Most cities, like people, have a distinct, characterizing personality that can be summed up in short, among from their several other outlying characteristics. Florence is an ancient, romantic city flooding with culture, the arts, history and luxury. New Orleans is a carefree, jolly city of free-flowing drinks, food and hospitality. San Juan is a colorful, sunny city made for those both looking for a big meal and big spending.
When my boyfriend Mike and I booked a 11-day trip to Thailand via Affordable Asia that included trips to Bangkok, Ayutthaya and Pattaya, I immediately got to work doing research on our various destinations, pouring over blogs, guidebooks and the few firsthand accounts I could find. However, I very quickly found myself running in circles. Information was few and far between and through all of the pieces that I read, I couldn’t define a clear picture of what it would look like in my head.
Six days into our trip, I now realize that the lack of definition is what defines Thailand.
Bangkok, our first destination, is a city of stark contradictions and sharply different neighborhoods. There are people living in absolute poverty, selling fried bugs on the streets to curious tourists who, at the same time, are fiercely devoted to their recently-passed king, wearing pins with his face on it and wearing black for one year in mourning while he, adversely, lived in palaces literally made of gold and diamonds and surrounded by herds of royal white elephants.
Most people dress conservatively, especially impressive considering the 90 degrees-plus weather, and long skirts and long-sleeved shirts are demanded for any place of worship or history (of which there are many) while Thai people also advertise sex show menus of ping pong and chopstick shows – look it up – in many tourist hotspots.
Trying to take in the various neighborhoods and characteristics reminds me of a quote I read among my research from prominent budget travel blogger Nomadic Matt, who I’ve always admired for his digestible and straightforward advice –
“Bangkok is known around the world for its chaotic, crowded streets, cheap prices, wild nightlife, and never ending traffic. Most travelers either love or hate it. I used to hate it because of its pollution, noise, and crowds, but when I got to know it more, I changed my mind. The city is like an onion. It slowly reveals its secrets to those who spend a little extra time here.”
CONTINUE READING HERE: Tuk-tuks, temples and tours in Thailand