“We are now in Bangkok and we arrived ten minutes ahead of schedule” bragged the flight attendant upon landing in the capital. Gee, I would have rather arrived ten minutes late and avoid the near-death experience when touching down. See, Thai planes don’t land, they descend at full speed and bounce loudly a couple of times on the tarmac before eventually stopping when you start praying aloud to whatever God you are into.
The day had started with another near-death experience: the minibus ride from Patong Beach to Phuket airport. The driver was going way too fast, probably over 140 km/hour and he was passing blindly on Patong Hill, a pretty dangerous stretch of road as it is. Thai don’t usually bother using their mirrors, they just honk: “honk honk, I’m passing you”, “honk honk, look at me, I’m on the wrong side of the road!”. I thought Latinos were sometimes a bit too macho behind the wheel but they are angels compared to Thai. They are the worst drivers I have ever seen.
Unsurprisingly, the traffic is horrendous in Bangkok. The streets are packed with motorbikes, tuk-tuks, cars, taxis, trucks, bus and pedestrians. Don’t think for a minute you are safe on the sidewalk: motorbikes will happily ride on it. And don’t think looking both ways before crossing the street helps as there are always people driving on the wrong side of the road.
Except for that, Bangkok is an interesting city. First, it’s a street photography amateur’s dream. Like in many Asian metropolises, space is scarce and there are people everywhere, day and night. Every square centimeter of space is occupied and people mind their own business, strangely oblivious to what’s going on around them. Bangkok is also pulsing with energy. The population is young and diverse and there are tons of things to do. That is, if you manage to get anywhere.
We headed to Chinatown and were literally swallowed by the hundreds of people there. The traffic came to a complete stop and the entire sidewalk was taken by the hawkers, selling everything from seafood (really not a good idea considering the food was under the sun and in the pollution) to traditional Chinese medicine. It took us several hours just to get from point A to point B and by the time we emerged into a quieter alley, we were filthy, sweaty and exhausted.
You can see the complete set of pictures taken in Thailand on Flickr.