I agree to meet a new friend in Bangkok for New Years, and spend my five nights in the crowded sprawl mostly confused.
This is the only city so far that I am revisiting, my last visit being four and a half years ago—when there was also some sort of vague travel advisory in effect that made my dad nervous about my going. (Despite my close proximity to the protests this time around, they don’t concern me at all except in that they reroute the busses and make any chance of using public transportation impossible.)
And while my first visit left me captivated, this time I am surprisingly disappointed. It feels overly touristy in this peak holiday season, and sleazy. I am always vaguely aware of the fact that I am most likely being scammed in some way or another—which I know was true in Morocco to an even greater extent, but for some reason I no longer find it endearing.
Khao San Road is full of greed and overindulgence. The Grand Palace and temples are overpriced and overcrowded. The shopping centers have become sleek and westernized.
I can’t find the Thailand that made me so desperate to return.
At the same time, I think you can tell a lot about a country by what happens when you ask a random local for directions (which I do, often). Once, in Spain, an older woman led us around for more than a half hour trying to help us find beds in a hostel. In Morocco, they will do the same but probably take the long way on purpose and then demand a tip. And in Thailand, they are always hospitable and try to be incredibly helpful regardless of any language barriers.
So it’s a weird—though somewhat fitting—mix that ushers me in to 2014, where I am left feeling drained and antisocial, despite being perfectly located in a hub of excitement.