BANGKOK, THAILAND – october 10th to 28th, 2014
I have felt a strong pull to go to Thailand for YEARS. I never really knew why exactly – perhaps the food, or maybe to experience buddhist traditions and sights… something. I’ve just known for a long time that I needed to go.
I intentionally booked 18 days there so that I could have a full experience in which I allowed myself to integrate into the lifestyle and culture in Bangkok, taking in as much as possible – and not just tourist sights, but the essence of the city and people.
I would absolutely go back. I would happily spend more time there. I would even consider working there for a while were an opportunity to present itself.
(1) CONNECTION – While I did pre-arrange to meet dancers in the Lindy Hop community, I didn’t actually know a single person prior to landing in Bangkok. I found it so easy to meet people and connect first through my AirBnB hosts and at their restaurant, and then within the dance community. In all 18 days, not once did I feel lonely or disconnected, even when I spent entire days by myself. There was a warmth I felt with street food and produce vendors right away as well, and I so appreciated how effortlessly these new expressions of connectedness came.
(2) APPAREL – Having never before been to Thailand, I wasn’t sure if I would need to dress a certain way as a solo western woman. I read some things that went both ways. So, really, I had NO idea what to expect in terms of appropriateness of dress. It was much more liberal than I expected, and I felt comfortable dressing as I desired. That said, because of the humidity I definitely ran out of clothing quicker than I could wash it, so I did purchase some extra at the outdoor markets. This was a good move anyway because I knew some of the looser fitting clothing I purchased would prove useful once in Bangladesh.
(3) TRANSPORTATION – I spent the first two days walking for hours on end, fascinated by absolutely everything I laid eyes on. Bangkok is a very walkable city in that sense – except, depending on the time of year, that hot sun can be pretty harsh – but if you go there, don’t even think about walking that long mid-day! And, thankfully, even if you want to explore all day, there’s really no need to walk everywhere anyway. My favorite mode of transit was the water taxi on the Chao Praya river. Loved it! I hopped on nearly every day, sometimes just to be on the water with no intended destination. The BTS sky train is also very easy to navigate. Laughably, I avoided taking the train for about the first 5 days because of a slight nagivating-transit-alone-in-a-non-english-speaking-country anxiety, as this was the first country where I didn’t have a friend to show me the ropes. I thought, “Maybe I should pull up my computer and ‘study’ the train system a bit before going up there.” But then, I let those thoughts pass and decided to embrace the uncertainty. After all, even if I were to get lost it wouldn’t really matter since my schedule was so open. Furthermore, I’ve already learned from my time in Japan that, even if I don’t speak the same language as another person, it is very easy to ask for help navigating transit, so long as you know how to say the name of the stop you’re seeking (well, that and “thank you”). Every person I asked in Japan was so friendly and helpful to me, and I found the same thing in Thailand.
(4) FOOD – In one word? Heaven. I am such a fan of Thai flavors and spices, and even more so of their incredible selection of tropical fruits. This was another area, though, where it took me a while to adjust. One hears about Thailand, “Don’t drink the water, be careful of street food…” and on and on. For the first week, every day I would pass by people on the sidewalk selling fruits, juices, cooked foods, candies, and more, and every day I would just keep on walking, stopping only at what I felt was a clean, reputable restaurant or market… because that’s what I thought I was supposed to do to be safe! But, Oh my, once I let those forewarnings slip away (and, I’ll be honest, stopped eating pad thai every day) I started trying everything and loving it. I met lovely vendors in my neighborhood. There was one woman I started visiting every single day to purchase a fresh coconut, and she soon introduced me to Longan fruit. I found myself smiling at everything, delighted by these new tastes, sights, and kind people. This is the point – through exploring real, local food – when I felt like I finally started to bask in the essence of Thailand. I felt content and connected.
(5) MUSIC VIDEO SHOOT – I met the most incredible community at The Hop, a Lindy Hop-based studio in Bangkok. Eight of them were able to come together for the dance video shoot. We had a stellar time in Lumphini Park and got SO lucky with the weather. See, it was Monsoon season in Thailand and our video shoot was scheduled during a week in which every day forecasted certain downpour, even if only for a moment. From the second we arrived at the park, the sky was an ominous, murky gray. We got busy quickly. A few dancers even had umbrellas at the ready. We made it all the way to the end of the shoot without getting dumped on, and then the rain came quickly as we were loading up. We all raced into the nearest cab, piling four people into the backseat, and off we went back to dry off at The Hop. AMAZING. Once back at The Hop, I worked with jazz vocalist Laura Brunner for the music portion of the shoot. She fell in love with the song as soon as she heard it and even wrote some lyrics that will be considered for the final version once I’m back in Seattle in February!
I haven’t even covered half of the happenings, realizations, and observations during my time in Thailand, yet I feel I must leave this post at that. More to be shared at a later date, or over coffee sometime. More than explaining every details of my trip, I hope that I have helped illuminate the beauty that I stumbled upon in Bangkok – country #3 on my VIMM World Tour.
Thanks for reading!