If we must sacrifice the nickname ‘City That Never Sleeps’ to New York City, then it’s a sad day as there’s no better fitting name by which to refer to Bangkok. Admittedly, there must be some point at which everyone in the city gets their head down for a solid hour or two, but you’d be forgiven for missing it; I certainly did. Perhaps a better nickname for Bangkok would be the ‘City That Never Sleeps Consistently’. 5am or 5pm, there is always something going on. And whilst New York offers its own uniquely westernised hedonistic pleasures to keep us up all night, Bangkok provides an utterly opposing, yet curiously familiar take on the same idea.
I won’t claim to be an expert. The total sum of my time in Bangkok currently stands at two and a half days and three nights, and since I am but a weak westerner I was forced to sleep at some points – I can honestly say I have no idea what the streets of the Thai capital look like at 6:30am (4:30am, however..). But I have experienced the city, as well as some other places, and I know a lot of people will be interested in how the place manages to careen along from day to day without imploding, so I thought I’d write a retrospective travel guide, rather than simply blog all about my hollydayz in a thoroughly dull manner.
What I find wickedly exciting and impressive about Bangkok is that it’s almost entirely founded on contradictions. Start on one side of the city, and you’ll wander past broad highways, through beautiful parks, into a tight, chaotic urban shopping district of glitz and glamour.. then on through the quiet calm of a temple, and out the other end past a stinking canal with dilapidated looking buildings wobbling dangerously along its banks. Quiet, peace and religion wander hand in hand with madness, activity and glamour through the streets of Bangkok and it’s completely, utterly, unequivocally mental. I’ve never been anywhere that can be so dedicated to two inherently opposed ways of life before, and possibly may never again (unless I go back, but then that would be cheating).
The best metaphor I can think of for the city is that of the floating party from ‘Life, the Universe and Everything’, another entity that careens through the swathes of existence without a care in the world, rolling formlessly from one thing to another with no reason nor rhyme. Hopefully, it won’t be critically injured by the sound of several hundred people saying ‘wop’.
Anyway, this is just the introduction; Bangkok in a nutshell, if you will. Next, I’ll be going into more detail about the various neighbourhoods of the city, and what’s worth seeing in each one. The third part of this guideblog will probably be dedicated to the many ways of getting about, and the last part will be about why leaping on a bus and going north is a fucking good idea.