Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Experiencing Bangkok

I almost got it right. Especially about the shithouse tattoos and cosmopolitan tourists. I think Thailand is the respository of the world's lamest tatts. Jack Cambrian needs to come here just to even it out a little bit. I was expecting a more visible homeless population, but it turns out Los Angeles appeared way worse than this. Maybe downtown Bangkok is heavily policed so all of the homeless people get shifted to other areas. I don't know. Travelling in Thailand is SO EASY! It's ridiculous. I was expecting a little bit of a struggle. I was also expecting a bit of hostility and the occasional feeling of not being safe. But I feel more in danger walking around Chapel street late at night on weekends when there's those roaming packs of young men in very nice clothes looking for an excuse (for example: eye contact) to bash someone.

I haven't yet found the glamorous side to Bangkok that I was expecting, but my description of Khao San wasn't far off from the reality. It's been weird how much of the shit I've read has stuck in my head. I was on Ko Chang the other day and I missed Jed. I actually MISSED him. A fictional character (from The Beach). I was hanging out by myself thinking, wouldn't it be great if Jed was here? Fuck.

Another strange experience was the sensation of having been here already. Thailand felt so familiar. All of the stuff I'd heard about before I came here really had an influence on me and it couldn't be helped. But this feeling is probably also influenced by the overwhelming desire to find a reference point to FORCE myself to experience Thailand as familiar. I was walking around Bangkok and Ko Wai thinking yeah this is like Mozambique or that is like Madagascar and I had to stop myself. It's nothing like those places. Just because a place has a beach and coconut trees doesn't make it the same as fucking Madagascar! Or just because an apartment building is dilapidated doesn't make it the same as Mozambique. There are all these layers of difference that I stopped myself from experiencing and instead focussed on very basic elements of my visual experience. I'm not sure why I did this but it happened spontaneously. Possibly I was kind of scared being alone in a big foreign city and wanted to stop myself from feeling stressed. It worked.

I don't have a creeping sensation of danger walking around Bangkok (which I had in Maputo, Mozambique's capital and Antananarivo which is Madagascar's). Mozambique and Madagascar are much much poorer countries and this makes a big difference. The food is totally different. The architecture is way different too, (besides a few vaguely similar apartment buildings), and the buildings in Bangkok are in much better condition. Actually, almost everything in Bangkok is in much better condition. There's a very prominent tourist culture in Thailand which possibly makes the locals more used to our presence here, which means we receive a lot less attention (both negative and positive). Also, movement through the country is unbelievably easy here and comfortable, which changes the way a place is experienced.

I didn't expect Africa to be such a big influence on the way I experienced Thailand. Almost everything in my first few days in Bangkok I related to my time in Madagascar and Mozambique. It was something I had to force myself not to do, and now finally, after about ten days in the country, I am experiencing everything for the first time.

1 comment:

Thrillwanaland said...

Come back soon, so I can swear loudly and then have a heated discussion about something geo-political.