observations // bangkok, thailand

our week in thailand’s capital and most populated city (8+ million people) has come to an end. in many ways, bangkok is very similar to other big cities – busy streets, public transit and distinct neighborhoods, but there are some things that have really stuck out to us about this particular city and culture.

since our arrival, we’ve made it a goal to speak with many locals and tourists on a daily basis to learn about the thai culture and get tips on things to do here and throughout SE Asia. in fact, thanks to US friends with bangkok connections (thanks, nicoli & shmer), we actually had dinner plans with locals on two different evenings. pretty awesome to be 8,550 miles from home and chatting with friends of friends. we’ve talked about – and confirmed – many of these observations.

plastic & styrofoam.

it’s everywhere. and bangkok is still years away from recycling. seriously, everything is wrapped in plastic and styrofoam. street food is often served in a plastic bag that’s put in another plastic bag and then you eat with a plastic spoon that’s individually wrapped in plastic. it’s not strange to see someone drinking a fountain soda — from a plastic bag with a handle and straw. even the individual fruits and flower blooms are individually wrapped in styrofoam. plastic on plastic on plastic.

P1160690
plastic in bangkok, thailand
{diet coke is def more delicious out of a plastic bag}
P1160803
to get on the BTS sky train, you have to put your plastic drinks inside a plastic bag – otherwise, they are not welcome. and take it from us, chugging a latte isn’t ideal for anyone.
IMG_3596

 

straws.

on the topic of plastic, straws are served with everything – including your (plastic) bottle of water.

 

whitening cream.

unlike us westerners, tan is not desired. i couldn’t find location that didn’t have a whitening agent in it. my favorite was “instant fair” – i did not purchase as i’m trying to get a little color on these pale limbs.P1160692

 

vanity.

few things to note here that are seemingly contradictory. for example, almost all the guys and girls have their own beautiful selfie as their cell phone background photo. for real. can you imagine? but, then you’ll notice a ton of women don’t shave their legs – weird. and then the real kicker… so, you know how when a woman leaves a group to use the restroom? we make it vague, right? not here. it’s typical and they’re perfectly comfortable announcing to the rest of the group why they’re going to the restroom – pee or poo.

affection.

don’t really see it in public – not even holding hands or kissing.

food.

this culture is built around food. it’s literally everywhere. food stalls line every single street and alley in this city. we’ve talked with thais and they said they’re a big snacking culture. they eat 4-5 small meals a day and then snack. and that’s easy to do since you can get a fresh meat stick or bag or fresh fruit for less than 30BHAT = $1.

P1160671
P1160837
can i interest you in a whole fish on a stick for lunch?
bangkok street food
fried rice with hot dogs & oyster sauce for breakfast… when in bangkok!
bangkok street food
hmmmm…. what will we have today.
P1160784 P1160790
{three little piggies went to market (literally)}P1160773
i dare you to try and find a road in bangkok that doesn’t look like this.
P1160782

restaurant service.

this is interesting. for the most part, people are sat at a table and the waitress stands by while you look through the menu and immediately order. pressure! the food comes (in no particular order), people eat, you wave your waitress over for the check and again she waits for you to pay, and then you leave. it’s pretty quick and not super social. by western standards, the service isn’t great because we’re typically ordering throughout our visit so we expect to be checked on. not here – since you order all up front and there isn’t complimentary water service and nothing gets cleared off the table until you leave, there’s really no reason to come by again until you wave for the check (which isn’t rude).

ROAST restaurant bangkok
the hip crowd at roast, one of our favorite neighborhood spots.
P1160795
dinner with shmer’s cousin, justin, and his thai girlfriend cher.P1160792
a delicious – and SPICY – feast.
P1160869
P1160866
happy hour on a really cool patio in Thonglor (our neighborhood). a patio shared by like 7 restaurants with a live DJ.

day drinking.

doesn’t really happen from what we can tell. besides fast food – which includes street food – and major hotels, all the restaurants and bars open after 4pm and most after 6pm. the places you do find open during the day are typically just restaurants or coffee shops (not serving alcohol) or strictly tourist destinations like on Kho San Road.

the king.

is, well, king. he doesn’t hold much political power, but is beloved by the people. his portrait is all over town and you don’t dare diss the king – it’s actually illegal. in fact, his face is on thai money (bhat) so don’t you even think about walking on money or stopping a blowing bill with your foot – a huge sign of disrespect to stomp on his face. oh, and the king has his own song that plays at 8:30am/6:30pm and before every single movie played in a theater. during this time, you stand up and be quiet. don’t fret though if you accidentally slip up – we were told a story about a swiss tourist who spray painted over one of his portraits and instead of prison, the king personally pardoned him.

IMG_3548

cabs, motorbikes & tuk tuks.

traditional cabs are super cheap that almost nobody really walks. the super local way to cruise quick distances is by hopping on the back of a motorcycle “cab” who zips you around your neighborhood for less than a buck. this is always the fastest since motorcycles simply cruise the sidewalks if traffic gets to tight. yup, just move over. we didn’t get this cheap cab/motorbike memo until about day 5 of our trip and continued to BTS/walk most of the city, but was nice for long distances. oh, and tuk tuks are pretty much for tourists.

P1160767 P1160768
these are the motorcycle cab guys – noted by wearing orange or purple vests.P1160776

free style.

there’s really no rhyme or reason to how people walk in bangkok – it’s what a thai person described to us as “free style” and it totally feels like that. you drive on the left, but that doesn’t mean you walk on the left. cars, bikes, people, tuk tuks – if you find a spot, weave in and gooooo. keep moving and just dart confidently across the road. cars, cabs, bikes, people all coexist. a little intimating at times, but you get used to it.
P1160778
7-11 in bangkok
ready. set. goooooo.

massages.

they’re all over the place and super cheap. foot, neck & back, oil (a traditional western massage), reflexology and then the lovely thai are available pretty much 24-hours a day on every street in this city for $5 – $15 depending on where/what you’re getting. we did a couple local spots and then checked out Health Land per the recommendation of a couple people. only a dollar or two more, but swanky more like a traditional resort spa. we’re on the every-other-day massage plan.

7-11.

they are everywhere. and air conditioned.
7-11 in bangkok

 

we’ve got a bunch of video footage to bring this stuff to life – just need to find time to edit it!

 

1 Comment

  • Reply January 12, 2014

    Erica Newton

    Yay, I’m so glad you had a chance to meet up with Justin! And the food looks amazing.

Leave a Reply