What’s the point, anyway? If you want to go on holiday and drink, I won’t tell you off. But if you want to travel, why even bother going to a touristic city with almost no remainder of its cultural heritage left?
One step into Bangkok as a traveler or foreigner and you’re already an inch away from getting ripped off. Taxi drivers, street merchants, tuk-tuk drivers, tour guides, massage parlors—they all tout and overcharge. On the surface, they are friendly, and to the unaccustomed traveler, Thai people would appear to be the friendliest of all people anywhere! They literally come up to you on the street and ask “Do you need anything?” But, by “anything” they mean ANYTHING.
T-shirts, massages, Valium, tour bookings or “boom boom,” they’ll hook you up, friend.
To be fair, that only happens in touristic areas like Khao San Road, but it’s evident everywhere. A friend of mine paid more than eight times the rate of a normal taxi ride because he had just arrived and, frankly, didn’t know any better. But, that shouldn’t matter. The fact is, that taxi driver was more than happy to rip him off. I even got into a yelling match with a taxi driver in Bangkok who tried to charge me 500 baht on what should have been an 80 baht fare.
For travelers, especially the ones trying to see the culture and history, there’s no avoiding the complete domination of tourism in Thailand. It was the most traveled country in the world last year, and everybody seems to want a piece. In trying to enter the Grand Palace, one of Bangkok’s major tourist attractions, I was met with this sign:
Frankly, as a tourist in a new country, if I have to pay a little more, that’s okay. I honestly don’t mind contributing financially to the community who is hosting me. But when the entry fee is overwhelming and the experience itself is largely underwhelming, I definitely have a problem. Tourists flocked throughout the Grand Palace, in a linear fashion, herded like lemmings through tourist trap. There was nothing awe-inspiring about it. It was more like, “oh, look at all the pointy temples and shiny statues!”
That’s not to say I didn’t have a good time in Bangkok, or even that I don’t like it. In fact, I quite like Bangkok. It’s a fun city to get drunk in!
Beers are relatively cheap (about one USD each) and there are lots of expats and travelers to get drunk with! The Khao San Road area turns into a festival of imbibing foreigners every night, usually ending with Thai foot massages for three dollars at 4am.
And let’s not forget about the infamous Patpong Road, Nana Plaza, or Soi Cowboy. These thriving red-light districts are home to scantily clad Thai girls, essentially “available for the picking.” A night in these places is debaucherous at best and a man can walk away with whatever his heart desires.
So if you want to be a sex tourist and get wasted with strangers, Bangkok is the perfect place to be. Beyond that, I simply can’t fathom what actually makes traveling to a place like this worth it. Travelers simply get ripped off and hassled, so what’s the point?
Photo credit: Nik Cyclist