Bangkok 2: The Suckening

by mattchesser

Two and a half months ago, we hated Bangkok.

The three days that we spent in the city inspired Laura to write this post, detailing the litany of little problems that made our first days in Southeast Asia disappointing.

This week we returned to Bangkok as seasoned travellers, ready to give Thailand’s capital a second chance.

After two days in the city I can confirm that Bangkok is still awful.

It’s not all bad: get away from the terrible Khao San/Grand Palace backpacker area and there are some nice neighbourhoods scattered around the downtown core. In the malls and markets there are some great deals to be had on clothing and accessories. And movie tickets are dirt cheap.

But feelings of expertise and satisfaction are almost impossible in Bangkok.

Most of the enjoyment that I get from being abroad stems from feeling like I’m getting “good” at travelling. Whether it’s getting a great deal, talking to locals, or finding a great little place to eat, the memorable experiences are those that feel unique and authentic.

In Bangkok it’s hard to feel intrepid. The downtown area is seedy, depraved, and depressing – filled with shitty bars, bad food, and moronic partyboys. The local people are generally cold and unfriendly (though this gets better the further out you go). Everything is overpriced and everywhere you look there’s someone running a scam.

Vietnam’s major cities, Hanoi and Saigon, are alive with the invigorating rush of local commerce. Laos’s Luang Prabang charms with its French heritage. Phnom Penh wins you over with its unapologetic authenticity and friendly Cambodian residents.

Bangkok is just there, stubborn in its refusal to come to life. You might as well be in Buffalo.