Why we like Bangkok
Kay, Andrew and I love Thailand and its sprawling capital Bangkok.
It all started for us in 1980 when I flew around the world giving workshops in Spain, Saudi Arabia, Bangkok and Hong Kong.  Within minutes of landing at the old Don Muang airport, the Assistant Superintendent of the school I was visiting met me with these immortal words:  “Welcome to Bangkok, but I won’t be your pimp.”  


Pardon me?  What was that all about?  As the day progressed I grew to like the guy less and less, but, just to be sure he didn’t think I was a sex tourist, I invited him and his wife to dinner that night near the Ambassador Hotel and talked about what I had observed in the classrooms of his school.


Probably feeling bad about the opening remark, he did offer me a school car and driver so that I could more easily see the sights the next day.  What a grand day! With a good driver/guide I was able to see some highlights of the city, and still had time to purchase a beautiful 144 piece set of brassware, which we still use.  I know you’ll be relieved to hear that I didn’t have any use for a pimp, although Bangkok IS known for sex tourism, especially by other Asians.


Well, in the next 33 years we have returned to Thailand 28 times, according to the log I maintain of every airline flight I’ve ever made.  Why, do we go there so often, you say?  Let me explain.


First, Bangkok is the travel hub of southeast Asia.  In our travels to Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, Viet Nam, Bangladesh, Malaysia, or Singapore, Bangkok is usually a stopover, in the same way that a flight from Arkansas to Florida usually involves Atlanta.  And, because long flights to Asia are tiring, we usually stayed a few days to rest up from the trip across the Pacific.


Second, Bangkok is the ultimate conference and convention city.   Most attendees love it.  We attended at least ten conferences and meetings there over the years while living in Saudi Arabia and Japan, and I’ve taught several two week courses there for The College of New Jersey.


Third, it’s really, really affordable.   During the 8 years we lived in Tokyo, many 4 day Thanksgiving weekends were spent in Bangkok.   One can find nice rooms for less than $100 fairly easily, although Andrew seemed to find rooms for under $30 that were clean, air conditioned, well located, and respectable.   This compares with $300+ for tourist hotels in London or New York, for example.   Restaurants are very reasonable and food sold by street vendors is in the $2 range.   A taxi from the airport is about $10.   Some Americans retire there using only their social security income.


So, how, specifically do Kay and I spend our time while in Bangkok?  Here are some examples.

    --We love the jazz clubs in the Sheraton (pictured) and Oriental Hotels. 
For the price of one beer we sit there for 2-3 hours listening to the house band and the visiting musicians.  Last time when we entered the pianist at the Sheraton called out, “Welcome back.  Where’s Andrew?”

    --We eat at our favorite restaurants.  Indian, Egyptian (in Little Arabia), Thai (of course) and Italian (in the Shangri La Hotel) are favorites.

    --We walk and walk and walk.  Although the subway, Skytrain, and taxis are easy and convenient, walking is more fun, especially in little back street neighborhoods.

    --We shop.  Well, Kay shops.  Her record is buying a pair of jeans from a street vendor before the light changed to “walk.”  We visit the illegal, makeshift street markets at night just for local color, but don’t buy the mostly fake junk.  I like to have good clothes tailor made.  I still wear shirts and sports jackets I had made there 20 years ago, and they are holding up well.

  --We sit at sunset at the outdoor bars of expensive hotels (although we don’t stay in them) on the banks of the
Chao Phraya River and watch the busy river traffic.  (picture at left)

  --We ride the river boats, both the free ones owned by the hotels, and the public “bus” boats that cost 30 cents.

  --We visit an occasional Wat (temple), Palace, or shrine, although not a lot.  Seen one, seen ‘em all?

   --We travel out of Bangkok:  Chiang Mai (by plane or train), Phuket Island, or even a cheap AirAsia flight up to Laos for a long weekend are easy to arrange.

   --We enjoy the Thais.  With the exception of a few con artists, most of the eight million people are friendly and helpful.   It’s safe to walk most streets at night, and it’s easy to tell the safe from the questionable areas.  We have never been frightened or even have any knowledge of street crime.

    --We celebrate.  Because Bangkok is so popular, we seldom go there without running into other international teachers we know, either by accident or by prior arrangement.  There is nothing like a night out in Bangkok with old friends!


So, maybe that answers the question, “What do the Meltons like about Thailand?”  Millions obviously agree with us because in 2013 it was the most visited city by international visitors in the world.  In case you’re wondering, the complete list according to Forbes magazine is

1. Bangkok

2. London

3. Paris

4. Singapore

5. New York

6. Istanbul

7. Dubai

8. Kuala Lumpur

9. Hong Kong

  1. 10.Barcelona


Unfortunately, because of the little coup in the spring of 2014, visitor numbers are way down, but so are the prices.  We booked an apartment there for the month of January, 2015, and it was very cheap due to the downturn in visitors.

 

The most visited city in the world in 2013