Sawadee ka! (Hello)
Stepping into the airport lobby the sky through the windows is threatening and suggests a time later than the 4pm it is. An afternoon shower has just rolled through. It is after all rainy season in Thailand.
After coming from ever-efficient Japan, the service of the airport transfer company that is to drive me to my hotel seems a little lax. However, the smiles I give in thanks are easily and genuinely returned.
On the drive to the hotel, I look out through rain-spotted windows at the city rolling by (for a change I’m not arriving in a new city by night). It seems to extend in every direction, providing space for Bangkok’s 11 million residents. Like Tokyo, it doesn’t seem to have a clear centre. My first impressions are of shiny hotels and office buildings rubbing shoulders with tumbling down shacks. Interspersed randomly between these are patches of inviting jungle green that somehow, by just looking at it, seems to lower the temperature by a few sultry degrees. I suspect that if left to its own devices, without human interference, this green would slowly take over the city, such is its wildness.
Along the raised expressways bubble-gum pink taxis zip along, while on the local roads below tuk-tuks, scooters and buses rule the roads.
Middle aged foreign men can be seen wandering the evening street markets with young Asian boys at their sides. Are they simply their sons, born of their Thai brides, or something more sinister? I feel guilty for wondering, but Bangkok is a city of such reputation, it is hard not to. Though, other than a furtive whisper offering tickets to a ‘show’, I have not been witness to the seediness that no doubt resides in Bangkok’s shadows.
A stop at a small supermarket after a welcome dinner of tom yum kun left me with high hopes for Thailand. After stacks of colourful fruit, I stumbled across nothing less than my favourite of snacks – Twisties!!! I’ve yet to taste them, but fingers crossed. (Update – did not live up to hopes. Nothing better than a no brand replica)