Bangkok. You either love it or you hate it. Or, if you’re like me, you love it for about 30 minutes … and then you loathe it.

We came to Bangkok ten days ago to get some errands done. After living on the island of Koh Tao for the last six months, I was looking forward to our trip to big city. Island life is quiet and uneventful,  which is mostly wonderful, but sometimes it feels like the real world is happening elsewhere while I’m napping in a hammock.

So we left our tiny island and traveled by ferry and bus to the real world of Bangkok.

This is what happened:

With a skip in our step, we leave our hotel before noon, armed with a map and a simple list of errands.

Immediately outside of the hotel, we begin to push up against a thick wall of traffic, humans, and humidity. The real world is crowded and overwhelming, but it’s exciting.

Street vendors block all but a few feet of pavement with their food carts, and the herd of pedestrians compete for space among pots of boiling beef stock, barbecuing fish, and mounds of deep fried crickets, ready for eating. Smells of garlic and spices mingle with the stink of human excrement wafting up from the gutters.

We push on between stalls selling handbags, faux leather wallets, t-shirts, sunglasses, shoes, hair accessories, iPad accessories, accessories for your accessories. Thai baht changes hands, and a happy customer adds another pair of black studded heels to her collection for this season.

An old man with dark skin and dirty clothes sits cross-legged on the pavement with a donation cup by his diseased feet. He presses his hands together towards the wall of humans. Please, he asks with his eyes. Please. The crowd parts to give him a wide berth. He’s the only individual here who owns a square foot of uninterrupted personal space.

Above us, on a billboard the size of a tennis court, a model who is only vaguely Asian-looking promotes skin-whitening facial moisturiser to all the dark-haired, dark-eyed, dark-skinned people below. Deodorant brands promise ivory armpits, nipple lipsticks offer to pink-up areolas, and a whitening feminine wash offers hope to those born with swarthy vaginas.

East wants to be west.

But the Westerners are carrying oversized backpacks as they fight their way through the mayhem, heading towards buses that will transport them to the beach for the deep tan they can’t get under the florescent lights in their corporate offices.

A bald monk glides past, looking like an orb of golden light in a sea of lost hope, until I notice that his eyes are fixed on the iPhone in his hand. I picture an enormous statue of Steve Jobs reclining in the middle of a golden temple with offerings of fruit, flowers, and burning incense at his feet. Wat Jobs.

An advertisement for an unremarkable car tells me I should Be more, while a neon sign at the top of a skyscraper projects a simple message across the entire city: Joy is BMW. Forget enlightenment, people. Turns out joy is a $100K car. Just ask the monk!

We keep pushing upstream through this torrent of humanity. So many humans busy heading nowhere.

The real world is crowded and overwhelming, and it’s no longer exciting. It’s depressing. This city is a swarming mess of contradictions

Perhaps we can escape this craziness in a taxi? We flag down a tuk-tuk, and we’re sped forwards for ten glorious seconds until we turn a corner to meet an endless horizon of red brake lights. Exhaust pipes fart noxious fumes in our faces. It’s a bazillion degrees in the middle of the road. The foot traffic overtakes us. Maybe we should try the train instead?

We board a train to the other side of town and then discover we’re heading towards Rathathewi instead of Ratchapraprop. Dammit—how did we make that mistake? We fight through the crowd of commuters and birth our way out the doors to join the familiar zombie-shuffle of pedestrians.

“Let’s just go back to the hotel and drink beer,” I say. “We can order a pizza.”

“Yes!” Ivan says. “But where is our hotel?”

“I have no idea.”

“We’re completely lost.”

“Let’s follow the Joy is BMW sign.”

“Why not? Everyone else is.”

Finally, as night settles over the city, we return to our hotel with bloodshot eyes, haphazard hairdos, and blackened feet from pounding our way over miles and miles of filthy Bangkok pavement. And not a single item on our to-list gets crossed off.

We’ve been in Bangkok ten days now. We’ve consumed a lot of pizza and beer.

I miss my hammock.

Have you been to Bangkok? Did you love it or hate it?


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71 Response Comments

  • Elizabeth  November 27, 2012 at 7:18 am

    This is amazing! I laughed out loud several times, so true and eloquetnly written!! I absolutely, totally and utterly HATE Bangkok at this point! I have lived here for over a year now and every time I leave it is so hard to make myself come back.

    Finally moving out of the madness in December and hope to find a nice hammock like you have, with no one around. Pass me by world, go ahead, I know all those bright lights look exciting but they are just a facade. Wonderful post!

    • Torre DeRoche  November 27, 2012 at 8:08 am

      I FEEL like I’ve been here for over a year now.

  • Alana - Paper Planes  November 27, 2012 at 8:21 am

    This is usually how I feel about Bangkok too. Though for some reason on my last trip (my 5th time there) I actually…enjoyed myself. I’m still not sure what made it different from other trips or why the people/traffic/concrete/heat/dirt didn’t bother me so much, but for the first time I saw the city as a vibrant place rather than an exhausting one.

    Hope your to-do list is almost finished and you head home soon!

    • Torre DeRoche  November 27, 2012 at 11:30 am

      I’ve felt that way too. I used to love Bangkok. I’ve never stayed here this long, though, and I’ve never come here entirely to get errands done.

  • Savvy Scot  November 27, 2012 at 8:34 am

    Love the whirlwind story! We have only been for spells of 4 days maximum – and that is more than enough! It all becomes a bit mental for me by the end of it – and I am not used to living on an island!!! Think it might take you a while to slow down when you return…

    • Torre DeRoche  November 27, 2012 at 11:32 am

      The extreme contrast between environments certainly makes it worse!

  • ken  November 27, 2012 at 9:11 am

    Sorry but your story is just another standard naive hammock escapism story with the western food propensity being the dead give away that you will ultimately get bored of your hammock life and return to your middle class life and continue to eat more (expensive) pizza….yawn

    If you ever make friends with a Thai/Chinese/Japanese/Indian/Pakistani person then ask them about the whitening products and the origins….you might learn something about the places you visit (hint: it has something to do with working in fields/status and nothing to do with east wanting to be west)

    BTW I also do not enjoy living in Bangkok but not because I somehow feel I am better than the locals and their perceived ills. For me I just find the chaotic nature of the city not to my liking but thats a personal thing (I prefer Tokyo as it is controlled chaos).

    Enjoy your hammock…

    • Torre DeRoche  November 27, 2012 at 12:01 pm

      Damn—you got me, Ken. I’m just a lazy, pizza-loving middle-class douche who should keep her naive experiences and perceptions to herself. But if you’re still here reading …

      This isn’t a commentary on Bangkok or Thai people, it’s my thoughts on the ways of “the real world.” This city is exactly the same as any other big city. It has all the same problems. Most of us are trying get somewhere else. We yearn for more.

      I understand why many people in the east want white skin, and why the west wants tanned skin. It’s about appearing wealthy and desirable. I’ve charred my skin to get tanned many, many times in my life because I didn’t stop to question WHAT I was doing and why.

      It’s sad to see that the advertisers here use white models (Europeans with dark hair) to plug their product. The brands are opportunistic, playing into our insecurities so they can sell us their whitening/tanning product. It’s nothing new. This has been going on a long time in the first world, but in Bangkok, I can see the puppet strings of capitalism moving more than I can in my own culture.

      • Ying  November 27, 2012 at 12:48 pm

        Unfortunately, being ‘fair’ (maybe not white per se) is much favoured over tanned skin–and it has nothing to do with becoming more European but society’s idea of ‘beauty’, etc. I’m Malaysian Chinese, born with reasonably fair skin but have grown so tanned from my travels that it drives me my conservative dad crazy. He used to sneer and say, “Look at you. You’re so dark now–and it’s almost Chinese New Year–what are we going to do with you?!” That used to crack me up. I’ve learned not to take such comments to heart anymore.

        I can’t stand Bangkok though. It’s a very demanding city despite plenty of its culture and traditions are still practised behind the concrete and flashy facade. I’m a born and bred city girl from Kuala Lumpur and am always looking for less dense and more tranquil places to live in. Unfortunately when you’re in South East Asia, be it Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia or Indonesia (let’s not mention Singapore since it’s already an air-conditioned island), that’s where most job opportunities lie.

        • Torre DeRoche  November 28, 2012 at 9:32 am

          Looking back into the origins of the practise, it seems that for many Asian cultures (including Chinese), Western influence has shaped cultural perceptions of beauty. Each culture has its own story, though. Here’s an interesting study:

          It might not be correct to say that east is consciously trying to become west, but Western influences and stigmatisation of dark skin has perhaps shaped what is desirable and “beautiful” over the ages in some Asian cultures, and it’s now accepted without question. What is worrying is the shaming and ostracising of naturally dark-skinned people in this obsession to be pale-skinned. I’m also worried about the genital health of the women who are slathering whitening creams onto their vaginas!

          As for finding a more tranquil environment to live in, perhaps you need to become a diving instructor? 🙂

  • Marcy  November 27, 2012 at 10:51 am

    I loved Bangkok for a few days and then grew to dread it. It was our hub as we traveled around Thailand, so we kept ending back there. People kept trying to rip us off, but after a few days we were with a guide and then people left us alone. It was amazing, though–great description! The weirdest part for us was that we were there as the queen’s birthday approached and there was an amazingly loud concert and two amazingly loud action movies that played all at the same time right next to our hotel until 3 in the morning.

  • Jo (The Blond)  November 27, 2012 at 1:52 pm

    This brought back the memories, especially the smells 🙂 I really didn’t feel anything towards Bangkok. I think it was the initial shock. After a day, I hated it, and now I miss it. I’m going there I Jan, and after I come back I’ll know what I really think about the city.
    Great writing, by the way 🙂

    • Torre DeRoche  November 28, 2012 at 9:33 am

      Thanks, Jo. I seem to pinball between love and hate when it comes to Bangkok.

  • Natalie Sisson  November 27, 2012 at 2:03 pm

    I think had you done this in reverse you would have found this 24 hour city alive with energy and people more exciting and less horrible. I can imagine after a hammock and quiet island it would be a chaotic mess. But I personally loved it’s energy and that anything was accessible at anytime – aside from personal space.

    And I guess I saw more aspects of the city as I played in an Ultimate tournament there and got out of the city to see another point of view.

    • Torre DeRoche  November 28, 2012 at 9:35 am

      We come to Bangkok regularly, but this is the first time I’ve been here this long and for the purpose of getting errands done. We’ve spent a lot of time in taxis, on trains, walking … I’m just over it. (Self-pitying much?) 🙂

  • Kristina  November 27, 2012 at 2:20 pm

    I love it. Yes, it’s chaotic, but that’s part of it for me. I love the street food and the constant sense of “other” and “different” but I live in a big city in the US, not on an island.
    I think a big part of whether people like Bangkok or not depends on where they stay. For me, avoiding Khao San Road is first, then I try and stay near the river or on a sky train route which makes getting around much easier. Yes, everyday errands can be challenging, you’ve got to zen through it.

    • Torre DeRoche  November 28, 2012 at 9:37 am

      I should find a better place to stay for next time. We’re in Pratunam, which is one of the most chaotic parts of the city. Searching for a place to have dinner away from the chaos is tricky (though we have eating some really delicious roadside dishes while sitting on the gutter!)

  • Greg  November 27, 2012 at 2:34 pm

    Torre, interesting read. You bring up a lot of the same contradictions, foibles and visual WTFs that I first experienced. I came for a vacation and was supposed to stay for four months…that was in 2001. I was confused and put off by Bangkok when I first arrived to, but soon came to love living here. I’m not dissing your experiences, but I imagine that if I moved to New York or Moscow or Sydney or any big, unfamiliar city I’d probably feel the same way. But once you get to know Bangkok – how to get around, how to avoid the touristy, crowded areas, how to mentally process a monk smoking outside of Pantip Plaza, and most especially the incredible variety of people that live here (granted, a very ‘diamond in the rough’ type of crowd) – it really does grow on you. Mostly. As the saying goes: “Bangkok – I love it and I hate it and I wouldn’t live anywhere else.”

    • Torre DeRoche  November 28, 2012 at 1:43 pm

      I’d love to experience the city from a perspective other than the one I’ve had. I’ll keep looking. As a tourist, it’s always hard to find the soul of a place. I didn’t really like San Francisco as a tourist, but loved it after I became a resident. It takes a lot of experience in a place to learn your way around.

  • Cristina Garcia  November 27, 2012 at 2:41 pm

    That reminds me of London. Chaos, noise and pollution. Last time I was there I swore I would never go back.
    Yeah, I HATE London

    • Torre DeRoche  November 28, 2012 at 1:44 pm

      You’re more of a getting-chased-by-lions-in-the-African-savannah kind of girl.

  • Tatiana  November 27, 2012 at 3:27 pm

    This is such a fantastic post. I love it.

    Not so much the subject – I harbor no desire to go to Bangkok (or any large city in Asia like Tokyo or Shanghai). But I just really love, love the way you wrote this. So awesome.

    And this “Joy is BMW” sign looks like something out of a dystopian future movie (or novel).


    (And it’s interesting because I’m not much of a beach person – I dislike splashing around in the ocean, and laying around on the beach. I think there’s a middle area though – a smaller, less busy town that still has lots to offer culture wise – and food wise).

    • Torre DeRoche  November 28, 2012 at 4:31 pm

      Thank you, Tatiana. Yes—dystopian. That’s how I see parts of the city.

  • Carmel  November 27, 2012 at 3:46 pm

    Coming from such a slow life on an island into such a huge city must be a shock to the system, no matter what city. When my husband and I took a road trip in Northern California, I had a similar experience when we went to San Francisco (San Francisco! Not even close to the same level of chaos as Bangkok it seems…) Anyway, after spending over a week enjoying the slow pace of camping in the Redwood Forest, enjoying lake life and wine country, it felt stressful to suddenly hit such a big and bustling city. I don’t think I enjoyed it as much as I could since I spent about a day adjusting to the pace again.

    • Torre DeRoche  November 28, 2012 at 4:41 pm

      Yeah, it’s a weird feeling, isn’t it? (You’ve made me want to go camping in the redwood forests – so beautiful.)

  • Veny (@MissLaiLai)  November 27, 2012 at 6:14 pm

    I have never been to Bangkok (or I should say Thailand) and from the sound of things here, it is very similar to Jakarta. I am still curious to go, mainly because many says things are cheaper, they have better transportation and, have I said things are cheaper? Oh, yes, I have. Oh and food! I want to try the food!

    I love how this post is written, so so descriptive. Oh, how I wish I could write so elequontly… 🙂

    • Torre DeRoche  November 28, 2012 at 4:44 pm

      Aw, thank you. The food here is amazing. Street-side food is the best. You can have a delicious meal for 35 baht (a dollar). It’s also worth coming just to shop at the JJ weekend market.

  • LISA USHER  November 27, 2012 at 7:25 pm

    loved this, what a great reminder of my trip via Bangkok, thanks 🙂

  • Caz Makepeace  November 27, 2012 at 8:30 pm

    You have done such a great job of capturing Bangkok. After living their for 6 months, I swore I’d never return, I was so over it.

    But, it wasn’t long before I was pining the chaos again. I loved returning there for visits. It was once my home so I have so many precious connections and memories. But, I could never live there again

    • Torre DeRoche  November 28, 2012 at 4:46 pm

      It’s easy to become nostalgic about adventures once they’re over. And I think your environment becomes addictive whether it’s chaos or quiet.

  • Dyanne@TravelnLass  November 28, 2012 at 3:19 am

    Ah how I admire a lovely necklace strung with pearly mots. In a word, Torre, this writing is SUPERB!

    Reminds me of when I lived on a small island (Vashon) off the coast of Seattle. Ferrying into the “city” (no more than monthly at least, by choice) was ever a thrill (as I clutched my credit card ready for the gleeful “hunt” for “stuff” ahead).

    Ah but, like you, the delight swiftly faded after but an hour or two amid the traffic, the crowds, the noise and the congestion, and I gratefully hopped back on the ferry (with my “list” but half checked) back to the serenity of my “boring” island life.

    • Torre DeRoche  November 28, 2012 at 4:49 pm

      What a lovely compliment.

      It’s so easy to become overwhelmed when you’ve adjusted to a quiet place. Excitement quickly turns to distress, which turns into an urgent need to escape! Here in Bangkok, I’ve desperately tried to sprout wings and fly away on a number of occasions. Up, up, up above the crowds!

  • David  November 28, 2012 at 4:43 am

    I live in Bangkok and respect the experience you had, but a bit of what you say perhaps goes past retelling your experience and enters the much more jagged terrain of judging a society based on your own preconceptions.

    Bangkok is an exhausting city, although relaxed when compared to Saigon or Jakarta. I’m fairly certain I know exactly the place where you begin the piece, and even the elderly individual sitting on the ground (there actually aren’t that many beggars here and you come to “know” them after a while). Bangkok can be extremely difficult to “crack”, but I assure you there are some wonderful places to be found, including the conservation area just west of the river where I live. My house is surrounded by banana trees and gardens and I fall asleep to the sound of crickets rather than tuk tuks. Yes, that’s in Bangkok – but you’d never know it if you don’t explore outside the tourist areas.

    While I don’t agree with the comment by ken which suggests you’re a “naive westerner”, I do sense a hint of “we’re better than this place” in your words. “East wants to be west” is a bold statement when placed in the context of criticizing not only a city but also urban Thai society, which is mainly what I find you to accomplish with this piece.

    Bangkok is nothing if not multi-layered and complex. For instance, thousands of young men ordain as monks for one to three months only, an ancient custom carried out as a way to “give back” to society and “earn merit” for the family. There are “monks”, perhaps like the iPhone wielding one you mention, and then there are real monks who are fully devoted, but you won’t see them on Sukhumvit Rd. Of course, in modern Asia (not just Thailand) some monks use cell phones, but – coming from someone who has studied and experienced Buddhism in depth in Thailand over many years – it’s difficult to swallow the “Wat Jobs” image and your statement to “Just ask the monk” about a $100K car being “enlightenment”. It just doesn’t seem that your understanding of Buddhism in Thailand is anywhere near deep enough to make a statement like that, which insults an ancient religion as practiced by an entire society.

    In sum, I usually adore the use of sarcasm in your pieces, but you lost me on this one when your tone turned the corner from judging your own inner thoughts to judging a place based on your own preconceptions. That would be more acceptable if you had a deeper connection with this place, but based on what you wrote, your understanding of Thai culture doesn’t reach below even its outer-most layers.

    • Torre DeRoche  November 28, 2012 at 7:56 am

      Please don’t get me wrong: I have deep respect for Thai people and the Buddhist religion. It’s a cynical piece for sure, but it’s not judgemental of Thai people, Buddhism, or even Bangkok city. It’s directed at modern society all over the world.

      Technology is changing the world at a rapid pace, and traditions and cultures are endangered because of this. I believe that something epic is being lost in this transformation. It’s not a huge jump of the imagination to predict a global gentrification.

      There’s something sad about seeing a monk with an iWhatever, or a preteen, or a couple at a restaurant who have replaced their conversation with Angry Birds, or an explorer who has thrown away the compass and map. We’re becoming highly dependant, and having an iProduct is less about want, and more about need. A toy is becoming a necessary (and very expensive) tool for navigating through life, and we’re developing an irreversible digital dependancy. It is what it is, but I feel a sense of grief over it.

      The influence of the west is undeniably bleeding into cultures around the world. This isn’t a statement about being better than anyone. If anything, it’s about the disgust I have for the rapid spread of meaningless western values and corporate greed. Perhaps I’m wrong in using the word “want” in “East wants to be west.” Corporate self-interest is forcing the change.

      I’m staying in Pratunam right now, which is certainly one of the most chaotic parts of the city. I’ve been all over the city in the 10+ times I’ve visited. My experience has been much the same all over, though I’m perhaps more cynical on this trip because the ugly side tends to pop out at you when you’re sitting in traffic for the purpose of dull errands!

      Anyway, I appreciate you bringing your thoughts into the discussion, David. Your sensitivity to this city and its people really shines through.

      • David  December 1, 2012 at 5:17 pm

        Torre, when you mention “my sensitivity to this city” in your reply, you touch precisely on where my initial comment came from: I was being sensitive, and overly so!

        I think it’s almost a primal reaction to defend one’s home when someone “bad-mouths” it. In this case, I immediately felt the need to “set the hater straight”, and I picked apart your post excessively in attempting to do that. But actually, that strong inclination to “defend” the city I live in stems from a sub-conscious “need” to somehow verify that I haven’t made a huge mistake by adopting it as my home, and in a deeper sense, to “uphold” the life I’ve chosen.

        Upon reflection, I see that my initial comment was an impartial, self-serving pursuit; a short-sighted and emotionally charged attempt to make myself feel okay about living in a place that more than one commenter “HATES”. In other words, to quickly firm up the ground that had been “cracked”. I attempted to achieve that by taking passive-aggressive jabs at the “cultural understanding” or even intelligence of the person who I unwittingly deemed to be the cause of my own negative sentiments. After submitting the comment, that guilty, humiliated feeling that arises from knowing I’ve been misguided and overly self-righteous crept in.

        I’m in full agreement with your “disgusted” sentiments regarding “meaningless western values and corporate greed.” If the piece had been about Seoul and not Bangkok, my response would have been to simply absorb it as more food for thought.

        By the way, your last post on “where to begin” really helped me to put some things into perspective. I really appreciate what you wrote – perhaps I should try commenting when I’ve something nice to say?

        Well, here’s something nice: I read quite a few blogs, and this one is my favorite, honestly, it’s the best, number one, the cream of the crop, the cherry on top, the cheese on the nachos… Okay, now I’m just being gushy… Or maybe getting hungry? Damn you subliminal mental notes………… Peace.

        • Torre DeRoche  December 4, 2012 at 12:44 pm

          David, I was really touched by your reply. You’re so very humble.

          If someone wrote a negative write-up about my home city of Melbourne, I’d get defensive about it too. I think it’s perfectly okay to be defensive over the places and people that we love. It’s called loyalty.

          Thanks so much for the compliments too!!

  • Dyanne@TravelnLass  November 28, 2012 at 6:08 am

    Probably gonna regret this outburst but…

    Preamble/Disclaimer: And I too, respect both the previous lads’ diplomatic quibbles, but…

    Seriously folks. Lighten up ‘n give the lass a break. Much like my own swiftly pecked tale of ferrying from a serene isle into the big, “bad” city of Seattle (a burg that arguably ranks as pretty tame by bustling – think: NYC, BKK, HCMC, where I until recently lived – burg standards). The lass was merely personally ruminating in her most talented, and I dare say… tinged with her own uniquely “entertaining” way.

    It’s a personal BLOG people. We blather what we blather, and you’re welcome to read or pass. No need to pick it PC apart.

    This tale could just as easily be about ANY isle vs. metro on the Planet. So, do try to tone down the “holier-than-thou” rhetoric, and give the girl a break!

    (p.s. sorry Torre – I know you’re perfectly capable of holding-your-own mot-wise here, but I just couldn’t help myself.) 😉

    • Torre DeRoche  November 28, 2012 at 8:25 am

      Thanks for the understanding, Dyanne. I was afraid to post this piece because it’s a depressing look at the modern world, and it doesn’t redeem itself. It’s unfortunate that some people are seeing it as a judgement, but when you describe a foreign place through a negative lens, perhaps it’s unavoidable that you’ll come across as judgemental and narrow-minded. No city is one-dimensional—they’re all a blend of beauty and ugliness, nice people and assholes (though I’ve yet to come across one single Thai asshole). This piece is quite one-sided and it’s in no way a comprehensive and complete representation of the city, though some people are mistaking it for that. Oh well …

  • Ashley of Ashley Abroad  November 28, 2012 at 8:02 am

    What descriptive writing, I felt like I was walking the streets of Bangkok as I read it! From what it sounds like I wouldn’t like Bangkok at all, I don’t really care for crowds and humidity. I would still love to see it though!

    • Torre DeRoche  November 28, 2012 at 8:27 am

      You definitely have to experience it for yourself! This is perhaps my 10th time in the city and I’ve had a range of experience here, both positive and negative. Come with an open mind! There’s a lot to appreciate about the city. It’s huge and colourful and loud and crazy.

  • David @ That Gay Backpacker  December 2, 2012 at 5:19 pm

    Great piece! More than another blog telling me where I can grab Bangkok street food (i.e. on every corner of every Bangkok street).

    So, I’m headed to SE Asia on Dec 31st and Bangkok is predictably my first stop. I am looking forward to it. Me and big/difficult cities tend to get along (I’m from London) but there’s no guarantee. If I don’t like it, I can always move on 🙂

    • Torre DeRoche  December 25, 2012 at 3:12 am

      You’ll love it, David. It’s a fun and energetic place to visit as a tourist. But the craziness wears off when you’re trying to function within the city and get errands done. It’s huge, but it’s strangely difficult to find the services you need. Have fun and Happy New Year!

  • Izy Berry - The Wrong Way Home  December 3, 2012 at 4:55 am

    I love your style of writing! I’m in Thailand right now and I love this place 🙂 Chiang Mai is my favourite by far. However, when I’m in Bangkok I enjoy my time there a lot as well. 🙂

  • Boo  December 3, 2012 at 5:35 am

    Ah luuuuurve Bangers. Been there many times and it gets better and better for me – mostly because of the food. Last time I went it was on the way home from Central Asia, where we’d just spent 6 weeks living on garbage and struggling with speaking Russian and admiring scarred, bleached, rocky (but beautiful) landscapes. In our last week of the holiday we dreamt of what we’d do in Bangers, how orderly it was (and clean!) and how everything made sense and was easy to get around, how friendly the people are and most of all the FOOD!

    Got there and it was even better than expected. Ate so much I made myself sick. Is all relative I believe!

    • Torre DeRoche  December 25, 2012 at 3:27 am

      For sure. Bangkok was a dream after Kathmandu. We had planned to spend several more weeks in Nepal, but impulsively rerouted to Thailand specifically for the food. THE FOOD.

      We’ve been eating Thai for 10 months now. I think I’ve stripped 12 layers of intestinal tissue from my body.

  • TammyOnTheMove  December 7, 2012 at 7:58 am

    I soo agree with you. I have been to Bangkok a month ago after living in Cambodia’s sleepy and somewhat underdeveloped (by comparison) capital Phnom Penh for a year. At first I was excited about seeing shops such as Boots and Tescos (British shops) or fast food chains such as Mc Donald’s (Don’t, I know!), as you just don’t get that in Phnom Penh (yet). But then I felt like you and couldn’t cope with the vast city anymore. I left London for a reason and this just reminded me too much of that lifestyle. We did one day of sightseeing and decided to spend the rest of time by our hotel pool having massages.

    • Torre DeRoche  December 25, 2012 at 3:23 am

      I will admit that I ate McDonalds in Bangkok. I couldn’t resist.

  • Gennifer  December 8, 2012 at 10:20 pm

    I spent a week in Bangkok a couple of years ago and I HATED it. Too many people, too much pollution, too much, too much, too much!

  • Lyndsay/ Discount Travel Blogger  December 9, 2012 at 10:56 am

    I don’t really hate Bangkok but coming from Manila, another chaotic city, it is the way of life I grew up with. Obviously, which is why when I am traveling I couldn’t resist how a country living (especially beach town lifestyle) is calling me to stay longer. Yet, there is something in Bangkok that I love, eg. street sushi, real coffee from the street, everything from the street that can’t be found in Philippine Streets. I’m currently living in Patthalung, Thailand.

    • Torre DeRoche  December 25, 2012 at 3:21 am

      Street sushi?! I didn’t know there was such a thing.

  • Lize-Mare  December 17, 2012 at 4:41 pm

    I loved Bangkok! Sure was steaming hot tho, and it is seriously crazy town but I welcomed the city feel after having spent alot of time on the islands depends if you want to relax or party!

    I know everyone says do not stay on Koah San Rd, but i loved the place especially at night time when the markets came out and the streets filled with party revellers, honeymooners,hipsters, just about everyone and street vendors. Its something to be experienced! Made friends with the locals at this funky reggae bar where me and my friends all got up and sung along, we were pretty much on first name basis with all the staff and everyone i met there i have remained friends with months after my travels!

    Also MBK the largest mall i have ever encountered, i usually hate shopping but crazy to see so much activity there is in one mall! If you need anything that is the place to go next time! If you can think of something to buy it is in the mall! You cant barter like you do on the streets but you will almost always find it for a good deal minus having to deal with the sweltering heat. And they are open till like 9pm- so you can go a bit later in the day and try and avoid the morning/afternoon heat.

    If you are into movies and havent been to a cinema in a while and would like to avoid the heatm there is the largest cinema there it is freezing cold inside you may feel the need for a warm winters jacket! Something i found really amusing is that they play a wee bit of a “Love the King” clip at the start of the movie- handy hint make sure you stand or you will get stares from all the Thai people!

    • Torre DeRoche  December 19, 2012 at 11:05 am

      Glad you enjoyed your time there. There’s lots to love about Bangkok. I also loved KSR despite its bad reputation. But after being in the city for weeks, I was over it …

  • DEK  December 21, 2012 at 3:05 pm

    You make it sound perfectly horrible and I am sure I would like it even less than you did. Whatever the virtues and benefits of these new Asian cities, I am not clear why anyone who is not an anthropologist doing field work should want to visit one.

    I recently saw part of the new Bond film “Skyfall” and was struck by how — though London and Istanbul were contiguous with their past — Beijing seemed to sit disjointedly in a future century and apparently only by accident inhabited by Chinese.

    These are, I suppose, wonderful prodigies to gawk at, shining creatures of our brave new world or, like the Los Angeles of “Bladerunner”, intimations of Dystopia, but to the extent they are the future they will be with us for a long time to come and as a traveler I would prefer to spend my scarce resources of time and money to glimpse and touch what yet remains of what always has been, a world contiguous with our own.

    • Torre DeRoche  December 25, 2012 at 3:20 am

      Very beautifully put. Interacting with old cultures is precious, and that is what travel is about for me, too. Those cultures won’t be there forever, and maybe not even for another decade…?

  • Tee  December 21, 2012 at 4:06 pm

    Hi! I am just revisiting this. The first time I read it I was ready to jump in and defend Bangkok – the city I visited every few years and now live in. I grew up in rural New Zealand before spending four years in the capital there, four years in London and two years in Auckland before moving here earlier this year.
    The first time I came to Bangkok I was young and alone and overwhelmed, but it only took a few days for me to love it, and loved more each time I came back. For some people they hate it right off the bat and never return. I hope this isn’t the case for my parents when they visit for the first time next month.
    I’ve loved reading the comments about what people think of this place. One person said, “Too much, too much, too much” which I thought was interesting. For me – even after growing up 20 mins from a small town – living back in NZ after London was not enough and I find Bangkok bang-on. It’s crazy and busy, yes, but I also find it relaxed. I’ve never seen a Thai in a hurry. If you knew areas to avoid at what times, I’m sure your experience wouldn’t have been so intense.
    Love your writing, so thanks for providing a good read.

    • Torre DeRoche  December 25, 2012 at 3:17 am

      So true that Thai people are never in a hurry. Well, the taxi drivers, but not because they’re anxious—that’s just the culture of the roads.

      I probably would’ve had the same experience in any busy city in the world. Trouble was, we were trying to get many errands done, and all the services were located on opposite sides of the city. There’s much to love about the city, but I do feel sad about Thailand’s rapid economic growth and the impact that’s having on the culture. More here:

  • Lauren @ roamingtheworld  December 24, 2012 at 5:55 pm

    Beautifully written. I was completely transported to Bangkok, though I’ve never been. ah, the contradictions.
    You’re hammock sounds so much better! Hope you managed to get your errands done.

    • Torre DeRoche  December 25, 2012 at 3:04 am

      Thanks, Lauren. Yes, the hammock is definitely better! Though I’m a long way from the hammock at the moment. Doing some motorcycle touring (which is what all those errands were in preparation for).

  • Lauren H. of Sobremesa In Spain  January 15, 2013 at 5:05 am

    Great adjectives on this piece! During our trip through SEA we’ve found ourselves landing through Bangkok some 4+ times, with one more to go the end of Jan. The first impression was rough, intense and included a sewer rat the size of Shaq’s foot. However, I suppose I find the blend of so many ethnic cultures, and the tourists’ obession (whatever their intentions) to return to this hot-as-hell shopping mall, very curious. And while I swear I could never ever in my life live there, I’m certainly begging for a $5 massage right about now.

  • Andy - Simon Adventures  January 28, 2013 at 10:17 pm

    I’ve been to Bangkok several times, and although it may come as a shock to the system coming from a quiet, deserted island, I love Bangkok. I even love the notorious Khao San Road with all it’s commercialism. It just feels good to be in such a vibrant place. But I might be a special case: I am also one of a handful of cyclists who enjoys the challenge to cyle in and out of cities like these…

  • Robin Sparks  February 10, 2013 at 3:41 pm

    Love it and hate it. See my blogs about Bangkok at

    What do I love about it? The ease of getting just about anyplace in the city, getting anything done…I live in Bali where getting a sim card with data for an iPad is almost unheard of, where I internet is glacier slow, where I can’t buy the +3 contact lenses I need. So Bangkok fills those needs, and oh yeah, it’s way cheaper there too. But I can only take it in limited doses…

    It’s the real world and more….

    Sometimes I have to emerge out of my Bali bubble, and Bangkok is the polar opposite of Bali. I love juxtapositions.

  • Heidi Parkie  April 24, 2013 at 9:56 am

    Thank God, a like mind. And no I haven’t been siting in my hotel eating pizza before whoever got right on their high horse gets saddled up
    Again. What I have been is routinely ripped off, bullcrapped, exhausted, laughed at, stalked & what I have not found is a land of smiles. I am thankfully on the river where the air is less smoggy & about 5 all goes quiet. I have enjoyed the food & seeing local life buzzing & humming but I expected shopping bargains & great markets. I have been met with overpriced crap & nonsense & rudeness all because I am white. I’m not a gold mine but that’s what EVERYONE thinks. I have been thrown out of taxis for being too far or too near & quite frankly I hate the greedy lazy crap I am facing daily.

    I live in Indonesia & the local people are beautiful I can’t wait to go home.

  • Spencer  June 30, 2013 at 2:14 am

    Whilst I agree the tourist Bangkok is not great the ‘real’ Bangkok is amazing. My wife taught over there for a year and her room mate was a Thai who knew some excellent spots to eat, visit and really get to know the local culture. I am not sure I would have found it if I was backpacking on my own but it was a tremendous insight into a wonderful city.

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  • Melissa  March 12, 2015 at 9:35 pm

    Late commenting on this post, obviously, but I had to because I lived in Bangkok for several months last year. Your writing really rekindled my memories and you nailed it! From the congestion of traffic and people, to the dirty streets (which, in my experience, included being dripped on with air conditioner condensation from the overhead buildings as you walked on the crowded sidewalks,) you painted a realistic picture. I loved the people I met there but I do not miss getting from point A to point B, no matter how fun the motorbike taxis are!

  • TJ  July 23, 2017 at 10:28 pm

    Sometimes I hate Bangkok

    When I first came here my impressions were exactly what you wrote. I expected this huge Asian metropolis buzzing with energy. I discovered that it IS huge but never buzzing with energy or excitement. It is super crowded but never really busy.

    Bangkok allows foreigners to exist but it equally discriminates anyone who’s not Thai: whether they are Malay, French, American, Burmese. You are allowed to exist, yes. But don’t you dare try and volunteer, or try and better yourself or try and get a decent employment.

    Bangkok is rich with history and there are temples and royal palaces. When you say “East wants to be West”, I never get that feeling for Bangkok (I get it for Singapore) because Bangkok has its own identity (Thailand has never been colonised)

    If you try and accomplish something someone will cut you down. Tall Poppy Syndrome lives here too but unlike Australians we just don’t have the freedom of speech to express ourselves and talk about out rights. Internet websites are blocked and it’s a no no for people in love to hold hands in Bangkok. Thai people can be gentle and they will smile but they will also be cold and detached to your plight. Some Thai people (including those in KSR) have contempt for foreigners and block them.

    Bangkok sometimes (no, almost all the time) feels like jail. You are not allowed to talk about your desires, wants and your rights. You can live here but it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll never meet someone decent because decent people don’t live here. You can’t move freely across the streets because of the pollution, bad urban planning and humidity.

    I envy someone living in Melbourne. What’s it like to just go out and get on a tram, I wonder. What’s it like just to go out and take a classes at one of its unis at whatever interests you. What’s it like, I wonder, to be able to be honest with your friends and know your rights.

    And I think about it almost every night, and it doesn’t go away. What’s it like to live in a city where you HAVE some sort of opportunities and where if you try hard enough you’ll be able to accomplish something.


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