lived off Pad Thai!
Zooming around the streets of Bangkok in a Tuk Tuk is one of the cheapest (and most fun) ways to get around the city. They’re also pretty good for weaving around other vehicles when stuck in busy traffic. It’s pretty impressive how many people you can fit in one tuk tuk too (as trialled and tested by myself and some friends).
When the hustle of bustle of the city gets too much, step inside to one of Bangkok’s millions of massage parlours. Cheap and amazing, they are less likely to leave you with a back injury, unlike some of the massages I’ve had in other parts of South East Asia (I still haven’t forgiven you – rather large lady that walked along my back in Laos!). A one hour massage rarely costs more than $6 to $8 and leaves you relaxed and ready to face Bangkok’s chaos all over again.
Value for money
It’s relatively easy to find decent accommodation in Bangkok that doesn’t cost the earth. You could spend a week in 5* luxury for the same price as a couple of nights in pretty average accommodation in London. The same goes for shopping too…if you’re a haggling pro, you can end up picking up some good deals at some of the city’s many malls or night markets.
What I HATE about Bangkok…
The constant chaos
There’s no such thing as personal space in Bangkok. Wherever your go you have to battle your way through hoards and hoards of tourists or locals going about their day-to-day business. The roadsides are covered with street vendors and the roads are filled with a constant stream of traffic. While the chaos is exciting at first, after a few days it can make getting from A to B an extremely exhausting task.
Ping Pong Shows
The first time I visited Bangkok, I was more naïve than I am now, and when my friend suggested going to a “ping pong show”, I had images of Thai people competitively pinging ping pongs across a ping pong table (I was thinking…seriously, what could be so exciting about that?!?) Little did I know what was in store. I don’t really know how to articulate this without getting too crude, but basically they are nothing but seedy shows that involve a lot of lady vajayjays doing things that no lady vajayjay should ever have to do (if you want to know more….Google away my friend).
It’s dirty and stinky
I am definitely a lover of warm weather…HOWEVER the humidity in Bangkok can sometimes be completely unbearable. Not only that, but Bangkok has a distinct smell which can only be described as a mystery cloud of stink that seems to follow you around everywhere. Combine that with a shit load of dirt and pollution, I found myself constantly feeling grubby, running to the shower at every possible opportunity.
Ridiculously huge rats
Ok so rats are pretty much everywhere in the world, and I’m not overly bothered by them as long as they are “out of sight, out of mind.” But the rats in Bangkok are something else. I’m talking the size of a small dog here! And when one has ran across your feet, you’ll be scarred for an eternity. I still have nightmares *shudder*
Final thoughts on Bangkok
Obviously there’s a lot more to Bangkok than what I’ve briefly pin pointed above, but these are the things that I generally love and hate about the capital (and even then most of the latter are more like pet peeves).
Every time I leave, I tell myself it’ll be the last time I visit, that Bangkok has been “done to death” and I’ve outgrown it. Yet I find myself lured back time and time again. Why? Because despite some of its flaws….Bangkok is definitely an interesting and vibrant place. And I’m sure it won’t be the last time we cross paths.
Is it possible to love and hate a place at the same time? Tell me what you think below!
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