It’s the high season in Bangkok now. It’s also Christmas. Thailand embraces Christmas for reasons of tourism, but there are many Christians here as well. High season is marked by an increase in tourism attracted by a significant decrease in temperature. The hottest months are April and May, but July through September don’t seem much cooler in Bangkok. Night temperatures this time of year are in high 60’s and daytime is 70’s to low 80’s. It’s hard to believe it feels this nice. Air quality is tolerable this time of year, as we have a breeze.
Bangkok is actually a province in Thailand. Its Thai name is the longest name in the world, but the Thais shorten it to “Kreung Thep” for “city of angels”. Yes, there is a Thai connection and draw to Los Angeles in the United States. We think of Bangkok as a “city”, and that’s ok. It is like most major metropolitan areas – no break in space or signage between the actual cities of this province. It feels as one to the outsider, but if you spend time in several areas, you will find each area has a subculture of its own.
Bangkok is a city of great contrast. It has staggering wealth alongside and high above great poverty. Both coexist peacefully. After a few days, you don’t pay attention. Everyone is busy. Most seem happy. People are at work. In Asia, you work – you do something. You sell fruit, you sell socks. There are simply too many people. Food is very cheap for locals. Housing is also inexpensive. Most Americans might find the cheapest housing here to be uninhabitable, but it provides a roof, an outdoor kitchen, and a home to raise a family. Suburban homes in Thailand have outdoor kitchens, as it’s too hot and the Chile peppers are too caustic to use indoors. High rises have small kitchens, but the food below us is so good, so fresh and so cheap that few shop and cook at home. While food is cheap here, American food is generally expensive.
Unlike in America – electronics, TV’s, automobiles and other goods are considered “luxury items”. They are more expensive than in America. Staples like food and housing are affordable to those making $10 a day. An Iphone costs more than in the States. Wine is more expensive. House paint is very expensive. Cars are expensive but gasoline is cheap. With taxes, a mid-end Mercedes can cost $300,000 or more. Bangkok is generally affordable to all classes of people. They live alongside each other. Hong Kong is experiencing rioting largely because living expenses have far exceeded wages. There is less hope. Bangkok, and Thailand are hopeful places.
In the next few blogs, we’ll take a look at how people move around in Bangkok. We’ll take a look at some outdoor markets. We will look into the herbal culture as it pertains to food and drink. We will visit a few stores to see what the Thais routinely use.