I’ve got a strong idea: I need to spend these winter holidays in Asia, away from the snow and cold weather. Bangkok’s capital, Thailand, was perfect for that.
As you may know, Thais speak almost no English. I’ve learned “sawadee ka” & “khop kun krap”. These won’t get you anywhere, unfortunately.
The Thai abugida (alphabet) allows some nice tricks with it. The word is written with ropes. Can you imagine the same for English?
Even though it’s hard to navigate without knowing the language, a lot of touristy places do have signs in English.
Thailand cares about tourists a little bit more than your average city. They even know what you typically would like to buy and provide you a “Tourist choice”.
The MRT (Metropolitan Rapid Transit) is the fastest way to get from point A to point B. However, be aware that the staff won’t let you bring your favourite durian on the train.
Along with the MRT, Bangkok offers a developed bus network. There are caveats, though. Some bus stops are hard to find. A lot of them don’t provide any information about routes. Additionally, I was never able to figure out the fare: sometimes you pay per station, sometimes the price is fixed. It was very hard to make any sense of it.
I have to admit, I was very impressed with the friendliness of Thai people. In the vast majority of cases where I needed help and asked a Thai person, they were nice to me. So if you are on a bus and don’t know where to go, don’t worry, someone will help you out if you ask.
Having said that, be mindful of tuk-tuk drivers, because those people are not nice. Every time I wanted to try a tuk-tuk, the driver’s offered price was higher than Uber’s. Yes, they look flashy and cool, but their goal is to rip you off.
In a way, tuk-tuk is the jeepney of the Philippines (except that jeepney drivers don’t rip you off): they are ubiquitous.
Another viable choice to navigate the city is a plain old taxi cab. Quite often they are even cheaper than Uber or Grab. Those guys also want to look gaudy.
It’s interesting that every cab has information about the driver. It provides some kind of safety in case they lock you in the car and decide to murder you.
Speaking of Uber, in Bangkok you can book UberMOTO. So, instead of cars you actually book motorcycles. I haven’t had a chance to try it out, but it makes a lot of sense to me, because look at this damn traffic.
Finally, you can always cycle. The prevalent majority of cyclicsts use small-wheel bicycles. I don’t know why but maybe because they need to maneuver between cars?
Bike lanes do exist, but they are super rare.
As for me, I was a pedestrian.
The life of a pedestrian in Bangkok is full of adventures. When I attempted to cross a road, I had to wait for 15 minutes. Not only the traffic is heavy but the average speed of a lane is so high that you have to run to survive.
Quite often traffic lights are absent (or not working) and the car flow is constant so pedestrians are blocked. You can really wait for 10 minutes. It’s not an exaggeration.
There are police stations here and there but I don’t think they’re in control of the road situation at all.
Sometimes, traffic guards help out.
One other threat that pedestrians have to deal with is rats (squint your eyes, the rat is in the middle of the photo).
The bad smell from trash lying on the sidewalks attracts them.
Being an observant pedestrian, I couldn’t miss an opportunity to take a picture of someone who parks their car like an asshole. At that moment, I felt like I was home.
A solar powered sign. I have a few questions. Why is it off? Does it only work when the sun is up? Why is that so? You actually need them during the night, when there’s no sun.
The LEDs on the ground are supposed to alarm drivers of the bridge.
Now, let’s get back to tourists. Bangkok is full of them.
I guess these guards hate them. Once in a while some cheeky bastard takes a picture with them without their consent.
Tourists visit nothing but touristy places so it’s easy to avoid them. This pathway is in 50 meters from Khao San Road (a super busy street), and there’s not a single person but me.
While I’m standing there, the Khao San Road crowd feasts on insects.
“Wai!” says Ronald McDonald.
“Ni hao” replies Mao and his friend.
I like how nature and urbanism meet each other in Bangkok. Someone is feeding squirrels.
Someone is feeding pigeons.
With the exception of the pigeon. “Don’t feed the pigeon” says the sign.
Nobody is risking to feed freaking monitor lizards, though.
A leaky faucet is a problem.
But a leaky pipe is fine.
Speaking of pipes, Thailand is probably the second country on Earth where you can buy pipes for smoking drugs just on the street. The first one is likely Afghanistan.
Thailand loves massage. Not only you can be massaged by real people…
…but also by machines!
You can also check the weight of your luggage (or yourself for that matter).
Speaking of religion, as you know Thailand is a Buddhist country. At first, it was cool going to a wat (temple), but it became repetitive very quickly. The thing I noticed in Thailand is that they like to beg for money.
You are supposed to donate to monks.
Donate to Buddha.
Donate to the bear.
Donate, donate, donate! Donate to this urinal!
Just don’t lose your head in this donation carnival.
There are so many places to donate to that it’s no wonder thievery is flourishing.
However, I think donating gold would be better because buddhists love gold.
Thailand is a very weird country in regards to strictness. You are supposed to take off your shoes upon entering a temple, wear proper clothes, stand up at the cinema when they show some propaganda about their king prior to a film, but at the same time you get ladyboys, hookers, pipes being sold on the street and these wrist bands: the “Long live the King” band neighbours with “Mad cunt”.
My face after reading the whole board.
Speaking of the king, they have a serious propaganda there. The king is everywhere. He’s in schools.
Even on money.
All over the city there are people playing some sort of propaganda.
Desipte that, to my surprise, muslims also exist in Thailand. The “Muslim prayer room” sign.
Once in a while there will be a random monk on the street doing their chores like topping up. They use the same streets as we, commoners, do.
The most authentic Armani suits in Thailand (no).
In Thailand people can still use payphones.
A key holder at a bus stop without any keys. I wonder if bus drivers leave their keys there because I don’t mind driving a bus. Imagine a buspooling service. Cool, huh?
Free mobile charger stand.
A lot of Thai signs are amusing. Sometimes they’re polite. “Please don’t touch” (an old exhibit).
Yet, in the same room there’s a sign, which says “Don’t you dare to mask the air conditioner”.
“Caution! Wet floor”. That’s really “helpful”.
Water canals (called khlongs) pierce the flesh of the city all over.
Floating 7-eleven in a khlong.
In case of flooding or heavy rain the water will naturally flow inside these channels. Make sure to have matches to send them down the stream.
Hua Lamphong railway station strongly reminded me of Kharkiv Railway Station.
A homeless person sleeping in front of a 5-star hotel.
Asian version of San Francisco’s Painted ladies.
Fitness in a park.
You can wash cutlery in hot water before using it.
Typical simple Thai diner.
While exploring Bangkok sometimes I felt like Lara Croft.
Stunning work of the ancients (spoiler alert: it’s actually modern).
I asked these guys to pose for me…
…but something went wrong.
I’d like to remind the reader that I was there on Christmas time. The fact that it’s Christmas is barely reflected on the streets.
New Year fireworks lasted only 5 minutes.
Nevertheless, Happy New Year 2018!