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First Impressions of Bangkok

Bangkok is a very different place than when Patrick traveled here twenty years ago, and very different than the other large cities we’ve been to on our travels.

  • The city is very modern looking. There are a lot of sky scrapers. The shopping area looks like a futuristic version of Epcot Center. Overall the city looks more developed and modern than Vancouver, London, or New York.
  • Public transit is excellent. There is a Skytrain which is wider, nicer, and more elevated than the one in Vancouver. Overhead walkways are common at major intersections (like on the Las Vegas strip). There is a large, modern subway, efficient buses, and a high-speed water taxi on the river.
  • The city is very clean compared to those in Africa and India.
  • For the most part, drivers follow the traffic rules and signals.
  • There are street food stalls almost everywhere serving cheap and delicious food. We’ve only eaten in a restaurant a couple of times. Soups, noodles, curries, vegetarian dishes, and bar-b-qued chicken and duck are common.
  • There are a couple of bars located on the roofs of skyscrapers, something not found elsewhere due to the obvious safety issues.
  • You can buy fried insects on the street including larvae, crickets, grass hoppers, and scorpions.
  • Many sidewalks are lined with street vendors. Common items are food, clothing, and jewelry. You can still buy pirated CDs and DVDs, and copies of designer clothes and watches. You can also have music and movies loaded onto your iPod.
  • You can buy brass knuckles, switchblades, throwing stars, and tasers on the street, all of which are illegal Canada.
  • You can also buy Viagra and Cialis on the street, which may or may not be real.
  • Vendors are polite and not pushy. Negotiating is a friendly process.
  • You can get a fish pedicure here. For a few dollars you soak your feet in a tank of small ‘doctor fish’ from Japan that eat the dead skin from your feet.
  • We ate bird’s nest soup in Chinatown. This is a gelatinous ‘noodle’ soup made from the boiled nests of sea birds. The nests are made from bird saliva and are harvested by men who climb high in seaside caves.
  • Beer is sold almost everywhere, even at street stalls. It isn’t clear if premises need to be licensed.
  • Foreign fast food is commonly available including McDonalds, KFC, Subway, Pizza Hut, and Swenson’s ice cream parlours. McDonald’s serves beef (unlike India) and hot pies, but instead of apple they are filled with broccoli or corn.
  • Coffee shops, including Starbucks, are common, contributing significantly to Diane’s enjoyment of the city.
  • There are 7-Elevens everywhere. Apparently there are almost 4000 throughout Thailand, and they sell cheap beer!
  • There are large, modern shopping malls filled with international stores, luxury products, and luxury prices.
  • It is still common to see foreign men of all ages with beautiful, young Thai women (some of whom are also men). Some foreign men retire here for this reason.
  • There is a visible police presence, especially in tourist areas. They appear to here to assist and protect the tourists, rather than extort them as in many other countries.

Doha First Class

On our flight from London to Mumbai on Qatar Airways, we had a short stopover in Doha, the capital city of Qatar. The airport is basically a transfer station for those flying elsewhere, but it had an amazing duty free shop selling both the full suite of luxury goods, and curiously, large bags of powdered milk which were a hot seller.

On the second leg of our journey, after some delays in check-in, we were given a complementary upgrade to first class, much to our surprise. Many others in line with us didn’t receive this. We wondered whether it was because we were only white people in economy. After an eternity spent in a bus waiting to board the plane in the evening heat, and being delivered to the rear entrance of the plane (when we were sitting in the very first row), we finally made it to our seats. Neither of us had flown first class before, and we were pleasantly surprised.

After selecting our before dinner cocktails (a bloody mary and a martini), we reviewed the menu to select our appetizers and entrées. We both had the trout pate, which was presented with a variety of accoutrements. Patrick had the fish and Diane the chicken. The meals were served by course on hot white china plates, with real metal cutlery (can’t first class passengers be hijackers too?), with a fine selection of mid-2000 vintage French wines.

After his second martini, Patrick was really enjoying himself. Especially the large screen individual audio visual system with a remote control and active headphones (which counteract any ambient noise by playing compensating frequencies). Unfortunately Diane’s screen wouldn’t work, but we both enjoyed the adjustable powered seats that had at least fifteen separate adjustments on a separate remote control.

Regrettably, this was only a three hour flight, the shorter portion of our journey from London, but it was a great way to get to India.