Having spent many years in the television news industry where the bizarre, shocking and unusual are all part of a typical day, it takes something pretty significant to jostle me. The seedy, yet renowned city of Bangkok, Thailand did it. I was wide-eyed and jaw on the ground in less then 10 minutes after my arrival.
Everything seems larger than life here- literally and figuratively. You cannot escape Bangkok’s branding as a city famous for sex. A stroll down the sidewalk reveals a shocking scene of explicit sexual advertisements and items for sale right next to T-shirts, silk scarves and plastic Buddhas. Some things are too shocking to mention…most things I cannot even describe. High-end prostitutes peruse the streets in 6-inch stilettos and minimal clothing. In Bangkok, the day turns to night and turns to day without missing a beat as the action never stops. I cannot say that I was surprised by what I saw—but again, I WAS surprised. I suppose it is one thing to know the reputation of a city, but seeing it with my own eyes really magnifies everything I have ever heard about it.
In a city of nearly 13-million people, traffic is always at a standstill and the sky train is not for anyone who is claustrophobic. It feels as though every person in the city is cramming into the train car before the doors close. The city skyline stretches for miles in every direction with skyscrapers. Construction continues to boom upward as there is nowhere else to expand.
While Bangkok definitely lives up to its reputation, I did score some great finds while shopping the many malls. A new leather purse for $15, some dresses for $6 each, fine silk robes for $12 and lots of fun gifts at bargain prices. The conversion rate for the Thai Baht to the U.S. dollar is great so my money goes far.
While there are plenty of bargains to be found, the city also caters to the high-class crowd. The famous Paragon shopping mall is like a small city. Chandelier lined hallways escort me to stores like Prada, Versace, Gucci, Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Coach, Jimmy Choo and a million items I could never afford. It is fun nonetheless to walk the aisles.
The food court ranges from Japanese fare to Italian to Asian versions of traditional café food. The Thai twist on the basic tuna melt sandwich I ordered caught me off guard. While the taste was fantastic—the local hot peppers used to spice it up gave me a terrible reaction. I experienced a tingling tongue, migraine headache and confusion for several hours. It is a good reminder to not get too comfortable with familiar things as there is always a local twist on the comfort foods that I think will taste like those I get at home.