“Same Same — but Different” in Bangkok
So goes the saying on two-thirds of the T-Shirts for sale…
Suvarnabhumi Airport at 1 am
After a long flight over the gerrymandered International Date Line my plane approached Bangkok at one in the morning (+1 day). Although I was prepared for the heat and humidity I’d read about, leaving the air-conditioned comfort of the terminal my expectations were not only met but exceeded. I quickly learned there are three seasons in Thailand – hot, hotter, and extra hot, and my visit in January coincided with the least hot season.
Banglamphu Back Alley
Things are much different here than when James Michener wrote about them over 60 years ago, or when hippy backpackers discovered it in the 70’s and 80’s. Pockets of the old Bangkok they would know still exist but are disappearing fast, and one of the last pieces surviving is the nebulously defined Banglamphu area. Always popular with travelers but made trendy 10 years ago by a hit movie, “The Beach”, it’s rapidly being gentrified now that local youth have christened it “hip”. Still, many of its tree lined backstreets and alleys retain that authentic Thai feeling.
Khao San Road
Today this neighborhood continues in its role as “Backpacker Central” for Southeast Asia, and Khao San Road with its assortment of flophouses, hostels, cheap souvenir stalls, internet cafes, coffee shops, street food, laundry facilities, and hanky-panky entertainment is its heart.
But it’s not all about backpacking. KSR (as many travel nerds refer to it) and nearby Phra Atit Road also hold upscale hotels, jewelry outlets, and fine-dining opportunities.
Same Same …
An afternoon spent munching Satay skewers dipped in sweet chili sauces and watching the street scene unfold in front of me, all the while cooling my heels to the sounds of Jimi Hendrix on the boom-box next door, transported me to a Bangkok of the past – “Same Same”, but now somehow different.