Moving to Thailand after a quiet life in Peru, a student at the New International School of Bangkok found the city’s buzz initially very unsettling. But slowly things improved
When I moved to Bangkok in the summer of 2014 I could never have imaged how different my life was about to become. I moved to Thailand after spending four years in the suburbs of Lima, Peru. Day to day life in Lima was quiet and mostly uneventful; the sky a permanent grey from the cloud cover that seemed always to hang over the city, and to find anything interesting would require at least an hour’s drive. Nothing could have contrasted that as much as Bangkok did.
My first impression was of polluted air, congested streets, sidewalks blocked by street vendors and potholes, and sweltering heat from Thailand’s harsh sun. Then, of course, there was the nonstop movement of the city. On any street, at any time of day, there are thousands of people going from one place to another, hundreds of flashing advertisement boards showing off their products, and towering skyscrapers for as far as the eye can see. From where I had come, the experience was overwhelming.
But as I spent more time in Bangkok, I slowly began to fall in love with it. The longer I stayed the more I began to see the method in the madness. The city never became any less busy but I began to understand why everything was the way it was. In other cities you’d likely need to have a car in order to get anywhere interesting, but Bangkok has a seemingly infinite supply of enthralling activities to do and places to be, and all of it is completely accessible by anyone with a working pair of legs.
There’s a sort of game I like play every once in a while, that I’d recommend to anyone that enjoys exploring. It goes like this. Set off in a random direction and every time you come to an intersection, toss a coin. Comes up heads, turn right. Comes up tails, turn left. Repeat until you get to some place you have never been.
Through this method I have gotten to explore parts of Bangkok that many never see, away from Sukhumvit and the areas directly off the BTS or MRT. Doing this even a few times already imposes a sense of the absolute magnitude and grandeur of the city. You could walk around all day and still have seen barely a fraction of what there is to see. Anyone that went to the top of the Ghost Tower when it was still open can tell you how awesome it is to see Bangkok spread out in every direction as far as the eye can see from 30 storeys up.
Now, having been in Bangkok for four years and counting, it no longer feels like a city to me, but a fine tuned machine designed around eradicating boredom. For young people the marvels of the city are especially enjoyed. The ability to go anywhere and do anything, without having to rely on someone with a car gives a level of freedom that you really couldn’t find anywhere else. Even with shallow pockets there is still a huge amount to explore and discover for hardly any money.
Those annoying street vendors that block sidewalks? Turns out you can get a full meal for 40 baht from them. The crowded sky train overflowing with ads? Because of it you can cross the entire city for under 50 baht. The metropolis is a place of infinite possibilities, regardless of the weight of your wallet.
When I first arrived in Bangkok I really didn’t like it, but through my four years living here, the city has finally given me my answer to the question which is always so difficult for expat kids: “Where is your home?”. I know that no matter where I move in the future, I will never forget my time being lost in this amazing concrete jungle.