It has been my great fortune to visit many fine cities. When I think of my favorites and the attributes that draw me to them, rarely are these qualities the same ones that make them, well, cities. I.e. Sydney has a lovely setting, a beautiful harbor, and fantastic parks. Capetown is situated in the most stunning place on earth. Here, you can visit the beach, dive with sharks, and climb a 3000-foot mountain in the same day if you try. But, parks, beaches, and mountains do not make cities, big buildings and a high concentration of people do.
Bangkok is having a strange effect on me. Although there is still much to be seen, the city’s setting, green space, and for that matter the built environment are less than stunning. After 5 days, I don’t have a feel for the natural topography, I can’t see past the cities limits. Parks are relatively small, far between, and I can’t even get into the central one on account of anti-government protests. The built environment is not unpleasant, it is relatively navigable, but it is an endless sea of run-of-the-mill skyscrapers with no discernable patterns. Add all this up and add the fact that I have never had a strong illogical natural attraction to Asia, as I do with Africa, Australia and Latin America, and it is strange that I am falling for Bangkok.
How can this be? For one, Bangkok radiates kindness. I have never had so many impromptu conversations with strangers, both locals and foreigners, anywhere else. Being here for Songkran cannot hurt. What wonderful holiday that mixes sensible and respectable tradition with tons of fun. Washing away last years misfortune with super-soakers, wishing strangers blessings for the New Year, spending time with family, and an annual deep clean for the house seems a better basis for celebration that many Anglo-Christian traditions. Bangkok also has everything you would expect from a big city. You can get everything you need easily. Food is reasonably priced and delicious. Public transit and even the taxis are cheap, efficient, and generally outstanding. All signs are in English as well as Thai. Though I have yet to experience it, travel to the rest of Thailand (think elephants, leopards, king cobras, forests, mountains, beaches, surfing, coral reefs, and diving) is meant to be quite easy. And I just cannot shake the sense (knock on wood) that everything seems to work out easier than I expected (see below photo). I just may have to rethink my expat retirement plans.