Well kiddies … I’m back in Bangkok. It’s always a bit strange at first. Walking around in New York, I occasionally catch a smell of this place, and it sparks this desire to be back here. I daydream about it a lot when I’m randomly in Nolita or down some alleyway in Tribeca and I catch a smell of it. Then I wake up here for the first time – which just happened to me yesterday – and it’s like Christmas morning threw up a unicorn in my brain.
People complain about Bangkok a lot. The traffic’s too intense. They hate the trash. They hate the noise and the teenage hookers. While I’m not a fan of Beiber-aged lady boys, I love the traffic. It makes riding a motorbike all that much more dramatic. I love the noise… and the smells. Especially the scent. Bangkok smells like eucalyptus and, sweet, rotting fruit. It smells like freshly extinguished incense sticks and sweat. It reeks of smoking fat in hot woks and of old, splintered wood. It’s the scent of green. Of green things growing and green things dying. Of spicy chili peppers on the edge of plate or the occasional waft of smoke off some backpacker’s joint.
Green is my favorite color. Bangkok’s part of that decision.
It was hard to get here this trip. My flight pattern was a scene 47 minutes into a John Candy film … that point where you don’t buy the absurdity and decide to go pee without hitting pause.
On my second try the following day, my first flight to Tokyo (all 13 hours of it) went swimmingly. My subsequent 7-hour flight from Tokyo to Bangkok had engine issues. We sat on the runway for 3 hours before taking off.
Yeah … I’ve earned my location at the moment, and I’m bathed in happiness because of or despite it. Maybe I’m too high on all the green around me to really figure that last sentence out.
Given that I’ve been here so many times, I always have a mission to find an area not yet explored. Last year, it was Pahurat. This year, I set out for the Talat Phlu Railway station and the nearby street of Thoet Thai Soi 16. This decision was based on some photos I’d seen on another photography blog, and the area did not disappoint.
If you wander around Thoet Thai Soi 16, the residents speak little to no English. Their houses are older, wooden structures, built off tiny canals, which can be crossed by crumbling concrete bridges. Alleyways through the backs of homes and over the canals are decorated with busted plastic sheets, corrugated metal and drying laundry.
The street cats are plentiful, and there’s so little English signage, I accidentally walked through the gates of a Buddhist monastery’s inner sanctum. This mistake was made laid plain when I spotted a multitude of orange robes drying on a clothesline. (Sorry monks! Didn’t mean to catch you in your skivvies!)
If you head to the Talat Phlu railway station at the right time, I’d imagine it’s a bustling scene, with the excitement of a train pulling in, vendors selling food and humans eager to both arrive and depart.
I did not visit at such a time. I arrived to empty tracks that seemed quiet in the early morning light … vendors lazily dispelling the flies and tossing me amused looks as I lay down where a train should be to capture a few shots. There was a calm, but happy feeling to the day. I highly recommend a visit to Talat Phlu and the surrounding neighborhood. Hell … maybe coming when there is no train is a better choice, after all. That last guy in the purple shirt gave me that banana on a stick for free!