May 16, 2012


As darkness falls in Bangkok, its bustling markets full of food and clothing give way to markets of flesh and a lack of clothing. It is a city of dichotomies that is representative of much of Asia these days - a collection of lands whose age old cultural fabric is giving way to a global mindset. The cosmopolitan city is a good introduction to the changes sweeping through the continent, a place where the past struggles to maintain relevance amidst the onslaught of a future that promises unparalleled opportunities and creature comforts.

Bangkok bookended my journey through Southeast Asia, as it was the alpha and omega of my loop through Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos. I had plenty of time to leisurely explore Bangkok's different neighbourhoods from Chinatown to the backpacker dominated Khao San area, taste its succulent selection of street food, and witness Muay Thai kickboxing bouts, among other activities.

Distinctive temples adorn the Bangkok-bisecting Chao Phray River, with Wat Arun towering above them all. The Grand Palace features con men feasting on tourists outside its gates and an image of Buddha carved from a single piece of jade in a temple within. Another famous Buddha reclines inside Wat Pho, his gold leaf covered body and 46 meter length the envy of Bond girls and basketball players alike.

Ram, an enterprising young man whom I had met in Beijing, graciously hosted me in Bangkok. His apartment in Sukhumvit was within walking distance of the subway and metro stations and seedy nightlife areas, but I sometimes splurged on the handy motorcycle taxis that ferried customers to their destination for a few coins. Ram even had a spare phone which he let me use to keep in touch. I lost it on my second day in town, and he made me buy a replacement.