First impressions of Bangkok – Part I

B is for Bangkok---we have arrived!

B is for Bangkok—we have arrived! (Photo by Bjorn Karlman)

I’m breaking down my first impressions of Bangkok into three Ps: Place, people and food (yes, food. As I am of Filipino heritage, I claim the right of interchangeable p’s and f’s. The funniest/saddest thing I ever saw on TV was on “Wheel of Fortune.” It was a special, where teams were competing instead of individuals. One team was made up of a Filipina woman and her rather elderly mother. When it came to the mother’s turn to pick a letter, she loudly called out, “Epp.” When show host Pat Sajak didn’t understand, she said it louder and repeatedly, “Epp! EPP! EPP!!” It was funny at first, but went on longer than it should have as it was milked for laughs. For shame, Pat Sajak, for shame. But anyhoo—)


We arrived in Bangkok on Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013. The flight was mostly uneventful (seeing as I slept/determinedly kept my eyes closed in an effort to fool myself into sleep.) Highway signs are still the same shade of green as in L.A. and London (there must be an international treaty on this), malls are bigger than anything I’ve seen in the United States/Kingdom but with many of the same stores that I’ve seen in both, and cars are modernish and roughly the same size and shape of cars in California. Bangkok feels oddly familiar to me.

However, we got into a taxi that delightfully reminded me that Dorothy, we are not in Kansas (or Paradise/Chico/Los Angeles/Bracknell/London) anymore. The dashboard was covered in paraphenelia, the roof had money taped all over it and on the windows and chairs, some helpful signs:

Some things not allowed in the taxi.

Some things not allowed in the taxi. (Photo by Bjorn Karlman)

My favorite: the bull/goat/whatever at the left end. Apparently,  some people need to be reminded not to bring a cartoon goat/bull into a taxi. The other items/activities depicted seemed pretty obvious, although I’m still trying to figure out what the second from the right is (fruit? hairy eye of Sauron?) and third from the left was hilarious to see.

Inside the MBK mall in Bangkok.

Inside the MBK mall in Bangkok. (Photo by Jammie Karlman)

Also, I am amazed at how similar Bangkok is to other Asian cities I’ve seen in South Korea and the Philippines — a mixture of old and new.  Shiny modern skyscrapers stand beside squat, soot-streaked buildings whose courtyards are littered with  trash and other detritus. The railway system here, the BTS (if you have ever wondered what a subway would look like above ground, this is it) rumbles smoothly above song thaews (trucks filled with people that function like jeepneys in the Philippines) and motorbike taxis that sometimes zip along on sidewalks crowded with vendors hawking food, clothing and hair accessories that rightly belong only on cartoon characters. If you like to do your shopping in air-conditioned comfort, there are plenty of malls and they are HUGE. Even if the malls are not Siam Paragon or MBK (two of the more famous malls), they are still at least 5 stories tall.

A word on the weather: Something must be happening to me as I get older. Humidity, once a bitter foe of mine and felt with all the impact of an 18-wheeler made out of wet towels, is now negligible; I wouldn’t even know it was there except that my hair is in perma-fuzz mode. Much is made of Bangkok’s sooty air, but I can breathe normally without shortness of breath and/or heaving disgusting globs of mucus. Hooray for having grown up in smoggy L.A.!

Next up — Part II: People and p/food


15 thoughts on “First impressions of Bangkok – Part I

  1. Pingback: First Impressions of Bangkok – Part II | Go Karlmans

    • Mar-G!!! Ohhhh durian–I have yet to try it but believe I have passed it on the street (but surprisingly did not smell anything). I can’t wait to try that sucker.

  2. My translation of the taxi don’ts sign: No demons, guns, sex, dogs, drinks, spikey fruit, or smoking allowed in this taxi cab.
    Also, the mall photo made me dizzy just looking at it. Are there warnings for people with vertigo? Cause I would advise against riding those escalators if you suffer from vertigo.

    • “No demons,” bahahahaha!! That is probably more accurate than we realize. About the escalators—it did make me a little dizzy when we were riding down (but not up, strangely.) It’s sort of a pain to ride all of them to get to higher floors (and waiting for an elevator is an exercise in futility). I wish they had express escalators—like one that went from floor 1 to floor 4. How awesome would that be?? (Aside from the possibility that people might fall to some rather messy deaths, of course.)

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  4. while in bangkok, you have to try the durian, the marang, and the mangosteen. all fruits. the three are written in order of stinkiness, the marang being the smelliest. of the three i love the marang the best. it’s like god wanted ice cream to grow on trees and proceeded to create the marang. try it when it’s ripe and at room temperature. then try it frozen and you’ll get what I mean .

    • oh mabelle that sounds so good! (Even if it does stink :D). Durian is in season right now, and I’m working up my courage to try the fresh fruit. I thought I would give my stomach 2 weeks to adjust, but I think I may just dive in… 🙂

  5. Pingback: The weather in Bangkok leaves me pale-faced | Life. Service. Travel.

  6. Pingback: First Impressions of Bangkok — Part II | Go Karlmans

  7. Pingback: The weather in Bangkok leaves me pale-faced | Go Karlmans

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