Same same, but different. It’s Thailish T-shirt philosophy that sums up Bangkok, a city where the tastes of many places are mixed into an often-spicy dish.
Until you’ve eaten on a Bangkok street, your noodles mingling with your sweat, and your senses dulled by chilli, exhaust and noise, you haven’t actually eaten Thai food. It can be an overwhelming mix: the underlying flavours – spicy, sour, sweet and salty – aren’t exactly meat and potatoes. But for those who love full-on cuisine and don’t need white tablecloths, there’s probably no better dining destination in the world. And with immigration bringing every regional Thai and international cuisine to the capital, it’s also a truly diverse experience.
The language barrier may seem huge, but it’s never prevented anybody from loving the Thai people. The capital’s cultural underpinnings are evident in virtually all facets of everyday life, and most enjoyably through its residents’ sense of sà·nùk (fun). In Bangkok, anything worth doing should have an element of sà·nùk. Ordering food, changing money and haggling at markets will usually involve a sense of playfulness – a dash of flirtation, perhaps, and a smile. It’s a language that doesn’t require words, and one that’s easy to learn.
With so much of life conducted on the street, there are few cities in the world that reward exploration as handsomely as Bangkok. Cap off an extended boat trip with a visit to a hidden morning market. A stroll off Banglamphu’s beaten track can wind up in conversation with a monk. Get lost in the tiny lanes of Chinatown and come face to face with a live Chinese opera performance. After dark, let the BTS (Skytrain) escort you to Th Sukhumvit, where the local nightlife scene reveals a sophisticated and dynamic city.
It’s the contradictions that give the City of Angels its rich, multifaceted personality. Scratch the surface and you’ll find a city of climate-controlled megamalls and international brand names just minutes from 200-year-old village homes; of gold-spired Buddhist temples sharing space with neon-lit strips of sleaze; of slow-moving rivers of traffic bypassed by long-tail boats plying the royal river; and of streets lined with food carts, overlooked by restaurants on top of skyscrapers serving exotic cocktails. As Bangkok races towards the future, you can rest assured that these contrasts will continue to supply the city with its never-ending Thai-ness.