Bangkok was full of surprises! I left Scotland thinking it was going to be a place where I'd need to watch my back (my bag mainly). That it was over crowded and dirty. I had images of dark bars, unfriendly locals and wandering down strange streets with stranger smells.
I couldn't have been more comfortable here. This was no doubt helped by being chaperoned around by my friend Paul, who has been out in Bangkok for 4 years. He left me to my own devices some days and the familiar BTS Skytrain became a doddle. It feels just like the underground, but you go upstairs rather than down. The BTS has great coded maps which help you navigate around, in English! The also have, welcomely, air conditioned trains. My glasses steamed up when I got off!
People are clearly in mourning, following the passing of their King - most wearing black and vendors selling black t-shirts along with their usual wares. But, everyone was warm, extremely polite and patient at my lack of language. Ka poon Ka for thank you, sa wa dee Ka for hello, goes a long way and they are grateful you tried!
The streets are bright, if not managed by strict health and safety! Staircases and trees protruding from the pavements! The electrical infrastructure is awe-inspiring and I watched a few men climb ladders, resting on the wires whilst working on a line. How they have a clue what is what I have no idea! Also note how much greenery there is on every street! People put plants outside the shops, again with the contrasts.
Food has been a delight but (on a recommendation) som tum, green papaya salad with sticky rice has been my highlight. I've avoided on the most part department store food and anything that looks like a chain of shops. Supporting local business, getting the best food and at the best prices!
There is a stark contrast between rich and poor here. There is a overwhelming feeling of a capitalist dream. It doesn't make it a bad place, just one thing I noted above others. The advertising shows a lot of recognisable brands but unfamiliar style. Nivea have spent a chunk of their budget here, that is for sure!
Be cautious, but if you are well mannered here that goes far. I went to a house party, which was very different to ones at home. The views from the Marriott are amazing and a few cocktails up there was a treat. I loved the Ploen Chit and Chit Lom areas - where you can get a Vietnamese visa sorted if you're heading there. Cool bars, lots of expats (Paul calls them pandas, you'll see the ones). I didn't feel like partying too hard, the heat, the occasion; but I am sure to come back when everyone's spirits have lifted.