13 June 2007
Travel: Bangkok, Part 2
Bangkok is a city of contrasts. On one hand, you have extreme luxury and modern buildings and amenities. On the other, you have extreme poverty and ways of life that have not changed for hundreds of years. Glittering skyscrapers set above river houses on stilts, where clothes are hung out to dry and children spend hot afternoons swimming in the river. It really is a fascinating place.
I took the hotel shuttle boat across the river into downtown and headed toward an outdoor market. You could buy anything, from clothes to watches to food. The food looked good, but I wasn't sure what it was, and all the signs were in Thai, so I ended up buying a couple of apples. I passed up the fried grasshoppers and beetles. After a good look at the market, I decided to head to a more lively part of town and looked for a cab. Instead, I found a tuk-tuk. Or, it found me. Not only do I stand out, but I must have looked lost. This three-wheeled contraption honked at me, and I thought, "What the heck!" and got in. A tuk-tuk is essentially a tricycle with a two-stroke, sub-200 cc engine. The driver sits across it like a motorcycle and steers with handlebars. Passengers sit in back, under a canopy that (perhaps mercifully) obstructs the view of what is occuring outside the vehicle. The benefit of taking a tuk-tuk is that it can - depending on the skill and daring of the driver - navigate the worst of traffic jams and get you to your destination. The drawbacks are that the ride is extremely hot, and it feels like you've got a tailpipe blowing right in your face. But, the tuk-tuk drivers are good, and I got used them several times during my stay. I have attached a couple of pictures from my first ride. After that, I learned to hold on with both hands and keep the camera in my pocket. More later on my trip.