Bangkok: Thoughts on the Big Mango from a Frequent Visitor

bangkok thailand - made with the over app

I have a strange relationship with the Big Mango.

I consider Bangkok my home away from home - the big city I escape to when small town life gets a bit dull. Sorta like Kansas City is for people from my hometown of Chanute. Except that Bangkok is about five times bigger than KC.

Bangkok Thailand - shrine outside MBK Mall, near BTS National Stadium

I visit Bangkok probably about once every six weeks on average - sometimes more, sometimes less. The 30+ Thai stamps in my passport are evidence of that.

And I love Bangkok. The Thai pop music that plays everywhere you go. The cheap fruit smoothies from roadside stands. The crush of people on the sky train (BTS) and buses. Knowing that if I need anything in a pinch, a 7-11 shop is just around the corner. And that air conditioning is ubiquitous - I only have to stand the heat for a few minutes if needed. (Which will be very important to me when I move there at 9 months pregnant.)

Bangkok Thailand - Christmas decorations inside Siam Paragon Mall
Spectacular Christmas decorations inside Siam Paragon Mall

But I don't really speak Thai. I can recognize when someone asks me where I'm going, and I can sorta decipher the numbers (since they're almost identical to Khmer). But I don't think that really counts.

When I'm in Bangkok, I don't actually eat Thai food that much. I eat what I can't get in Poipet - Indian, Mexican, Japanese. (Thai food is abundant in our casino-border town.) And I eat salat paow - I call them Thai cream puffs, but they don't have an American comparison. Steamed, fluffy dough filled with pudding-like custard is as close as I can get to describing them. And they are perfect in the morning with hot Thai tea.

Bangkok Thailand - street food - salat paow
Baskets of steaming salat paow

I have my favorite grocery store (The Villa) and my favorite pharmacy/bodycare store (Boots - an import chain from England). I know what buses take me where and which BTS stops have the best restaurants and shopping centers. I can get pretty much anything I need in Bangkok - as long as I can get it across the border back to Poipet.

All my healthcare providers are in the city - my orthodontist, endocrinologist, obstetrician, and the shop I buy my eyeglasses (Top Chareoun). And we plan on having our baby at a hospital there that specializes in serving Japanese medical tourists - which means they have authentic Japanese restaurants just around the block.

Motivational sayings from my orthodontist on Siam Square
Motivational sayings from my orthodontist on Siam Square

I once told a flight check-in clerk in Macau that the reason we didn't have ongoing flights from Bangkok was because we lived there. We've never lived there and never spent more than a week there (yet). But somehow, the words just came out. And I didn't correct myself until I saw her pawing through my passport, looking for my Thai residency permit - I realized she wouldn't find it.

Bangkok Thailand - political protests outside MBK mall, Siam Square
Political protests outside MBK Mall

Especially in recent weeks, with mass protests throughout the city, I pay as much attention, if not more, to Thai politics as I do to Cambodian or American. Why? Because they actually affect me. If I can't get to my appointments because of people blocking the roads, that's kind of a big deal to me.

Last week, I spent two days in Bangkok by myself, and I filled them with medical and dental appointments, shopping, and coffee with friends. Another thing about not-living-in-Bangkok: I'm really lucky to know people I can hang out with. Maybe that's what makes it feel more like home to me. It's not a random big city I go to for shopping or healthcare. It has faces, memories, and favorite places. I feel comfortable there and safe, and navigating the familiar neighborhoods doesn't stress me out anymore. I recognize #bangkok Instagram photos as shops and restaurants and BTS stops that I've seen countless times. 

Bangkok Thailand - old architecture
I love the architecture of this house near a guesthouse I stay at occasionally. I also heard on my last visit that film crews use it for the setting of horror films. Creepy.

So I'm glad I'll be there for over a month when little baby Conard makes his appearance in this crazy world. I may not be able to claim Bangkok as my hometown, but my son will claim it as his birthplace. And I think that's kind of cool.
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