Sunday, January 18, 2009

Baffled by Bangkok

Six words: Impatient, snarling, stuttering, honking, cacophonous traffic.

There is no order to Bangkok, no method to its clanging madness. You have to roll with it before it rolls over you.

It's like the city and its buildings eek out a secondary existence around the impertinent vehicles: tuk-tuks, motorcycles, scooters, buses, taxis, trucks full of eggs, fresh fruit carts pushed by men with cigarettes dangling from their mouths and one hand incessantly ringing a tinkling bell. Even pedestrians are a force to be reckoned with.

Walking around the markets surrounding the tourist haunt of Khao San road there is a quick learning curve: crossing the streets is all about initiative. Traffic lights count down between colors, but the most efficient way to thread the bustle is to take opportunities when they come. Once you've dodged between buses and taxis on even a minor thoroughfare in Bangkok, there is no urban danger you cannot overcome. It makes New York look like Pleasantville.

A few of the sights on my first day: mangy cats with crinkled tails; defeated-looking dogs rooting through piles of unidentifiable garbage; people taking naps on public benches and against shop fronts; homeless people under bridges; murky canals and pools of stagnant water; lines of incredibly clean white laundry hanging in dilapidated debris-laden backyards; densely-packed book stalls that would make any Boulder bookseller drool; alleys that turned into alleys that led to other alleys and finally – if I was lucky – to streets; Buddha statues and small shrines paying homage to any number of things, from large roadside trees to temples to bridges to vacant buildings; tourists with maps looking lost on crowded street corners; and a shiny black Audi A4 pushing slowly down a dirty alley barely big enough for its creeping hulk.

And that was before lunch.

In a square mile area, one can find more than enough sights and smells – smells good and bad, but mostly bad – to keep one occupied for weeks. Like reading all the books ever written, it would be impossible to explore all of Bangkok in a lifetime.

1 comment:

  1. How does that sitting with tiger thing work? Looks like wrong side of the fence for one of you, Fig. 2.
    Check email I sent and one I'm sending.