Two Thailands

Thailand:

1. Superbly amazing women walk the Earth there.

2. I have only been in Bangkok for a few days, but I go around with open eyes, and I found it a cool place, and an unusual mix between the two poles of Asian cultures:  On one end, the commuter trains are punctual, clean, and have flat screen TVs inside. They are stacked full of folks in business attire absentmindedly playing with their mobile computing devices. The trains are packed, and there are arrows on the floor directing passengers where to line up to enter the train. And the Bangkokers are following these directions. This could be a scene from Tokyo! Well, not quite, the Thai public transport system lacked these totally exhausted and sad looking salarymen who, judging from their body language and facial expressions, are one bad week away from suicide. Still, the parallels were quite surprising to me. There are also the same convenience stores as in Japan, and I even saw some Engrish: A chick with a t-shirt reading “Bangkok city bitch” – the same type of hilarious English printed on apparel, worn by people who clearly don’t understand what it says, exactly as seen so often in Japan.

Stepping out of the commuter train and walking a few blocks towards the river, the scene all of a suddenly changes crassly: street vendors fry fish and chicken innards on sticks, a shack offering cheap home-cooked meals, and old geezers take a nap on the sidewalk. There is a bit of thrash on the streets, and motorcycle taxi drivers gesture at me that their services are available. This setting could equally well be in Cebu City. From what almost looks like Japan to what could be the Philippines in just a few steps – amazing!

On top of Wat Saket.

Thai culture historically seems to have been an interesting amalgam, a lot of the pagodas in the royal palace are noticeably Chinese influenced. But I don’t even think that the two cultural directions I observed reflect foreign influences, rather they are due to the old and modern ways of running a society. So far it seems that there is enough old Asia left to keep Bangkok a warm and friendly place. I would love to travel the Thai countryside to see how things look there.

Else: Thailand is under military rule right now, but I noticed none of that. There were no roadblocks, no military presence other than around the ministries I drove by, and no sense of gloom & doom. I am sure if you are a political activist, things look bleak, but for a tourist none of the political upheaval is noticeable.