“It seems to combine the Hannibal, Missouri, of Mark Twain’s boyhood with Beverly Hills, the Low Countries and Chinatown”

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Decoration in the airport
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Decoration in the airport

This title quote about Bangkok is both ridiculously ethnocentric and hilariously accurate. As has become my habit upon leaving a country, here are a few of my observations about living in Bangkok.

  • The bidet is to Bangkok what the fire door was to London and the circular staircase was to Vienna.
  • You can get anything here. I will leave that open to your own interpretation.
  • Thailand is a country of contrasts. Bangkok’s modern sky scrapers adjoin ancient temples. The Thai people are very conservative and modest, though Bangkok has a reputation for adult entertainment.
  • Buddhism is central to life in Thailand. 95% of Thais are Buddhist. Most men spend some time as monks, whether that be a week or years.
  • As with other Asian countries, you will see a lot of people wearing surgical masks on public transportation and on the street. This is intended to prevent the spread of disease.
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This is a toilet option you will frequently find in Thailand (and throughout Asia)
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One of the many canals
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Dudes on a bamboo ladder
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Contrasts in Bangkok
  • I think smiling is a national pastime in Thailand – it’s rare in big cities to have people smile at you on public transportation, but it happens frequently in Bangkok.
  • The creepy old white dude factor here is high.
  • Even the electrical outlets are anything goes, allowing for several kinds of electric plugs without need for an adapter.
  • Bangkok is basically the opposite of Vienna in every way possible, but they both share a love of gold and flourishes.
  • Grocery shopping in Bangkok is surprisingly easier than in Austria; there are a lot more choices available. But imports can be expensive. I think Cheerios cost the equivalent of $9/box.
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An image of the royal family in Bangkok – this one is one of the princesses
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One of the probably thousands of pictures of the king throughout the country
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The view on my first descent into Bangkok
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Typical traffic in Bangkok
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So many motorcycles
  • Every day at 8 AM and 6 PM, the national anthem is played in public spaces. If you are out and about in the city and hear it, stop what you’re doing it and stand attentively throughout the song. Thais will salute the flag during the song.
  • Thailand was the only country in Southeast Asia that was never colonized by a European power. This is a matter of great pride.
  • Never touch anyone’s head in Thailand – it is considered sacred. Never point your feet to someone or use your feet to gesture.
  • The wai is a ubiquitous gesture of respect wherein you put your hands together with the edge of the forefinger and thumb against either your chest or face with a bow. How high your hands go and how low you bow depend on the status of the person to whom you are offering the gesture. If someone wais to you, wai back.
  • It is not uncommon to see a couple dudes climbing a bamboo ladder on the street to reach the massive bundle of electrical wires a couple stories up.
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We saw this performer on the way to and from the SkyTrain every day after class
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Another outfit change for the performer on the way to the SkyTrain
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If you donate baht, this performer will dance
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Thai traffic near the Thai-Japanese bridge
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The safest (only?) way to cross the street in Bangkok are these pedestrian bridges
  • Traffic fatalities are high in Bangkok, mostly for motorcycles. They are everywhere. But once you’ve seen the unbelievable traffic here, it makes sense why motorcycles are so popular.
  • It is against the law to say anything negative about the king or royal family. This applies to Thais and foreigners and holds up to a 15-year prison sentence.
  • Generally, remove your shoes when you enter a private residence, temple or anywhere else where you see others doing it.
  • Thais take seriously the concept of a “cool heart.” In other words, if you lose your cool in a situation with a Thai, it is beyond counterproductive and will escalate the situation beyond what you want to deal with. Raised voices are considered a loss of face for you and the person at whom you are yelling. So if your meal is late, keep it together.

Title quote: S.J.Perelman

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So many fish heads
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Disconcerting sign as you go up to the pedestrian bridge
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Tubtim Shrine. Yep, it’s not your imagination
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What I call the Lego building, a huge skyscraper being built in Bangkok
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Random street art in Bangkok
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Random street art in Bangkok
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Colourful flags near the palace in Bangkok
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The Empire Building, where our classes were conducted
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A teenager on the SkyTrain was wearing this shirt – the monkey says, “It’s my year.”
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Even Ronald McDonald performs the wai

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