Bangkok is an assault on the senses. Clouds of aromatic steam battle with exhaust fumes, neon signs blink jarringly alongside confection-like temples, and 30-degree heat and humidity heightens the sensation that you’re simmering in a heady, spice-laden stew. It’s not for everybody, but for those who love it — and there are many, many who do — there’s simply nowhere like it.
What draws people to Bangkok? That depends who you ask. For some people, it’s the head-spinning array of world-beating foodie experiences. For some it’s the bargain-price markets; for others it’s the ultra-trendy luxury malls. Some come to party with other travellers in the hectic bars and hostels of the Khao San Road, while still others come to pamper themselves at upmarket spas and traditional Thai massage parlours. The “city of a thousand villages” contains multitudes.
Indeed, Bangkok’s nine principal districts vary so completely that you could think of each as a city in itself. In sprawling Chinatown, incense mingles with the steam of countless sizzling street-food delights in alleys jostling with people. Along the quiet canals of Thonburi, residents watch the world go by from the creaky waterfront porches of teakwood homes. Ko Rattanakosin’s glittering temples and Royal Palace are matched only by the equally glittering fashion boutiques of Siam Square, while sleepy Phra Phradaeng offers a surprising pocket of peace among flower gardens, and mango groves.
Take all this, add a burgeoning contemporary art scene, world-class hospitality and a culture of playful friendliness, and it’s hardly surprising Bangkok is one of the most visited cities in the world. It may not be for everyone, but one thing’s for sure — Bangkok is never, ever boring.