The city of life will steal your heart!
Hi there, Bangkok. … No, hold on, that’s not romantic enough, this is supposed to be a love letter. Let me start again. My darling Bangkok! I have adored you for some time now and I must tell you how I feel about you. I’m sorry if it’s cheesy, but aren’t all love letters a bit cheesy?
The second the airplane doors open, I know I’m far away from home. The air smells differently, it’s humid. People smile easily; smiling to strangers is not the painstaking effort it is back home. I’m both excited about everything and a little worried, too. Did I buy the right type of SIM card, will it take forever until I find a taxi? But then I get all the practical things in order and I can just relax and admire you.
I notice I’m smiling to myself when I walk on your streets. Back home they would think I’m crazy to smile like that. But I’m here! The street food smells amazing, there’s no telling what I will find behind the next corner. Sometimes it’s a hole in the ground and I nearly trip, sometimes it’s a woman who pushes two chihuahuas in a stroller like they’re babies. It can be a surprisingly good and cheap massage joint… or a very mediocre one, too. It can be a restaurant which has cheap-looking and worn plastic chairs and the most amazing papaya salad or pad thai for 40 baht (1 euro), or it can be a huge monitor lizard in Lumpini Park.
Oh, I know you’re not perfect. Sometimes the streets smell strongly of sewage. Some canals are sadly filled with plastic and other garbage. A scooter drives past me on the sidewalk and scares me a bit. The city is loud and there’s pollution. There’s way too much plastic everywhere. Yes, these are serious issues and not to be understated. But still, you are charming despite your flaws.
I ride a bicycle in Thonburi, a residential neighbourhood west of the Chao Phraya River. I see small canals, people’s houses, tiny narrow streets, temples… I visit a small factory where bronze bowls are being made. It’s an art that has been handed down for generations since the Ayutthaya era. I’m told this might be the last generation doing that laborious work. I continue riding my bike and I get a little lost. The incredibly friendly locals help me find my way back. Then I stop at a pickup truck which sells local jelly treats.
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Speaking of jelly treats, I am practically eating non-stop. Banana pancakes, mango smoothies, coconut ice cream, durian… although the last one is not really my cup of tea, but I had to try it. And these are just desserts, I’m not even listing the actual dishes yet. I want to eat these at home too, so I joined a cooking class one morning. We start the day by visiting a local market. I learn to cook massaman curry, khao pad (fried rice), tom yum soup and pumpkin in coconut milk. Considering I cooked them and I’m no master chef, everything tastes deliciously. In the evening, in a restaurant, I eat a small bean-like thing. It turns out to be a very hot chili pepper and I suck ice cubes for the next twenty minutes. What a rookie mistake!
I’m a stranger here, I cannot claim I fully know you, Bangkok. That would be absurd and arrogant since I am just visiting. And yet, I do know small parts of you and I love it. We are at the beginning of our relationship. The honeymoon phase, someone might say. I hope I get to know you more.
It’s like The Shires sang: my heart beats to your rhythm.
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This article was written by our International Relations Specialist Suvi!