I’ve Fallen In Love With Bangkok

published by Bren

Last updated: December 10, 2023

I still remember back in early 2013, I visited this city for the first time. I had never been to Thailand before then, yet had heard countless stories from other travellers who had fallen in love with the country. But they always spoke of Phuket, or the islands, or the small northern towns that seemed to enrapture all those who walked through them.

Yet there’s never any love for Bangkok. More often than not, the city serves as nothing more than an inconvenient rest stop. A necessary nuisance to get access to the country’s more glamorous beaches and mountains. Some indulge in a few debaucherous nights on Khao San Road, or simply endure an overnight stay in a weathered budget hotel. But no one seems to stay here.

And why would you?

With the pollution, the ridiculous traffic, the left and right scamming, the hoards of sex tourists that plague the upper Sukhumvit area. In a country with so much beauty to offer, there are far more inviting places than a smog filled, rat infested metropolis like Thailand’s capital.

But that’s where it’s beauty lies. The city seems to make no sense, but then, it kinda does. Ferraris and tuk-tuks drive side by side on roads that practically stand still during rush hour. Old ladies sell the most delicious noodle soup from tiny street carts, often outside restaurants serving the same meal for 12x the price. The taxis are clean and safe, as good as any first world country, yet the meter rarely runs over $3. And despite all the chaos, the city still ticks along; perhaps a little messy, but definitely not broken.

I wasn’t too impressed on my first ride into town. On that trip I stayed up on Sukhumvit Soi 1, where my first walk about town inevitably led me to the nearby Nana and Asok areas (both renowned for their hustlers, overpriced restaurants, and seedy gogo bar streets). A couple of nights later I ventured out to the infamous Khao San Road, which had everything you could want and expect in a backpacker street. Then I did the mandatory foot massage, muay thai fight and numerous servings of street pad thai, and left the city a few days later. As far as I was concerned, I had “done Bangkok”, and any future visits to Thailand would be spent either sleeping in a hut up in the hills, or lounging around on one of the south’s golden beaches.

Yet a year later, something brought me back. At first, it was just a few days. That trip blessed me with the most mindblowing tom yum soup, hidden down a faraway side alley, and the most enormous and delicious fish ball I’ve ever seen.

Giant Thai fishball

A few days turned into a week.

I wandered the markets and ate a weird kind of apple I still don’t know the name of. I discovered boat noodles. I learned my first Thai words.

Boat noodles

A week turned into a month.

I tried every place on Soi 38. I spent a night on the riverfront. I found an office to work at and started eating every meal with nam jim jaew. Slowly I was settling in, and the city was winning me over.

And then one night, it happened. I was sitting dazed, as my tiny masseuse pressed her forearms deep into my shoulders. I winced in pain, and heard her giggle under her breath as she caught sight of me gritting my teeth in agony. She held it there for a while, and then, as if trying to execute me, she pulled my head viciously to one side, stretched out my trapezius muscle, and pierced her elbow deep between my neck and shoulder, almost in slow motion so as to make it as painful as possible. Had the room been empty, I would’ve cried out in pain, but luckily the few other customers around me helped me refrain and preserve my dignity. For what seemed like the longest 10 seconds of my life, she held it here, overloading my brain with pain signals and surely enjoying every second of it.

And then she let me go.

Blood slowly flowed back to my head, and my shoulders slumped while I gradually returned to planet Earth. How amazing it felt. I’m sure many will agree; there a few things more pleasurably painful than a $9 Thai massage.

And so I walked home that night, bruised and light headed, but smiling all the way. And I finally realised how much I was really going to miss Bangkok.

For every city I go to, there comes a point where it starts to feel like home. Just making that one last friend, or discovering that one last amazing restaurant; just that one final experience that suddenly makes me stop and say to myself, “I think I could live here.”

Sometimes it takes 4 weeks, sometimes it takes 6, but eventually, it happens. It happened in Cusco. It happened in Moshi. It happened in Manila. And now it’s happened in Bangkok.

I love this city.

Heading to Bangkok? Check out my ultimate guide on where to stay in Bangkok – everything you need to know about choosing the right spot for the perfect Bangkok experience.

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  1. I would have to disagree on the food my friend. As far as Bangkok there is better thai food in Hawaii. My wife and I have been here a week with the sole purpose of finding amazing thai food. Been to every market trying at least a half dozen dishes in each. We are walking an average of 10km per day just trying all the food. So far all the food was, was cheap.. which is nice since we are back packing for an entire year. We thought maybe you have to go to the fancy restaurants? So we tried a couple of those. Complete and utter disappointment. I would love to hear your suggestion. We’ve tried Khao san, chatuchak, China town, amulet, multiple floating bridges. Food at every temple we visited. I’ve eaten all the insects. The only decent meal has been pallea from a Spanish chef and an Indian restaurant. We are heading north for the next few weeks where we are more optimistic. ???? thanks for the post.

    1. Hi Jason, you’re the first person I’ve heard say that. If you went to all those places and didn’t like any of the food, I’d probably guess that you just don’t like Thai food. Even if you love Thai food in Hawaii, most overseas Thai food (at least the places I’ve been) is cooked for the local palette – Thai food in New Zealand and Australia is very different to the food in Thailand. Or maybe you’re just more a paella guy than a ‘khao phat’ guy! Either way, love it or hate it, it doesn’t matter, as long as you got to see and taste it all for yourself! That’s what it’s about. Enjoy the rest of your trip, Thailand’s a great place 😀

  2. I had withdrawals the last 2 times ive been to Bkk(ive been 3 times now). The 1st time i went it was a great stay but like any holiday it was great but also good to be back in your own bed once the holiday was over. But it wasnt for a few weeks after i arrived back home the 1st time that i thought i didnt give Bkk more time so i want to go back and six months later i did, the 2nd time Bkk grew on me so much and another 6 months later i was back there again and on this occasion i didnt want to come home. The city has got me big time ,i just wish i went 15-20 years ago and hasnt been a new found phenomenon for me. I cant speak highly enough of the place the food,the people,the shopping, the nightlife, the weather is always hot which i love,the culture, the laid back atmosphere where you can go at your own pace. Its just an amazing city. i cant see how anybody could not love this place

    1. I was in BKK for seven days for the first time in November of 2019. I'd just left Soi Cowboy right after dusk, and wandered near Asok and Sukhumvit Rd. I should have ordered non-alcoholic lady drinks, because I was a little buzzed. I stood there and looked at all the buildings, lights, shops, and people out and about, and got such a good feeling about it all it brought tears to my eyes. I also felt reluctant about going home, and plan to return.

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