I had my first encounter with South-East Asia in Ho Chi Minh when I was 17. I remember the chaos of scooters and motorbikes, everyone going intertwined in different directions, seemingly without any rules. Crossing the street seemed impossible, and the first time we had to do it (right out of the taxi from the airport) was absolutely horrifying. We couldn’t walk a few steps without someone trying to sell us something, even in the restaurants women and children would address us with big staples of copied books, trying to get their share of the tourist money. It was all just plain crazy (and it made my little brother wish we’d never gone to Vietnam in the first place – though he’d end up changing his mind later).
Five years later I arrived in Bangkok and expected the same chaos – except I didn’t quite find it. Sure, there were tons of touts, and tuk-tuk drivers all screaming for your attention, the craziness probably was there, I just couldn’t feel it the same way I did in Ho Chi Minh. No part of me wanted to just lock myself into a room and stay there in a seemingly safe cocoon, nothing seemed too crazy. The traffic wasn’t as crazy as in Vietnam, there were no groping and sellers actually do take a no for a no, more or less, unlike the Medina in Marrakech. Even after chilled out New Zealand, Bangkok actually seemed quite manageable. Except for the heat. And the humidity.
So after I’d picked up Renate, a friend I studied with in Trondheim, at her overpriced hostel, we found a nice little guesthouse a few streets away from Khao San road (not far enough we discovered when we wanted to get some sleep), and for the next few days we ended up discovering a little bit of Bangkok. We went to huge endless markets (like the Chatuchak weekend market). Took ridiculously cheap public buses – where we would rely on a little piece of paper written by our guesthouse hosts, and the courtesy of the ticket masters, to get off at the right place. Ate wonderful street food. Floated up and down the river on riverboats. Checked out the supposedly never ending nightlife at Khao San Road, and chilled out in Lumpini park.