Surprising Things About Bangkok

Here are a few of the things that surprised us about Bangkok:Thai Taxi

  1. Many of the cabs are hot pink in color; it’s a bit like Barbie’s dream-taxi! It turns out that (a) they are also hot pink on the inside and (b) the color represents what taxi company the driver works for. So, there are also yellow, orange, and blue taxis – though not as many.
  2. As in Cambodia, there are motorbikes and tuk tuks that act as taxis. Also, the tuk tuks feel less secure to me than the ones in Cambodia. The drivers’ bikes have glass windshields, which may give them the illusion of being in a car. Also, the ‘carriage’ in the back for passengers isn’t as large or as deep.
  3. Taxis (of all three types) have yellow license plates, while new cars have red (temporary) plates, and all other cars have white plates.
  4. Thai School UniformAs in Cambodia, the school uniform for all kids is a white dress shirt and black or navy blue skirts for girls and pants for boys. On top, many girls seem to wear brown belts that almost seem cowboy-style to me.
  5. A large number of adults wear uniforms too. Companies that employ many workers seem to give out uniforms, often in shades of bright blue or bright green, with some white. This is true of bank employees, but equally so of construction/building workers or massage parlor workers. My favorite was a navy blue skirt with a white blouse that had geometric lines in different shades of blue at the collar. It was cuter than it sounds.
  6. Parks are very well-frequented. They often have a kids playground, grassy areas for picnics or sitting, a walking path, a fountain, and nearby food stands.
  7. Many trees and altars/shrines around the city are encircled by brightly-colored cloth that looks like a cross between gauze and mesh. This seems to be because some Thai people believe that spirits live inside these trees.Wrapped Tree in Thailand
  8. There were men in uniforms (cops?) at most of the subway and bus stations we went to. Though the transit system isn’t as extensive as in some other cities, that’s still a lot of manpower. The officer at the station near our apartment blew his whistle to get me away from the edge of the platform (I was taking a photo) and to tell us to walk further down the track, since the train wouldn’t stop as far forward as we were standing. I was hugging B when the latter happened, so it took us a while to realize he wasn’t blowing his whistle to protest our PDA.
  9. There are separate tourist police and regular police.
  10. In addition to the above-ground subway (Skytrain/BTS) and the below-ground subway (MRT), both buses and ferries on the Chao Phraya River are used by commuters – and by tourists. It’s a pretty nice transit system, though there is no unified payment card, so you have to pay for each type separately.
  11. Despite this use of public transit, there is a lot of traffic. It seemed worse than in Cambodia because most of it was big cars, not small motorbikes.
  12. On big roads and on the highway, there are stands in the shape of police officer hats, with one chair inside. Presumably, they are for traffic cops, though I had trouble imagining what one of them would have done on the highway, with cars going at such fast speeds.
  13. There is a general perception that Singapore is ‘fake,’ because of how the city was built from scratch, because of the prevalence of air conditioning and cookie-cutter construction, because of how some of the human-created attractions mimic what occurs in nature. However, we felt like Bangkok was more artificial in some ways. For example, the architecture in Singapore was interesting: each building differed from others, making it fun to look around, even at large apartment buildings; this was missing here. There are also a lot of malls here. People claimed that Singapore was the shopping capital, but it might be Bangkok. And tourism is one of Thailand’s biggest industries, so tourists can feel almost ‘targeted’ in that kind of environment.
  14. Many of these malls offer expensive clothing and food. It seemed that they weren’t just for tourists, but also for Thailand’s 1%. Our cab driver described some people having so much money that they had more cars than people in the family – and cars cost notably more in Thailand than in the US, not just relative to income, but also absolutely.
  15. There was a 7/11 on practically every street corner! It was insane how many of them there were.
  16. It was surprisingly difficult to find Thai restaurants, particularly in our (touristy) neighborhood. There was Thai street food, some of which was not appetizing to me because it was meat that has been sitting in the direct sun all day. (B had no problems with it.) But Thai sit-down places were few: there were significantly more Indian and Halal places to eat!
  17. There are many lady boys, which is what transgender people who identify as female are often called. In our neighborhood, many of them stood on the streets, working as masseuses or escorts for older (often white) men – though we also saw them working as waitresses, hotel concierges, etc. They often had beautiful makeup and clothing. There seems to be fairly universal acceptance of being transgender in Thailand. For those obsessed with being able to ‘tell,’ so they can pick an escort they’re comfortable with, here is a good guide.
  18. Prostitution in general is fairly visible here.


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