A Travellerspoint blog

What's that smell?


sunny 85 °F

I almost had a breakdown today, on the sidewalk of Samsen Road in Bangkok. Wedged between scantily clad tourists, never-ending street stalls and racing traffic, I thought I was going to lose my shit -- which is a very uncool thing to do in Thailand.

We had spent the past three days touring wats, sampling cuisine and braving the chaotic Bangkok traffic. With all of its sights, smells and sounds, Bangkok had bared it all to us. It was intense, fascinating and, at times, shocking. I had loved the food, the charming people and the interesting views. But then, on that sidewalk not far from the fabled Khao San Road, I had had enough. Maybe it was the choking humidity that had beaten my sweat-wicking shirt. Maybe my claustrophobia decided to finally arrive in full force. Maybe I just needed something to eat. It was ugly, whatever it was.

"Are we almost to the hotel? I can't stand this place anymore," I said to Avery.
"We still have to cross the canal."
"Ugh. Seriously? I can't do this anymore."
"What," I hissed. "You can't be mad. I can hate something if I want to."

The heat and humidity had really zapped my debate skills. I bought a bag of mangoes for 55 baht (little under $2) and a bag of coconut dessert things for 40 baht. But the food and scooter/vehicle traffic was moving quickly, so I had to wait until I reached the hotel to eat my street finds.

After a shower and some air conditioning at the hotel, I was feeling a little better. I decided to walk down the soi (small street that is somehow related to a larger one, like Samsen Road).

  • **

Bangkok really is an assault on the senses.


The first thing that hits you is the humidity. It clings to every surface, coating your entire body in a perpetual wetness. It fills your lungs, burns your eyes. It is intense. But it is also warm; a welcome respite from the Midwestern cold.

Bangkok is a feast for the eyes. From the glittering golden pagodas, to the hot pink taxis, to the blackened sidewalks, the colors here are so vibrant, so distracting. It's like a continually moving kaleidoscope, spinning around me. Scooters, taxis, tuk tuks, street vendors, wats, flowers, golden strings of flowers. Then there's the images you'd never see back in the States, like people cooking from a cart on the sidewalk, washing dishes on the street, beautiful, intricate wats covered in gold, glass, jewels, giant Buddhas staring solemnly forward. It's almost too much at times.

I really can't even begin to describe the smells that permeate this city. One minute there's the sweet smell of sticky mango rice, then the wind will change and the smell of stagnant water and sewage will fill the air. After the rain last night, the streets smelled like a cat litter box. There's always some kind of odor in the air, sometimes really amazing, a lot of times really bad.

Ah, Thailand. My taste buds will never be the same. Rice, noodles, duck, fried veggies. The food here is amazing. That's really all I can say. And always an adventure. Tonight we want to try some legit street vendors. I'm a little apprehensive, as they cook everything right there on the street in the little carts. But it's the freshest around. We tried some Pad Thai today from a cart, and o.m.g. so good.

  • **

I felt a little better today after I watched some bad TV with Avery (there are only two English channels in our hotel). And after my rough day, I decided I deserved a little TLC, in the form of Thai massage. Thai massage is nothing like an oily American version massage. It's so much better.

I walked down the street by our hotel, where I knew of three massage places in a row. I randomly picked one, took off my shoes at the door and was greeted by a tiny Thai woman. She was probably less than 5 feet tall, and 90 pounds. She led me to the back of the building and up a tiny staircase not built for giant American feet.

Thai massages don't involve oil and more about kneading and pulling than rubbing. And instead of laying naked on a table, people wear very loose fitting pajamas.

So I donned my pajamas and laid down on the floor mat.

And, it was so so beautiful. She kneeled on my back, dug her elbows in my calf muscles and twisted me in ways I didn't know my body could twist. At one point she kept saying, "Relax your body. Relax." Then she twisted me around like a wet rag. Intense, but so so amazing. I'll never be able to get a greasy massage again. Just not the same.

And as she was kneeling on my back, squeezing the air out of my lungs, I decided to give Bangkok another chance. You may be smelly at times, quite chaotic and a little bit crazy Bangkok. But you're definitely not boring.

I drank my herbal tea, paid a whole $6 for my 60 minute massage and felt relaxed, refreshed. Then I almost got hit by a taxi when I walked onto the street.

You may be smelly at times, quite chaotic and a little bit crazy Bangkok. But you're definitely not boring.

Tonight, Avery and I are heading to Sukhumvit Road -- home of night clubs, expat bars and go-go shows. Should be interesting. Then we get on a night train, headed south for Koh Tao. I'm not going to lie -- after the chaos of Bangkok, I am looking forward to some quality sun and beach time, mixed with a little SCUBA diving.

Internet is slow, and I'm too lazy to upload pictures at the moment. I promise to upload some in Koh Tao. Between diving and laying on the beach, maybe I can find some time. ;)

Posted by Sam.and.Avery 03:53 Archived in Thailand Tagged city bangkok chaos humidity

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So jealous. $6 for a massage? I'm moving there.

by Anne

Enjoyed reading your blog today! I probably would have been right there with you getting sick, if I was there. The humidity would have done me in on day one. Hope you both are drinking lots of water - I know what at least Avery is thinking about now - but moms are always worrying about their kids. Have to say that I am envious of the opportunity you have to try new foods - authentic food, not Americans idea of what it is like. Eager to hear how the scuba driving classes go and seeing pictures of your adventures. Stay safe!

by Rhonda Sauer

Interesting. But you told me you were not going to any seedy nightlife. Watch yourself!

by Roberta GRosz

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