How Buggered is Bangkok?

Heigh ho, the panzers of progress continue to spearhead the guggernaught of global capitalism in its merciless drive across the steppes of sentimental memory. I’m already nostalgic for the lost Taiwan of my arrival, and I’ve only been here six years.

If anything, the effect is greater for a place that one doesn’t really know very well, and only visits at long intervals. So with Bangkok

I only really know the area around the old Hua Lumphong main railway station (so this post might more accurately be entitled “How Humped is Hua Lumphong”), Chinatown, and along the river, and I’ve only been there three times at 5 year intervals. In particular, I have no knowledge of the “classic” backpacker area of Ko San Rd, which I’ve avoided

The first (1999) time was quite pleasant. Though there were a lot of people sleeping rough in and around the railway station, they didn’t seem too wretched. There was a Tourist Information desk in the station with good free info and leaflets, including a good Thai phrasebook, and there were student volunteers with badges to help out foreigners. Lots of cheap, comfortable (mostly Chinese) hotels and guest houses in the area, and the river ferries provided a cheap and unpolluted traffic-avoiding means of transport. I remember a free open-air filmshow by the klong which had a festive atmosphere.

Second time (2005) I arrived late, and hardly recognised the place, guts ripped out for motorway flyovers and the MRT (which is exactly the same as Kaoshiungs except, strangely, there’s much less English signage). Couldn’t find anywhere affordable to stay and slept in the street, to be woken, politely, by a cop at 5am. Still a lot of people sleeping rough in the station but there seemed a more desparate vibe there and I didn’t feel comfortable joining them. Ferries apparently much diminished, presumably because of the MRT.

Just back from third trip (2010) The local accomodation situation has recovered, but there is now a FAKE Tourist Information desk in the station that gives mis-information, denying the existence of public transport and attempting to steer you to high-priced travel agents. The student volunteers are replaced by various touts, and the rough-sleepers now look pretty wretched. Fings aint wot they used terbe.

It didn’t ruin my trip, and there were still shining examples of Thai kindness (I was befriended by a Thai couple invited to stay for a few days on thier raft house on the Kwai, and lent a kayak) but I find the changes in Bangkok a bit depressing.

I wonder what people who know the place well think?

First went to Bangkok in 1986. Returned in 2001. It hadn’t changed at all. Didn’t like it either time. Sounds like a bit of progress has hit the area with all the good and bad that brings.

I first went in 2003 and enjoyed it, but found it overhyped (Bangkok, the islands and the people in general). I have been back about eight times though.

I had a crazy stint there in 2006 where I was only going to stop over for a week, but ended up staying two months, hanging with a bunch of foreigners and local girls.

Overall, I think it’s too tourist heavy, and I find the locals (especially those that have to deal with tourists) are wary, weary and jaded. It was rare I got a smile from waiters, reception staff, etc. The kindest person was the hotel cleaning lady who knew I was ill, and brought me water, soup and rice - with a smile. She might have been a Laotion or Cambodian.

Bangkok is a colourful city, with lots to see and do. But the Thais want your money in return for showing your their city. The double pricing system sucks - it just makes me feel like a walking ATM.

Thai girls can be sweet, and are generally fun to be with. Physically I prefer Chinese/Chinese-mix - a more refined look in general.

Some of the islands still have a lot going for them - I liked Koh Chang in 2006, and Samet is an easy hop and skip from Bangers.

I thouroughly HATE the foreign filth (noisy, rude, drunk, tattoed, skin-headed, arrogant, money flashing cunts). For that reason I pretty much stayed to myself last month, rather chatting with locals and actually hung with a few Koreans - Asians are much better behaved when travelling (not the loud, spitting Mainlanders though, although the ones I saw at the floating river market were well dressed, well behaved and definitely moneyed).

I actually cut my holiday short, from 14 to 10 days. In part because I was a bit bored/lonely, and also because somebody Roofied my drink one night and I wasn’t up to steam for the remainder of my trip. Apparently the ho’s, pimps and hustlers are desperate now since tourist numbers have dropped and are resorting to this kinda thing to up their income.

I am not so sure about that. Maybe you just notice westerners. I believe that people from any nation can be loud an obnoxious in large groups. If I travel abroad I am willing to hook up with people from anywhere. Of course it helps when you can speak four languages.

It’s still my favourite city to visit. I go there for the food, galleries and side streets. The city seems to attract a disproportionate amount of " foreign filth" but luckily I seldom interact with them where I go.

I still dream of moving there but it lacks the stability and infrastructure I require to raise a family.

There’s the problem. Take the alcohol away and most of the other problems would disappear too.

watch it sunshine :hand: both of us moderators are skin-headed and at least one of us is a drunk cunt. :wink:

Anyway, I was going to say I’ve always wanted to visit Thailand but have never got round to it. I think the people Baas was talking about are the reason it has put me off. That’s the price of progress I guess.

That said, I always meet some genuinely interesting people that make for refreshing company and conversation - this last time I met an Israeli businessman on the flight down to Bangkok, and a hyperactive Dutch guy who was telling me about the international gang wars going down on Koh Samui.

And I always seem to meet someone who’s sure they’re MI6, or CIA, or a Marine, or Mossad, or an assasin, or international drug/gun smuggler - some people truly lose the plot in Thailand, which is sad…

I should add as well that those types of people have spoiled cities all over Europe too. I would regularly visit Amsterdam for “recreational activities” with friends (some who lived there) and would always have to disassociate myself from the Brit stag-weekenders.

Luckily for me I look like a hardened gulag escapee so my Britishness could be easily disguised.

Whenever book flights back to the UK my wife makes me take the Taipei-HongKong-Heathrow route. She can’t stand the Brits who board during the stopover in Bangkok. Can’t say I blame her, they really are disgusting.

I go to Bangkok about once a year and I enjoy it thoroughly each time I go. I’m planning on staying there for a month sometime in the next year. Sure, there’s some urban renewal here and there… most big cities see it. But overall, old neighborhoods abound, and much of Bangkok is what it was like when I first visited 20 years ago.

One of the beauties of Bangkok, and Thailand in general for that matter, is that it’s very easy to get away from all that. Most of the farang that give foreign toursists a bad name congregate in a handful of places. Just avoid those spots. Judging Bkk based on those areas is like judging Taipei based on ladies night at Carnegies.

True that. I make a point of trying to meet locals, and foreigners with interest besides sex and booze.

I was going to do a bicycle tour of historical Bangkok, but was not feeling 100s. I’m sure I would have met some good geezers on it.

I guess you meet who want to, and by the activities you choose to engage in.

I still love Bangkok, but it has lost a lot of its wild-west feel over the years.

The biggest changes that I noticed were between 1981 and 1983.

Back until 1981, the weekend market was held in Sanam Luang, that huge park right across the street from Wat Phra Keo (Grand Palace). It was all muddy and cruddy, and there were plenty of beggars coming up to you.

They wanted to clean up the city for the bicentenial (in 1982), so they moved the market and really cleaned up the city.

If you like temples, markets, rivers, food and photography, Bangkok is still fantastic.

[quote=“Baas Babelaas”]

And I always seem to meet someone who’s sure they’re MI6, or CIA, or a Marine, or Mossad, or an assasin, or international drug/gun smuggler - some people truly lose the plot in Thailand, which is sad…[/quote]

But then sometimes they are one or more of the above. I was (I think reliably) told that guns were readily available
at low prices on the Cambodian border near Surin (in 1999). I think an M16 was 20-25 USD, though IIRC AK47’s were quite a bit more. Grenades seemed pretty expensive too. Perhaps they got used for fishing.

Talking of spooks and pseudo-spooks, in the early 1980’s I travelled through the Atlas and down the Atlantic coast to Sidi Ifni, in the former Spanish Sahara, as far South as one could easily get at that time due to a locally unacknowledged war (with POLISARIO) in southern Morocco and Mauritania.

In casual café conversation with a rare foreigner (who may have said he was with an aid agency, but I’d seen foreigners in Moroccan Army uniform and thought it best not to be too inquisitive) he said that a circle of severe devegetation could be clearly observed from the air around the Tuareg camps, which had artesian wells. It was worse this year because they had delayed the traditional migration.

“Intelligent” drought/climate change stylee speculations from me as to why the migration was delayed met with half smiles and headshakes.

“No, it is because they have televeesion in zer camp. If they migrate at the traditional time, they weel not find out Who Shot JR

Come to think of it, most of you might not be old enough to get that reference.

Goodbye, Sands of Time.

I’m reading ‘Freedom Highway’, by Nigel Krauth at the moment - a thriller set in Bangkok in the late 1950s, with Souteeast Asia moving towards war.

“CIA operatives, amongst others all over the place, the military runs the drug-smuggling etc etc”

Quite a slow paced novel, but I enjoy novels set inThailand, it makes for rich and interesting reading…

The first time I went to Bangkok was this year and I liked it precisely because it had seen the effect of civilisation. The first time we arrived there, I was really jaded and generally worn out after a couple of months of travelling through Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. I loved Laos and the people there, but in northern Vietnam (the south was much better), and especially Cambodia, I really felt like everyone was definitely trying to fuck with me, and outside of Siem Reap (which was perhaps a little over the top in terms of being touristy), everywhere else in Cambodia was a complete shithole. I knew things would be a lot different when the first guy I talked to in Thailand (on a mini-bus) was a Kazakh real estate agent and mobile phone salesman. One of the first sensible conversations I’d had in months.

Then, we buggered off to Myanmar, and after dealing with all that is incredibly fucked up about that place, and getting sick to the point where I was pissing blood, it was a huge relief (literally!) to be able to get back to Bangkok and get modern medicines in a place where reality definitely had more than a toehold and people didn’t live in absolute filth.

We didn’t go down south to the islands and I had little desire to associate with the Eurotrash (mostly British) sans shirts, staggering into their rooms at all hours and calling up hookers so everyone in the hall could hear. Mainly just hung out and did city stuff, caught local buses around the city (happy to get lost), and just wandered about. We also went to Chiang Mai, which was touristy, but was nice. There’s an absolutely awesome blues band there too. That’s another thing I liked about Thailand – great musicians (admittedly, playing covers a lot of the time) who can actually sing English lyrics without butchering them. Also, whilst I found guesthouse staff to be a bit jaded, we found some really nice food/drink stall owners, some obviously Chinese-Thai, who seemed amazed/excited to speak with me in Chinese.

I liked Bangkok. I’d definitely go back.

In the sense that the whole gamut of human depravity and general repulsiveness is on display there…yes, pretty representative. :sunglasses:

[quote=“Baas Babelaas”]I’m reading ‘Freedom Highway’, by Nigel Krauth at the moment - a thriller set in Bangkok in the late 1950s, with Souteeast Asia moving towards war.

“CIA operatives, amongst others all over the place, the military runs the drug-smuggling etc etc”

Quite a slow paced novel, but I enjoy novels set inThailand, it makes for rich and interesting reading…[/quote]

Y’all might like “The Honorable Schoolboy”, set at the other end of the American war, around the Fall of Saigon / Seige of Phmom Penh.

I’ll have a gander. I can put my head in a good book, and you won’t see me till I surface for a meal or sustenance.

Hard to find where I am though.

NOTE: I have some decent reads, if ya fellas want me to send 'em over…

Back on topic: Bangers is a steadfast city, and I reckon my impression of it is a reflection of myself/my soul. Because I’ve been there in good/tired/moody/sick/happy ways - and Bangers reflects my mood, without doubt.