I am spending a week in Bangkok and am taking pleasure in getting to know better this busy, odiferous, sensual enriched massive tropical city. It is one of the biggest tourist destinations in the world, with over 16 million foreigners visiting each year. Buddhism, brought to the Thais in the fifth century and strengthened in the thirteenth century, gives the culture a welcoming openness. Combined with inexpensive standard of living, warm weather and nice beaches/forests (rapidly being lost however), I can see why so many people come here.
The video above shows a bit of the Chao Phraya River, which the city was founded in 1782, succeeding the ancient trading post of Ayutthaya. It has grown to over 14 million people since then. The Thais are a distinct ethnic group, with influences from the Khmer (Cambodia), Mon (Burma) and the Chinese among other groups.
Mainland Southeast Asia is one of the most fertile, biodiverse biomes on earth because of the high temperatures and high levels of rainfall. The modern countries of Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam have had their cultures shaped by this. I would guess there are probably many similarities among the populations and I hope to visit all of them sometime during my time in Asia. I especially want to see Angkor Wat, which was once one of the largest cities on earth.
We are staying near Lumpini Park and it is my favorite part of the city. At dusk and dawn, there are hundreds people jogging, walking, doing aerobics and practicing thai chi. It is a SE Asian version of Central Park. I run the 2.5 kilometer loop in the evenings to get some exercise after sitting and eating all day at the conferences. My least favorite part of Bangkok is the traffic. It is very noisy and the stop and go traffic, with motorcycles zipping by, even makes walking on the sidewalk risky. It really lowers one’s quality of life here. It makes getting around a logistical problem and forget about running/riding a bike here. The pollution levels alone would make it unhealthy, let alone safe from being struck by a vehicle.
I hope to get some more blog posts out this week as I get to know more about this fascinating city.