I did not like Bangkok…

Is there something wrong with me?

After having spent one week in Bangkok, I am sorry to say I’m not sure what the fuss is about…The internet is full of people celebrating Bangkok as one of those places you simply HAVE to visit. A place you’ll be dying to go back to as soon as you’re home in your comfort zone. I didn’t get any of that. What did I miss?

Bangkok's Buddhas didn't do it for me...

I did the temples (man, did we do temples), I admired the golden Buddhas (both the lying one and the standing one as well as a handful of others), I discovered the backwaters by boat (which, I admit it, was a highlight), we *did* Kao San Rd (which felt more like Fuengirola than Bangkok) and we ventured into lesser known districts to unveil the not so touristy parts.

Eating grasshoppers...

Yet, nothing quite felt exotic enough. Not ONCE did I feel the buzz of being overwhelmed with the place. Maybe it’s not Bangkok’s fault. Maybe it’s me. Maybe I went there with too high expectations. Maybe I was hoping it would fascinate me in the same way Saigon blew my mind a few years ago?Maybe I fell into the ultimate traveller’s trap – the one where you find yourself comparing places, even if you know there’s absolutely no point in doing so.

Saigon is Saigon, and Bangkok is Bangkok. I get that. However, don’t tell me Bangkok is a must. I looked hard and long for the magic, I ate weird street food, I hopped on endless tuk tuks, I was definitely up for tuning into Bangkok’s soul, and still – no buzz. Now, to be painfully honest, it may just be that I am getting old. I may just have seen enough places to know that Bangkok is nothing more than a wannabe European city.

To me, it lacked authenticity. There were very few elements that actually made me feel I was in Asia. Nobody wore traditional clothing, except the women selling souvenirs to tourists. The traffic was chaotic, but not frighteningly so, if you know what I mean. The food was mostly noodles and rice based, but you never had to look far for a splash of Western influence. The Seven Elevens which are everywhere to be found, made it possible to stop for a packet of M&M’s whenever we felt like it. And don’t get me started on the happy hours. You find them advertised on every street corner in the touristy areas.

Enough. I am not trying to paint a bleak picture of Bangkok or to stain its reputation as a must on most people’s itinerary. I am only trying to get to the bottom of this. What did I miss?!

Discovering Bangkok's backwaters. Why was I thinking of Saigon?

If you think I am mistaken, please enlighten me. If you agree, PLEASE let me know. It’ll make me feel a lot more normal knowing that I am not the only one who hasn’t been seduced by Bangkok!

Visit Khao San Rd. for commercial hysteria.


9 comments on “I did not like Bangkok…

  1. I also enjoyed Thonburi the most. Actually, I _really_ enjoyed Thonburi. And got all templed out…to the extent that I was more interested in the munks’ iPhones than the spiritual part of it. Although I suppose one could argue that there are more ways to reach Nirvana…

    I stayed in Chinatown. Have to admit, I _always_ stay in the chinatowns. And I loved the dark back alleys where there was just me and the old women cleaning fish, and where the families sat in the walkway watching tv.

    But the rest of it..well…been there, done that. Found the shopping centres horrible. And cannot be entertained in the market in Patpong. Didn’t even go to Khao San Road…

  2. Dear Vibeke,

    Interesting post! You know, if all people would like that one specific place, it would be very crowded. We did love Bangkok. We loved Bangkok better than Kuala Lumpur, but equal to HCMC and Tokyo. Yes, here we go: we start comparing. You are right about that pitfall. You compare it, which means you will not be able to discover the real beauty of a place. But on the other hand, comparing cannot be avoided.

    Why we loved Bangkok? We visited with our children and we had lots of fun with our cycling tour! Through Chinatown, crossing the river and into Thonburi. The Chinatown part was awesome (I wrote about it in one of my earlier posts).
    We loved the vibrant atmosphere when crossing the city in a tuktuk. What about Khao San Road…well, you can get irritated by people wanting to sell you something, but we just enjoyed it. Khao San Road is Khao San Road. You can hate it or enjoy it, but you should just experience it.

    Not being seduced by Bangkok is not a strange thing, I’m glad you wrote about it like this. I guess it’s part of traveling: it is not all 100% positivity, you also experience some things you would rather have avoided. I guess I can write a whole blog post on destinations that did not ‘perform’ according to expectations! That’s life.

  3. Great feedback guys. Thanks! Glad I’m not the only one not feeling spellbound by Bangkok though. I suppose all the hype about the place led me to start expecting things. I was wrong. I’ll know for next time! Happy travels everyone, and thanks a million for stopping by.

    • Hi. I enjoyed reading your post. A different perspective & I respect that. Personally I enjoy Bangkok. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that I live in a relatively competitive & costly country. As such, BKK is always a draw…as a relaxing, cheap & quick getaway. People are generally friendly & hospitable. Maybe I will try Saigon someday..& hopefully have my mind blown away too.. the same way it did yours .. 😉

  4. thanks for your comment hunybuny. I am sure you’re right. Bangkok is probably a very nice place, and maybe I will give it another shot one day… who knows. I think my disappointment may have to do with the fact that we spent the first few days of a much needed holiday there. I was ready for adventure, to throw myself at the deep end. And I found that Bangkok lacked the surroundings to do so.

    • If you are ready for an adventure, yeah it is not a good idea to come to Bangkok since it is the capital city and also one of the most developed cities in South East Asia. Go to Chiang Mai, there are so many adventures there like kayaking or elephant trekking and it is less crowded. Now this is the REAL Thailand. I’m sure you will love it since it seems like what you are looking for: the real adventure. Personally I don’t like Bangkok too since I live here. Its too crowded, dirty, hot and humid and it can be quite dangerous at night. In my spare time I like to go to Rayong or Hua Hin for a relax time at the beach

  5. Pingback: Ko Chang secret beach | Photito's Blog – a travel journalist's confessions

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