Arriving in Bangkok was a jolt from the relatively calm city of Chiang Mai and the isolated beaches of Khao Lak. Leading up to my visit to the city, it seemed as though everyone I talked to either hated or loved their time in Bangkok. My first impression of the city was that I couldn't tell where it started or ended. Sky scrapers pop up like gophers in the sky, there is no delineation of a downtown or financial district as is the case with most cities. This was confusing for me as I tried to map out where to go, what to see and how to get there.
My first day in the city was not as overwhelming as most people had forewarned. It's true the streets were busy and cars don't stop for pedestrians. It's true there are shops and people everywhere, always trying to sell you something. It's true that the streets and sidewalks are dirty with trash. But have you ever been NYC? I think I'm used to the fast-paced, city vibe and so I fell right into step with Bangkok.
My hotel was located down the river from the main tourist areas such as Khaosan Road and the Grand Palace. This gave me an excuse to take a water taxi every day up and down the river to get where I needed to go. I preferred this form of transportation to a metered taxi or a tuk-tuk, both of which prey on tourists and charge ten times the realistic amount.
In my journeys across the city I tried to soak it all in. Thailand is home to huge economic disparities and for the first time I began to see this with my own eyes. As Thailand industrialized it followed the trend of most developing nations, the wealth became concentrated in the hands of a small percentage. Evidence of this was found in Bangkok where shiny new shopping malls are abundant, as are the poorer neighborhoods and the homeless.
As with my time in Chiang Mai, I found that one day brought a million new discoveries and experiences. My itinerary for the five days held countless wats, markets and palaces. And little by little I began to fall in love with Bangkok.