As soon as we landed in the Bangkok airport and heard Thai all around us, I was flooded with memories of my previous travels in Thailand – and super stoked to be back. However, I didn’t really think about how little time I’d spent in Bangkok itself until I realized how vague and indistinct most of my memories from that city really are. More like impressions, coloured by the fact that in 2004 I had never spent any amount of time in a major Asian city before and had just spent four weeks being taken care of in the Thai countryside while volunteering at a school. So my memories of Bangkok revolved around a few temples and feelings of loneliness, being too hot, overwhelmed, and freaked out about my bank balance.
Fast forward to last month when I arrived with Duncan: still mildly freaked out about bank balances (when am I not?), but hardly on the same scale. I mean, come on. I had a chair bed on my flight there and it was AMAZING!! Sorry, I didn’t mention that by some weird fluke of booking luck we ended up with one leg of our journey in first class? No? We did. And it was excessively wonderful. I got pyjamas for crying out loud! Disgusting polyester ones, but still. Ridiculous.
I digress. With my dim impressions of Bangkok, I was all ramped up for hot humid city craziness. And yet, the size and scale of the city didn’t line up with my recollection. Dying in the heat, humidity, and pollution? Somewhat, but not as intensely as I seemed to recall (except when visiting temples and royal areas, where we had to be as covered as possible). The temples and Royal Palace? Still beautiful. Some of the Thai people we encountered were nice, some gently tried to rip us off, others more blatantly. My 10 words of Thai? Unimpressive – one cab driver told me to come back next year after more studies.
We crammed in a bunch of Major Tourist Sights over our jetlagged, 2.5 day stay in the city. We also did some requisite shopping for dirty backpacker clothes since we sweat through our entire summer wardrobe in the first few hours after landing. Okay not really… but almost. Even the haggling was nowhere near as intense as I remembered, probably since it didn’t hold a candle to the in-your-face, extreme haggling we got used to in Beijing and Shanghai last year. People actually had final prices and were, for the most part, unmoved when you walked away.
All-in-all, Bangkok was fine and lovely; I managed to shake off my previous impressions, get to know my way around the city a teensy bit better, and enjoy taking in some new sights as well as ones I’d visited before. And it was a perfectly good place to get over the worst of the jetlag before travelling overland to Siem Reap.