|one night in Bangkok|
Unsurprisingly, I expected Bangkok to be a grimy fleshpot full of prostitutes and paunchy white male sex tourists on scooters and I'm afraid this is a common perception of the city among Americans. My father said, "When someone says he's going to Bangkok, you almost feel compelled to smirk." Yesterday, I ran into a friend and told her where I'd been and her eyes lit up and she asked me about a sordid Thai sex performance she'd heard about.
In fact, I hadn't caught one of those shows and couldn't provide any details unavailable on wikipedia. I explained, instead, that despite its reputation, Bangkok has a lot more to offer than the sex trade. SO MUCH MORE. I want to shout that because the SO MUCH MORE came as a complete surprise. Isabel and I almost didn't go to Bangkok on account of what I'd heard and read, but it turned out to be the clear high point of our trip.
The word I'd use to describe Bangkok is layered. We stayed in a small hotel with lush gardens, a pool, and a resident cat. In the morning we sat on the patio drinking coffee, peeling rambutans, and listening to the neighborhood chickens. It was idyllic. Step out the front gate, though, and we were in the middle of a huge, chaotic metropolis, just a short walk from the Skytrain, tantalizing street food, movie theaters, malls full of fabulous clothes by Thai designers, and people, people, people. It was like midtown Manhattan, but moreso. With chickens.
|Nahm restaurant in Bangkok is worth every baht. I didn't take pictures of the food because everyone else was taking pictures of the food and they looked silly, but in hindsight, I was the silly one. I wish I had pictures!|
|We tried everything except insects and deep-fried chicken heads. It was almost all delicious.|
In Bangkok, you get the high and the low and both are really, really terrific. What I hadn't realized was just how much of the high there is in that city. We stumbled on galleries and artisanal coffee shops and fancy gelato and fascinating Thai designer clothes that I would have coveted desperately were I twenty years younger and twenty pounds thinner. I'm betraying myself as a complete ignoramus because I hadn't expected any of this.
What I'd expected was sleaze. In three days of nonstop walking in Bangkok, we saw school kids in uniforms, colorful Chinese temples, teak houses, ex-pats, coconut vendors, tuk tuk drivers, a grisly museum that you should avoid at all costs, women exhorting us to get our feet massaged, artists, fashionistas, clotheslines, mysterious back alleys, and a lot of nice, everyday people who helped us read our map and cross the street without getting killed. What I didn't see was a single man, woman, or child whom I could positively identify as a sex worker.
I know they're there. But if you want to find them you might have to look harder than you think.
We loved Bangkok.