Thailand is known as the Land of Smiles, and you realize why as soon as you arrive. From contented to coy, serene to mischievous, this is a land infused with expression, both in open-hearted friendliness as well as towards the more sensual aspects of human nature.
Welcome to the land of the Free, where desires are embraced, the good and the bad, and if you are not careful you can get swept away by your own choices.
As a city, Bangkok represents the pinnacle of this ethos; a whirling, compounded place echoing with the bustle of scooters, vendors and growth. It is a place of fortune, gamble and luck, where everything has a price, and everything is deceptively cheap. It is a city with many names, from the traditional ‘Khrung Thep Maha Nakhon’ to the blanketed term ‘Bangkok’, and just like its elusive names, in this city the same thing can have two very different meanings.
To truly explore the city’s many delights, however, I recommend that you travel outside of the famed ‘Koh San Road’ and into the depths of this urban paradise. In order to see how residents navigate the colourful spectacle of the city, head towards Sikhumvit Road or the Chinese Market along Yauwaraj Road. As Koh San is away from the MRT and subway system, you might think the taxi fare is too expensive to warrant the trip, but there is a way to travel through the heart of the city that is often overlooked by tourists.
In order to see Bangkok the way it has been seen by residents for hundreds of years is to take the Chao Phraya Express Boat. For 15 Baht (US$ 0.50 at the time of writing), you can purchase a one-way ticket on one of the many ferries that ride up and down the river. Except for a few stations (Koh San Road being one of them), you can pay the fare on the boat. To do so, just listen out for the ticket seller rattling a box of coins and pay them the exact fare.
The most complicated part about the procedure, however, is to figure out which ferry will take you to your destination. The ferry’s work on a colour-coded flag system, where each stop will display a variety of flags, and any boat that matches that colour will stop at the terminal. In my experience, the ferry’s with the Orange Flags took me to all the destinations I wanted to get to for a fraction of the taxi fare, and even managed to do it quicker than the time it would take for the taxi to navigate through the central city rush hour traffic. Now you know…
So, despite the multifaceted aura that surrounds Bangkok, the metropolis does seem to draw in people of all walks of life who have one common objective. From families to business professionals, gap-year students to spiritual thrill-seekers, people flock to this city for its longstanding reputation as a tourist destination. Whether your goal is to shop, eat or be merry, this city will cater for everybody’s tastes.