I’ve spent a lot of time in Bangkok over the past few years. From my very first visit in 2013 to four weeks living there whilst training in a Muay Thai gym and numerous stopovers inbetween.
I started out not really liking it, finding it too much of a culture shock, but there are just so many great things about Bangkok that I inevitably ending up falling completely in love with the city, the people and the culture.
Talking about culture shock…I don’t think there is anywhere that is more true than in Chinatown.
Me and Chinatown have a troubled history. On my initial visit in 2013 I found myself wandering down a tiny Chinatown alleyway mere hours after stepping off the plane, severely jet lagged and a bit nauseous.
I’d been walking a full 10 minutes down that alley before the street food vendors gave way to meat stalls selling various animal parts floating in water – stomach, intestines, brains. I could go on. And then the smell hit. That raw meat smell you get in all Asian food markets that is now so familiar to me but was once so foreign.
I don’t have a strong stomach at the best of times but this time my jet lagged body really couldn’t cope and I immediately started retching. Holding my mouth I looked around frantically for a way out only to find that the only option was to run all the way back the way I had come, trying desperately not to throw up the whole time, and trying even harder not to look so distressed as to offend anybody.
The next time I ventured to Chinatown was two years later for Chinese New Year, dealing with pickpockets and busy crowds; an experience that I aptly named “Chinese New Year in Bangkok…A Disaster Story”.
But despite my bad experiences, it is undeniably one of the most culture-rich, vibrant and energetic parts of the city and you can’t help but be swept up in its infectious atmosphere.
THE GRAND PALACE
Aaaah the food! Surely a highlight for any visitor to Thailand. It’s a country famous for its delicious cuisine, and for good reason (although admittedly there is the occasional delicacy I am not quite so keen on).
And the ugly…