Wat up, Bangkok

Bangkok is a city with more temples (Wats) then the bible belt has churches, and more 7-11's then New York has Starbucks. Actually, probably more 7-11's the the U.S. has nationwide. So much so that I'm pretty sure 7-11 is actually Thai, not American.

I made it to the Bangkok airport around 3 a.m. and decided to catch a few hours of sleep before heading into the city. In the early morning I grabbed the train from the airport into the city. From there, I got lost. Bangkok is one of the most densely populated cities with over 12 million people jammed into it's 606 sq. miles (1,566 km). It is the 73rd largest city in the world and it's overwhelming size was evident the minute I ventured out into its bustling streets.

Lost, confused, and completely overwhelmed I instantly felt helpless. Fortunately, this is a familiar feeling for me and in an effort to orient myself, I just asked everyone around me for directions. This was my first indication that Bangkok, despite it's size, is a hospitable and welcoming city. Everyone smiled, those who didn't know directions didn't pretend to. Most people, however, did know how to get to where I wanted to go and were overly helpful in offering directions and assistance.

On one afternoon I was attempting to travel back to my hostel and was lost as usual. I asked a well dressed man sitting at the bus stop for the bus number that would take me to Khao San road. At first he struggled to understand my terrible accent, but eventually figured out where I wanted to go and mentioned he was taking the same bus. We tried with little avail to have a conversation, but he struggled to understand my English. The guy was so friendly though, that he went through his phonebook trying to find someone to call that spoke English. When he was able to get a friend on the line she simply said the he wanted to know if there was anything else he could help me with. While we waited for the bus, he showed me pictures his family had professionally taken. In all honesty, they were a bit bizarre. Traditional painting styles of his parents sitting in tall back chairs while he and his brother sit on the floor holding their legs. Bizarre indeed, but the guy was great. He got me on the right bus, paid for my ticket (!) and then walked me to the street. I thanked him profusely, but I think he was most pleased that I let him take a picture of the two of us. I'm still overwhelmed by his kindness though, and I think such sincerity is truly common among Thais.

It took me awhile to adjust to Bangkok. Initially I wanted to leave and escape to somewhere quieter. But by three days, I realized i could spend months in Thailand happily exploring it's nooks and crannies. It is a city that is dominated by themes and cultures of the past, is pushing towards an innovative future, and lives at a bustling and chaotic pace in the present. The architecture is a scrambled and unplanned mix between beautiful Wats and modern skyscrapers. The public transit is affordable and practical filled with men in business suits, and women in heels. Tuk tuks (motorcycles with carriages attached the back) careen through traffic carrying local passengers to their destination. Five story malls sell brand name and designer wear while outdoor markets continue the traditional means of selling goods and produce. The culmination of past, present, and future create a city took me time to adjust to, but quickly became a city I more then enjoyed.