For many tourists entering Thailand, Bangkok is a necessary stop before jetting off to the white sand island of their dreams. For us, Bangkok was home while we figured out what was next.
Bangkok has a variety of reputations depending on who you talk to, but since our trip was last minute, we were not aware of any of those things prior to arriving. We are thankful that our perceptions of this multi-faceted metropolis came from our experience. This is a city that engages all of our senses, sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch, at every turn.
Seeing Is Believing
Traffic, as we have never before experienced, brings the city to its knees almost daily. Pastel-colored tuk-tuks and Vespas weave in and out of cars, as the rain floods the sidewalks every evening. Street food vendors create gathering places in every neighborhood as their colorful umbrellas mark the “place to be.” Modern fast-food chains are balanced with ancient golden temples, people moving between the two worlds with grace. The beautiful Thai language characters look like great works of art to our untrained eyes as we work to navigate without any comprehension of spoken words. On any given day, we dodge bales of dangling electrical wires and starving dogs that are right outside of a mall selling candy-apple red Maseratis.
Did You Hear That?
The crickets from the Chao Phraya river are barely audible over the cement trucks working well past midnight to build yet another luxury condominium tower. The sounds of the Thai bells from the Grand Palace settle in the sticky heat as people disappear into air-conditioned buildings for a long day of work. The construction cranes creek and sway all day, only becoming still during the impressive crack and roll of evening electrical storms. The Thai language sounds melodious and tranquil and somehow drowns out the noise of a “developing” country.
Breath Deeply … Sometimes
There are times in Bangkok when we smell something completely ambrosial, like coconut ice cream or phad thai cooking in a hot walk. Nausea sometimes sets in after a stream of unpleasant smells of decay, standing water, dried fish, and traffic fumes. The smells we will take with us are the incense burning bright at neighborhood temples, a strong glass of boba tea, and chili scented rice drowning in tangy coconut milk.
There is Something Fishy Going on
You can almost taste the fish sauce in the Bangkok air. Some of the most memorable palatable moments we have had our Sunday lunch at the Chatachak Market. From vegetarian phad thai to homemade soda popsicles, dragon fruit smoothies, and sticky rice with mango, we never left hungry. While we never ate fish soup for breakfast, we tried a host of new flavors every day and never knew quite what we were going to get.
Aware of Every Touch
The most memorable sensory experience we had in Bangkok started upon arrival. Before we even left the airport, Thai ladies gently held our daughter’s arm, touching her skin soft and smiling. Every day since that moment, someone touches the kids’ arms in a loving, curious, and deliberate way. They touch them to deepen their understanding of the differences in our color. They touch them because they are a family-oriented culture that values children. They touch them because we are here and open to learning what they have to teach us. It is a fleeting moment in our day. We might be at the grocery store, getting on a bus, entering an elevator or in line at immigration. It just happens quietly and gently. We are beginning to feel this is truly a “City of Angels” as it is sometimes called.
To say Bangkok is a feast for the senses, does not come close to doing it justice. It is not sensory overload either … It is a place we can’t wait to explore as much as a place we need to close ourselves off from, to rest. There is a current that runs through everything all the time. It is too strong to resist, so we learned early on to just go with the flow.
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Today’s Tweetable: Where Are You Most Aware? Navigating Bangkok