City life beyond convention

Posted on July 4, 2011

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Even the most inquisitive of travellers are guilty of sometimes knowing a city better by its metro system than by the streets themselves; think London, Paris and New York. And for me, Bangkok.

I’ve been in this city countless times but have either passed through fairly quickly or based myself in downtown backpackersville, Khao San Road, where hordes of credit card hippies turn up fresh out of uni and embark on ‘doing SE Asia on a shoe-string’ dressed in their new Thai yoga pants and showing off their braided locks and latest piercings.  I know this – I’ve been there!

And on these occasions, I’ve relied on Bangkok’s metro, the BTS, to get me around so never really explored other areas of this giant city on foot. Until this morning.

I arrived here yesterday, after a few days island living in Ko Samet and immediately sought out a hotel on the opposite end of the city from Khao San. And this morning, I spent a couple of hours joyfully running and treating myself to a veritable feast for the eyes, ears and mouth.

I ran past babbling children, pristine in their freshly laundered school uniforms; whiter than white despite the basic washing conditions most will have.  I ran past hordes of guys setting off for work on their mopeds.  I ran past street stalls oozing steam as little old ladies barbequed their canine kebabs and steamed pungent fish cakes. I ran past fruit stalls where old hands chopped up fresh and juicy pineapples with perfect precision.  I ran past the embassies, where guards were immersed in their handovers from night shift to day shift.  And past commercial towers where office workers were rushing to their desks, Starbucks and briefcases poised at the ready.

Finally, I hit the Chao Praya River, the quintessential landmark of Bangkok and watched chino-clad hotel guests be shifted in style to the Oriental and other glitzy hotels along the water front.

Needless to say, I got lost but that’s all part of the fun. And now, as I chill out over breakfast, lying on a mound of Thai cushions and rest my weary legs, I think I’ve discovered another side of this city this morning, beyond the metro, beyond the tourist-trail and beyond convention.

My idea of starting a day in style.

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