In 1994, I hated Bangkok.
I hated the traffic, I hated the polluted air, I hated the noise.
But now, in 1997, I really enjoy Bangkok (meaning, I guess, that there's still hope for L.A.).
There are a number of reasons for this turn of events.
Dancers flash the famous Thai smile
1 - The city is a little cleaner, taxis are metered, and the new toll road makes the drive from the airport to the city muuuuuch better.
2 - I'm not a tourist there anymore.
The thing is, Bangkok is not a friendly city for tourists. It's difficult to maneuver in, there are lots of scams that are aimed at tourists, and going to Bangkok is never restful (unless you don't leave your hotel).
3 - I have friends there now.
Jetsada and Mai
You see, the best traits of Bangkok are the traits that the tourist almost never sees.
The generosity, the 'true' friendliness (hey, I love the incredible Thai smile as much as anyone, but sometimes it's a friendly smile, and sometimes it's just a smile), and the good humor of Bangkoks' people is a treasure.
Once you know Thai people, like my friends Jetsada and Paisan, or my once-and-future drinking buddy, Moo, you can know Bangkok.
Moo (at the right) and his family
In July, I went to Bangkok on business. One night, I finished work early and had two hours of daylight to kill. I was staying at the airport, so there were not many options. What the hell, I thought. There's a canal behind the hotel. I'll go take pictures of the river taxis. I grabbed my camera and went out.
I wandered around a bit, shooting pictures of houses, when I saw an arm stick up in the middle of one of my views. Oops. There was a half naked man sitting in his living room. Thinking I was intruding, I apologized and started to slink away.
Nope. He called again, "Do you like whiskey?".
Three hours later, I had drank Moos' whiskey, eaten his wives cooking, taught some English, learned some Thai, and made a new friend. To prove he was my friend, he even offered me his wives' sister for the night.
Then he said to me, "You are my friend. I will not allow you to stay in a hotel. You must spend the night here."
I looked around his house and weighed my options. King size bed or wooden floor? Toilet with plumbing or canal squatting? Air conditioning or free sauna?
Clearly, Moo had never seen the inside of an international hotel.
So, I thanked him, and returned to my hotel. But I'll be back.
I don't know what it is, but it sure is good!
Another time, Angie and I went for a walk around the same area.
In the two hour walk, I was fed food off a cart (and the lady refused my payment), another family invited us in for a drinking session (we declined, as my flight was leaving in two hours), another woman gave Angie a free banana cake (saying, "Thai hospitality"), and we were offered two children from different families (let's pretend they were joking).
If great people make a great city, then Bangkok ranks near the top. I used to avoid it, but not anymore.
Here are more Sights of Bangkok.